[hist-analytic] Frictionless Pulleys --Re: McPherson's Hobbes and Grice on 'implicature' in 1964

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Sat Feb 13 15:49:57 EST 2010

The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke, 
Oxford, 1962. 

Macpherson is taking much from Hobbes's "Rudiments." He isn't a 
logician; where I speak of " counterfactual conditionals" 
he just talks about "conditionals." He has, however, an extraordinary 
aptitude and sees that this is a matter of logic not just 
political theory. So close to being right after the passage I cite 
he says: 

"Thus in the Rudiments the state of war is hypothetical 
condition, got by a purely logical abstraction." (p. 28) 

When counterfactualizing , he takes a fact hypothesizes that 
it is changed while holding all else constant, very much 
like Kripke's stipulation of worlds. This is not an empirical 
matter as in abstracting concepts; but it is abstraction 
nonetheless by counterfactualizing . In empirical abstraction 
we "drag out" a feature by holding it "fixed" under 
conditions where all else varies. I use "holding" advisedly 
so as not to imply too much about the "active mind" in 
an empiricist ontology. So that is my claim. Again, just 
as a concept or idea is retained while others are "thrown 
out" so too in counterfactualizing ONE fact is thrown 
out and the rest retained, whatever they might be. This is 
roughly the idea. The analogy is not perfect since facts 
are not things (concepts) and what we are dealing 

with is a conditional. 

I should mention that while I abhor the very idea of slavery, 
succession is another matter. Much depends on whether the 
Constitution agreed upon by CONSENT remains binding 

when it is no longer by consent. The conditions of this "binding" 

ramify throughout the history of contract theory and is an 

interesting topic in its own right. 

My interest in MacPherson is that his ideas can be applied 
to some ideas in economics championed by Peter Schumpeter , 
Baumol , and a number of others. In addition, he had a 
interesting disagreement with Milton Friedman I am going 
to pursue somewhat. I generally side with Friedman, but 
Schumpeter's views on entrepreneurial capitalism create 
an opening between Keynesianism and free-market capitalism. 
I will use SOME of MacPherson in attacking Rawlsian ideas, 
but I will use it constructively as part of the philosophical 
foundations for a new theory of contract. We'll see what 

Best wishes 


----- Original Message ----- 
From: Jlsperanza @ aol .com 
To: hist-analytic@ simplelists .co. uk 
Sent: Friday, February 12, 2010 5:10:00 PM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific 
Subject: Frictionless Pulleys --Re: McPherson's Hobbes and Grice on 'implicature' in 1964 

In a message dated 2/12/2010 12:10:45 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, Baynesr @comcast.net writes: 

MacPherson describes his counterfactual approach as 

---- Long winded indeed! --- Perhaps you can let us know about his background. I mean: he got his book published with Oxford alright, but he sounds, a "new Worlder "? 

    You should provide the quote where he does go "abstraction". I don't think it was in the quote you provided this far. In this one he was saying that the state of nature was a "statement". 

----- Thanks for the clarification on your background and your attitudes towards seccesion and slavery. South of Dixie towards Mid-West, etc. It would be good to know McPherson's too. (Not because we want to be gossipy, but surely if we are going to listen to some talk 

             Hobbes, the Leviathan, the philosophy 
                   of rights 

   we may have a suspicion that if the person is, say, an obdurate Brit, or a revolutionary American, or a liberal, or whatever, will judge his views. I don't say pre-judge, just judge (It's a verb I invent). 

  --- I don't quite follow your views on abstraction, but they are interesting. 

  Indeed 'abstract' is a very complex verb, but I hope McPherson is just using it alla Roget's Thesaurus to mean: 

   -- schema 
   -- gedanke experiment. 


I.e. As when Grice was criticised: What you say is too abstract. Surely we don't want to say that participants in a conversation do this and do that as you say they do.      He would reply 

   -- I quote from Chapman: 

(Since it took me sometime to rescue it, and it's frictionless PULLEYS and not solids as I thought, I'm appending that to subject matter to we can play on the interface 



McPherson as Neo-Hobbes 

method: " abtraction " 

'state of nature' 
as statement 

   etc.                        GRICE 
                        account of conversation 
                             as neo-Aristotle 
                             and neo-Kant 

                        method: abstraction 

     Purposes of abstract methodology: 
     to propose a model that may run against the facts 
     but it still works.  
     Counterfactual method as 'transcendental justification' 
     alla Kant. 
     It identifies the minimal elements and proceeds to 
     discourse on the logic of this or that: 

Grice : 

"We never know what Grice is doing", Chapman complains. But she is a teacher of English at Liverpool. Philosophers do. 

She is very clever enough and indeed to unbury the things by Grice from us. 

"He does say what he is doing in some "unpublished" stuff. 

Personally, I agree with those philosophers who say, "Burn all I left, after you burn me". But not when it comes to Grice : because I love him, and because many of that stuff is things he SAID in public. As a historian of 20th century Oxford philosophy, I'm interested I was interested as to what they were getting (and it's here that what McPherson is trying to do may illuminate): 

Grice , Chapman says, in this unpublications , "defends his method of working with as few 'cards on the table' as possible, in the knowledge that this WILL result in certain deliberate simplifications" 

          McPherson's abstraction 

--- "In another lecture, proposing to address some questions put to him a previous discussion about the nature of his undertaking" he notes that 

   he is 

"considering what is (or may be) 
only an IDEAL (emphasis Grice's -- JLS ) case, 
one which is 

   artificially simplified 

               -- McPherson's abstracted. JLS -- 

by ABSTRACTING from all considerations 
      OTHER than those involved in ... [say an illumination of 'contract' . JLS ]. 

"I do not claim that there ACTUALLY [ empahsis Grice's . JLS ] 
occur any ... conversations [write state of nature for McPherson] 
of this artificially simplified kind." 

"It MIGHT"  and this is where Grice gets to be my CHARMING GRICE : 

"even be that these COULD [emphasis Grice's ] not be (cf frictionless pulleys)." 


"Since the object of this exercise is to provide a bit of THEORY 
  -- vs.analysis. JLS , as he had undertaken in "Meaning"--he is specifically making the change of methodology here] 

"...which will EXPLAIN, for a certain family of cases, 
why is it that a ...." 

"I would suggest that the final 


for the adequacy and utility 

of this model should be" 

   "First: can it be used to construct 
    explanations of the presence of ... 

    and is it more comprehensive and more economical 
    than any rival 

--- McPherson say on 'divine' formation of contracts -- 

   "Second, "Are there no doubt crude, PRETHEORETICAL ( Grice's emphasis. JLS ) 
    explanations which one would be prompted to give of ... (this or that) 
       consistent with, or better still, favourable pointers towards, the 
     requirements invovled in the model." 

I NOTE FOR THE RECORD that Grice is using " implicature " here -- so this predates the OED3 quote which gives is at 1967. This is 1964. 

------ In a way it compares to ideal-observer's theories, which became more and more influential in moral/political theory and out of which Grice will draw a few commodities he'll expand in e.g. his Method in philosopoical psychology. 

The details of how this work for 

  i. Hobbes 
  ii. McPherson 

          iii. More importantly, YOU 

remains to be seen! 


JL Speranza 
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