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

steve bayne baynesrb at yahoo.com
Thu Feb 4 17:05:57 EST 2010

"The semantic never had a big bite on me. But I _was_ obsessed, especially vis a vis Schiffer´s challenge of the conceptual  ´loop´, not to say vicious circle, that may ensue if you then go to say, alla Fodor or Katz,"
It probably wouldn't interest many out there but years ago I was investigating 
the semantical paradoxes in terms of "antecedent containment deletion."
If suspected the vicious circle principle sometimes invoked in the treatment
of the paradoxes was related to this phenomenon. Some advances on this
topic of antecedent containment deletion were made in the 90s. Sag did some
things in the 70s. 
On Fodor: his first book was a masterpiece (Psychological Explanation). 
I once mentioned it to him and he said something like: "You like that
ol' thing?" Or something like that. He's a great conversationalist and a
natural born egalitarian. Lakoff is an interesting alternative to Katz, who
was not a natural born egalitarian. My problem with Katz is mainly with
compositionality in semantics. I no more believe this than I believe
that intensional contexts are reducible to extensional contexts. 
Here's an off the wall thought: if such a reduction were possible
how would we deal with the "inverse variation of intension and 
extension"? Most, I guess, would ask: "What's the problem?"
No time for this now. Good discussion going on.

--- On Thu, 2/4/10, jlsperanza at aol.com <jlsperanza at aol.com> wrote:

From: jlsperanza at aol.com <jlsperanza at aol.com>
Subject: Re: Positivism in 21th.-Century Analytic Philosophy
To: hist-analytic at simplelists.co.uk
Date: Thursday, February 4, 2010, 4:08 PM


> 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.

Jones then retrieves some quotes from


and comments:

> The precise abhorrence you quote Grice as relating there is to:
> "the idea that semantic concepts are  unsatisfactory or even
> unintelligible,  *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.
> It´s not clear whether he thinks it illegitimate, undoable, or just
> uninteresting.
> In our present conversation we need also to consider whether this kind 
> reductive analysis is something which Carnap accepted/did/found interesting.
> This seems to me uncertain.

Good. It was CERTAIN to Biro. When I met Biro in, of all places, Buenos Aires, we discussed these things. He had this "Reductionism in Gricean meaning", or some sort, published in "The Monist", of all journals. My ref. to him was via Suppes´s mentioning Biro in PGRICE ed Grandy-Warner. Biro told me that he had indeed responded to Suppes´s criticism, and on his return to Gainesville, he had his secreatary -- poor thing -- type his letter to Suppes and made a copy for me, which must be floating on the Swimming-Pool Library somewhere. In further correspondence with him, I found that he did find of interest a distinction, fine no doubt, made by Grice in his "Valedictory Essay" between an


being  not mere reductive
              but reductionist.

So, as you distinguish positive and postivist Grice did distinguish between ´reductive´and ´reductionist´. Reductionist is STRONGER. Reductive is any type of analysis worth doing. Reductionist is a reductive analysis with a vengeance.

This connects with Grice vis a vis his revolutionary idea of REDUCING the semantic to the psychological ("means" to "intends" if you wish). But NOT, eg. "believies" or "intends" to "neurophysiological processes". In the context of his introduction of the


distinction, he is having in mind the argument of one Mrs. Julie M. Jack in Oxford (Somerville) but it should appeal Biro or any other philosopher who may have misinterpreted Grice on this or that front.

The next step in the dialogue is to see what Carnap would make of this distinction. It´s in WoW:RE, googlebooks. It´s just one page long.


Jones continues:
> Do you get out of Grice's crosshairs if you are a pluralistic 
> 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?

Don´t know. I think scientists may work like that. I confess that I was for once obsessed as to what to reduce the semantic to. I never doubted it reduced to the psychological. The semantic never had a big bite on me. But I _was_ obsessed, especially vis a vis Schiffer´s challenge of the conceptual  ´loop´, not to say vicious circle, that may ensue if you then go to say, alla Fodor or Katz, that there´s a LOT, language of thought such that we THINK it. It seemed I had to compromise with something subtler than that, but reading Cummins´s "Mind and Meaning" did not provide me a clue -- his neo-Gricean homunculi I found unattractive --. Eventually, for the purposes of my PhD dissertation, I settle -- you HAVE to settle for purposes of PhD dissertations -- for C. A. B. Peacocke´s _Concept_.


> 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
> positivism.
> Austin's attack in Sense and Sensibila is aimed primarily at the 
> 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).

Right. But there is a page in the WoW relevant section, III of ¨Causal theory¨ which has offended most people I shewed it to. He says,

(words to the effect):

"I, qua philosopher, care not for what this causal a
  link is supposed to be. I live a BIG blank. I´m not
  interested. I´m only interested that such causal
  link BE postulated".

Indeed, I think perception is for the scientist to analyse. As a student of the humanities one is usually required to pass at least one course in psychology, and it would seem, from the textbooks they have you swallow, that perception and motivation are the ONLY things they have said something or anything interesting about.

It would be presumptious to say, "Perception is for the philosopher to analyse", with all the experiments psychologists and ethologists and zoologists have designed.

But there´s "cause" which IS a Humean (sort of, or Anti-Humean) philosophical term, so the more you focus on the CAUSAL and the less in the perception the more you realise this is after all "PHILOSOPHY OF PERCEPTION", which is the title of the piece edited by Warnock in Oxford which included Grice´s 1961 bit.

In a way the approaches between Austin, Sense and Sensibilia and Grice´s "Causal Theory of Perception" are not that disparate. The most charming pieces in Austin (and I´m saddened that Grice found this book unentertaining) concerns things like

   the church is a speck from this distance.


  The church is a speck or seems a speck?

And needless to say (then why say it) I found it VERY refreshing when I was able to read first hand from Chapman´s book what Grice and Warnock were saying about ´visum´:

  I saw a visum of a cow.  I saw a cow.
  Cfr. I heard the mowing of a cow.

--- I tend to think that Grice´s problem with the causal theory of perception was his attack of Anscombe´s Wittgenstein:

  A horse cannot look like a horse.

For Grice it CAN, and actually, ceteris paribus, WILL.

So the doubt-or-denial is a scale-implicature.

"Say S, rather than W, when you can"

-- where S and W stand for Strong And Weak. And where they can be expressed in PHYSICALIST terms -- but not in the unified-science meaning, but in the material-object meaning -- rather than in the more standardly empiricist views that Austin is attacking in terms of sense dataa.

Bayne I think will remark that the logical positivists couldn´t pass the faith of phenomenalism. The physicalism of Mach was foreign to them. The logical syntax of the world, as I think Sellars noted, resolves in a purely phenomenalist account of things.


J. L. Speranza

> _are_ the banners of Scientism (or the Devil of Scientism). But I'll
> elaborate.
> I enjoyed your distinctions between 'positivism' and 'positive'. And  
> 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 
> --  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 
>  agora, Plato way out in the groves  of Academos, Aristotle back to 
>  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 
>  matter you! :)
> JL
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