[hist-analytic] Grice and Schelling and von Neumann

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Tue Feb 16 12:19:45 EST 2010


Some commentary on this post by Lakoff then:
 
"It is nice to see good ol'  topics from the 60's - Paul 
Grice's  implicatures and David Lewis'  conventionality - taken up 
again."
 
Exactly. As Grice would say, if philosophy generated the same old problems, 
 it would be dead, though! So we hope there's a change of idiom, somehow!
 
 
"most folks in the cognitive linguistics tradition  
may also not  know the context of Grice's and Lewis' work either."
 
--- This Does NOT apply to Baynes and J. L. Speranza. They know what they  
are talking about, and they are NOT in the cognitive linguistics tradition!  
(Personally, I'm only in the Gricean tradition, and when pressed, but count 
 me on the Grecian tradition _any day_.
 
"David Lewis 
was a grad student there and, I believe, he was in  the  room too."
 
-- and listening. He failed to implicate that, but that's what he meant. I  
know because M. Wrigley attended Grice's conferences on Locke in Oxford, 
and  while he _was_ in the room, he wasn't listening!
 
-- (I love Wrigley).
 
"I  managed to get a copy and 
distributed over 1,000 copies  through the  linguistic underground by 
1973"
 
--- Oops. Not 10,000. I see they can multiply easily though! In a way,  
there was a problem with (c) here, but Grice never cared! (Now of course it's  
all protected by (c) The Estate of H. P. Grice. No more those old games!
 
----
 
"and also managed to get chapter 2 published  in the Cole-Morgan  
volume on Speech Acts in 1975. (The story involves a bar  in Austin,  
Texas.) "
 
--- where Grice was _forced_, as it were, or 'intoxicated' into doing it.  
But of course Grice never cited Cole/Morgan. He only cared to cite  
Davidson/Harman who had published it before then in "Grammar and Logic" for  
Dickinson, California, "The grammar of logic". This was a two-column per page  
thing. It was only in (1989) WoW that Grice acquired full rights to his own  
thing -- since the day it had been typed out of his handwritten notes which  is 
the only date he gives: 1967.
 
---


"although 
his one metaphor example was  pitifully  analyzed."
 
Lakoff (who married Robin Talmach, another good ol' Gricean) is referring  
to
 
  You're the cream in my coffee (title of song) as analysed by J. L.  S. to 
pitiful effects!
 
----
 
"Searle later tried applying 
this idea in his paper on metaphor in the  Ortony  volume, a disastrous 
attempt."
 
Bayne refers to Lakoff's honesty, and I agree, but I think this use of  
'disastrous' as applied to anything Gricean is a bit, 'disastrous'?
 
---
Lakoff goes on to mention Gazdar's ("bucket" and the device that  allows 
for frame-semantics, and advises someone to write a thesis on this -- not  me!)
 
----
 
Now for Lewis -- which deals more directly with Bayne's current lovely  
project --  or how to teach a lesson in pure philosophy to Rawlsian  

Lakoff writes:

"David Lewis' Harvard  dissertation on Convention was a product  
of the same era - 1968, if I  remember correctly."
 
I was mentioning in CogLing that Lewis's title of the dissertation  was:

"Conventions OF LANGUAGE"
 
And it's a good thing that he dropped "of language" when the thing got  
book-published. Thesis advisor was Quine. Grice NEVER thought 'convention' had  
ANYTHING to do with anything!

----
Lakoff:
 
"David was also an 
objectivist - of the most extreme  variety.  It's worth taking a look 
at his essay in the Davidson-Harman volume  of  the Semantics of 
Natural Language, where he argues that meaning has   nothing to do with 
psychology - neither mind nor brain."
 
Interesting that Lakoff should mention this, because it's in  
Davidson/Harman, 1975, though, that Grice 1975, Logic and Conversation also  appeared.  I 
would need to know more details about this. I would think that  Grice, a 
self-appointed, self-defined, etc. 'philosopher' would rather have his  stuff 
published by philosophers as Davidson and Harman are or were rather than  
Cole/Morgan.
 
