[hist-analytic] Positivism in 21th.-Century Analytic Philosophy

Roger Bishop Jones rbj at rbjones.com
Thu Feb 4 12:32:14 EST 2010

On Tuesday 02 Feb 2010 22:21, Jlsperanza at aol.com wrote:

> I love the IDEA of a unified science if that's just what it was supposed to
>  mean: One Big Science.

I have to admit, having glanced back at my extremely concise notes,
that it it all bound up with reductionism in a sense (the language of unified 
science was supposed to be physicalistic, i,e, materialistic)
very close to the one which Grice abhors.

>  It may have to do also with one of the 'betes
> noires'  Grice encounters. In your pdf you mention "Gladiators", but let's
>  not forget  "Naturalism". It seems that
>    naturalism
> and perhaps
>   Materialism
> -- Betes noires are for Grice, reductive schemes ending in -ism --
> Reductionism being the blackest of them all.

We talked about this last year on hist-analytic I see.


The precise abhorrence you quote Grice as relating there is to:

                the idea that semantic 
         concepts are  unsatisfactory or even 
                      *unless* they can be provided with 
         interpretations in terms  of some predetermined, 
         privileged, and favored  array of concepts; 

This is something which Grice  _thinks_ he has not done.
Its not clear whether he thinks it illegitimate, undoable, or just 

In our present conversation we need also to consider whether this kind of 
reductive analysis is something which Carnap accepted/did/found interesting.
This seems to me uncertain.
Do you get out of Grice's crosshairs if you are a pluralistic reductionist, 
i.e. at any moment you are reducing to a single kind of thing, but then at the 
next moment you will by trying it out on another single kind of thing?

I may be worth considering in this Grice's interest in the causal theory of 
perception, for it seems to me that is a move conciliatory to logical 
Austin's attack in Sense and Sensibila is aimed primarily at the logical 
positivists, and it fits my gladiatorial category because Austin doesn't care 
what Ayer means by "directly perceive" he will refute him by reference to what 
it actually means, in "ordinary" language, ignoring what philosophers mean by 
it and what a scientist might easily have meant by it.

Grice's conciliatory gesture is to try to make sense of causal theories, the 
essence one might say of which is to explain the details of how perception is 
mediated by causal processes (and hence not unmediated, and hence reasonably 
describable as not direct).

> _are_ the banners of Scientism (or the Devil of Scientism). But I'll
> elaborate.
> I enjoyed your distinctions between 'positivism' and 'positive'. And  your
> idea of 'epistemic retreat'. I love that. It's indeed the 'ataraxia' of the
> sceptics, on the sort of negative side -- in that it may lead to non-action
> --  but it's also the need to take things at ease, without a sense of
> _urgency_. I  feel philosophers _need_ a retreat. The Academy of Plato
>  _was_ a retreat --  perhaps more so than Aristotle's Lycaeum. It is
>  noticeable how the physical  geography of Athens -- Socrates in the public
>  agora, Plato way out in the groves  of Academos, Aristotle back to the
>  hustle and bustle of the Lycaeum -- tell of  things.
> Etc. -- the ps thing was meant as a ps to my two other posts, I think,
> "Whither" and "Retrospects and to focus the thread into the things that
>  matter you! :)
> JL
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