---
 
"For David [Kellog Lewis] meaning  could only be 
a  correspondence between formal symbols and the objective  world, 
where  the objective world was taken as being modeled via  
set-theoretical  models. The symbols were to be linked to the  
world-models via some  mathematical function. For human languages, 
that  function he claimed  was determined by convention - which is why 
he wrote his  thesis on the  topic."
 
 
--- But NOT for Grice who in 1967 was having a variable 'c' for modes of  
correlation (now in WoW).
 
These are:  i ---- iconic
                  c --- conventional
                  o --- other.
 
I.e. Grice is saying that convention is only ONE mode of correlation and  
certainly not the essential one. "Meaning is not essentially tied to 
convention"  (Grice WoW:MR). Lakoff is writing for linguists or cognitive linguists, 
not for  philosophers, necessarily!)
 
"But "convention" could not be could 
not [sic] be a matter of   human psychology for David; it had to be 
objective 
as well. David's idea  was  to use the economic theory of his time - 
utility theory - to  provide what he  took as an objectivist account of 
convention, since  utility was seen as  something objective in the 
world."
 
This is Lakoff's lovely tirade agaisnt objectivism. I have another reading. 
 As a philosopher (as Lewis and Grice were -- Lakoff more of a logician? 
Don't  know) ANALYSIS is the only viable way. So what Lewis is proposing is an 
 analysis, never mind 'objective'.
 
----
 
Lakoff goes on:
 
"The irony here, of course, is that Danny  Kahneman, my former  
cognitive science colleague at Berkeley - now at  Princeton - just won  
the Nobel Prize in economics for proving that such a  view of  
economics cannot be maintained."
 
The irony being that it was unmerited? :)
 
"The examples he used were cases that  
revealed how people really  reason: by prototype, frame, and metaphor 
-  the staples of cognitive  linguistics. " 

-- but what do those Swedes know? Just teasing.
 
"David's work, like Paul's,  was insightful, despite the  
objectivist intellectual tradition in which it  was embedded."
 
 
So back to the economy model. This is in reference to posts of mine in that 
 list re: Schelling, von Neumann, the co-ordination problem of 
'convention', etc.  The idea that 'convention' is NOT a primitive term, and that it 
involves a  reductive analysis to other notions. 

And what's wrong with utility, as  Gr--- I mean, Grotius would say?

"David's idea was  to use the economic theory of his time -  
utility theory - to provide what he  took as an objectivist account of  
convention"
 
Also because like Grice they were utilitarians at heart, and only later  
Kantians. The only reason to be a Kantian is to be able to ground  
utilitarianism. Grice was even amused to be called a 'futilitarian'! (I owe  discussion 
with the great great great philosopher R. C. Stalnaker -- _contra_  Warner, 
JP 1991 -- on this point).
 
Lakoff:

"They 
were both super-smart people who transcended the  theories  they were 
brought up with. Both theories were exemplary  products of their  time, 
the late 60's (a period I enjoyed and am  particularly fond of). But  
the intellectual tradition in which the  theories were embedded cannot 
be  taken seriously today,"
 
How about re-hushing them a bit?
 
"and so the work cannot be taken at face 
value. The  theories were  formulated before the age of cognitive 
science and  neuroscience. We  now know from those fields that 
objectivism is false"
 
But not KNOW that we know! Etc.
 
Lakoff:
 
"Convention also makes sense  only in neural terms. What each 
of  us takes as conventional must be  instantiated in our synapses. The  
question is, what is the mechanism? In  some cases, the usage-based  
theories of gradual entrenchment may make sense."  
 
Well, I'm pleased as a Gricean I don't have to deal with it ("Meaning is  
not essentially tied with convention" (WoW:MR).
 
"This is not just true of Grice and 
Lewis. My  old work on  generative semantics from the 60's had lots of 
neat insights as  well.  But they too have to be rethought. Some can be 
translated into   cognitive linguistics - others cannot. None of this 
is easy or obvious.  It  is important to know the history of all this 
work. Those who do not  know  history are doomed to repeat it."
 
Unless you join the Grice Club!
 
J. L. Speranza





Date: Tue, 26 Nov 2002  16:59:18 -0800 ( PST) 
From: George Lakoff  <lakoff at cogsci.berkeley.edu>  
To: cogling at ucsd.edu 
Subject:  Re: Convention and metaphor 
Errors-To:  cogling-errors at ucsd.edu  
Sender: cogling-relay at ucsd.edu 
Reply-To: George  Lakoff  <lakoff at cogsci.berkeley.edu> 
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X-UCL-PHONETICS-&-LINGUISTICS-MailScanner: Found to be clean   

Grice, Lewis, and Metaphor Theory  

It is nice to see good  ol'  topics from the 60's - Paul 
Grice's implicatures and David  Lewis'  conventionality - taken up 
again. The phenomena need to  reconsidered  seriously within the 
cognitive linguistics context. But  when Sherman Wilcox  writes "I 
admit to knowing not a stitch of  Davidson," I fear that he isn't  the 
only one, and that most folks in  the cognitive linguistics tradition  
may also not know the context of  Grice's and Lewis' work either. 
Since I  shared a history with them  (they were friends of mine back 
when I was  working on logic), I think  a bit that history might be 
useful - especially  since it is relevant  to the current discussion. 
Their work cannot now be  taken at face  value and has to be thought of 
in a historical perspective,  for  reasons that will become clear below.  

Paul Grice's lectures  on  implicature (Language and 
Conversation) were given as the William  James  Lectures at Harvard in 
1967. I was teaching there at the time  and I  attended. David Lewis 
was a grad student there and, I believe,  he was in the  room too. 
Grice's intent was conservative. Strawson had  given lots of  examples 
showing the inadequacy of Russell's symbolic  logic in general and  his 
Theory of Descriptions in particular. Grice  was defending Russell.  
His argument was that you could keep Russellian  logic for semantics 
and  truth conditions, while getting the real  natural language 
examples right by  adding a theory of conversation on  top of the logic. 
Since I was trying to  incorporate logic and  pragmatics into 
linguistics at the time (1967), I  became enamored of  Paul's work. He, 
however, refused to publish it. I  managed to get a  copy and 
distributed over 1,000 copies through the  linguistic  underground by 
1973, and also managed to get chapter 2 published  in  the Cole-Morgan 
volume on Speech Acts in 1975. (The story involves a  bar  in Austin, 
Texas.) 

Paul  was an objectivist who  insisted that all meaning was 
literal. Nonetheless,  much of Paul's  work was insightful - although 
his one metaphor example was  pitifully  analyzed. The only way Paul's 
theory could deal with metaphor was  to  claim that metaphors had a 
literal meaning conveyed via implicature.   Searle later tried applying 
this idea in his paper on metaphor in the  Ortony  volume, a disastrous 
attempt.  

During the 70's,  Paul's work  became taken very seriously by 
those trying to keep formal  logic as a theory  of thought - with the 
result that it got  reinterpreted - for good reason.  Gazdar did a 
formalization within  logic of the maxim of quantity in his  
dissertation. Grice's student  Deirdre Wilson (she had typed his  
manuscript) realized that all the  maxims could be seen as instances 
of  relevance. Her theory of  relevance also tried to preserve formal 
logic as a  theory of  semantics. When Fillmore formulated frame 
semantics, I realized  that  relevance - and with it Gricean 
implicature - could be handled via   frame-based inference with a 
cognitive linguistics framework. The  formal  mechanism for doing this 
precisely did not exist then (the  70's), though it  does now - 
Narayanan's simulation semantics within  NTL. It would be a great  
thesis topic for someone to work out the  technical details now that a  
technical mechanism is available.   

David Lewis' Harvard  dissertation on Convention was a product  
of the same era - 1968, if I  remember correctly. David was also an  
objectivist - of the most extreme  variety. It's worth taking a look  
at his essay in the Davidson-Harman volume  of the Semantics of  
Natural Language, where he argues that meaning has  nothing to do with  
psychology - neither mind nor brain. For David, meaning  could only be  
a correspondence between formal symbols and the objective  world,  
where the objective world was taken as being modeled via   
set-theoretical models. The symbols were to be linked to the   
world-models via some mathematical function. For human languages,  
that  function he claimed was determined by convention - which is why  
he wrote his  thesis on the topic. But "convention" could not be could  
not be a matter of  human psychology for David; it had to be objective  
as well. David's idea was  to use the economic theory of his time -  
utility theory - to provide what he  took as an objectivist account of  
convention, since utility was seen as  something objective in the  
world. The irony here, of course, is that Danny  Kahneman, my former  
cognitive science colleague at Berkeley - now at  Princeton - just won  
the Nobel Prize in economics for proving that such a  view of  
economics cannot be maintained. The examples he used were cases that   
revealed how people really reason: by prototype, frame, and metaphor  
-  the staples of cognitive linguistics.  

David's work,  like Paul's,  was insightful, despite the 
objectivist intellectual  tradition in which it  was embedded. They 
were both super-smart people  who transcended the theories  they were 
brought up with. Both theories  were exemplary products of their  time, 
the late 60's (a period I  enjoyed and am particularly fond of). But  
the intellectual tradition  in which the theories were embedded cannot 
be  taken seriously today,  and so the work cannot be taken at face 
value. The  theories were  formulated before the age of cognitive 
science and  neuroscience. We  now know from those fields that 
objectivism is false (see  the survey  in Women, Fire, and Dangerous 
Things and the update in Philosophy  in  the Flesh). We know that every 
aspect of thought and language works   through human brains, which are 
structured to run bodies and which  create  understandings that are not 
objectively true of the  world.  

Metaphor is an important part  of this story. The  neural 
theory of metaphor (see PITF) explains how the  system of  conceptual 
metaphor is learned, why certain conceptual metaphors  are  universal 
and others are not, why the system is structured around   primary 
metaphor, why metaphor acquisition works as it does, why  conceptual  
metaphors preserve image-schemas, why metaphorical  inference works as 
it  does, and why conceptual metaphors tend to take  sensory-motor 
concepts as  conceptual source domains and  non-sensory-motor concepts 
as targets.  

Convention also makes  sense  only in neural terms. What each 
of us takes as conventional must  be  instantiated in our synapses. The 
question is, what is the  mechanism? In  some cases, the usage-based 
theories of gradual  entrenchment may make sense.  For other cases, 
they don't. Metaphor is  a case where those theories make no  sense, as 
I pointed out in my  previous note. The old entrenchment theories  
simply cannot explain  what the neural theory of metaphor explains.  

Bill Croft aks, "How  can a  linguist decide whether a metaphor is 
conventional?" and he  claims, "There  is no easy way, and little or no 
research 
that I  know of on the topic  (please direct me to any!)." It is true 
that  there is no easy way. The work  is hard. But there is a huge 
amount of  research on the topic. I refer him to  chapter 6 of 
Philosophy in the  Flesh (pp. 81-87), where nine forms of  convergent 
evidence are listed  - and to the references at the end of the  book, 
where massive  literature on the research is cited. Croft himself, for  
all his many  accomplishments, is, to my knowledge, not a metaphor  
researcher. For  those who are, there's a lot to know.  

In summary: Cognitive   linguistics is committed to being 
consistent with what is known about  the  brain and the mind. That 
changes over time, and cognitive  linguistics must  change with it. 
Entrenched ideas about entrenchment  may have to change as  well. The 
ideas of Paul Grice and David Lewis  from the 60's cannot just be  
taken over into cognitive linguistics as  they were formulated. They  
cannot be taken at face value. They have to  be rethought on the basis 
of  what has been learned since. This is not  just true of Grice and 
Lewis. My  old work on generative semantics from  the 60's had lots of 
neat insights as  well. But they too have to be  rethought. Some can be 
translated into  cognitive linguistics - others  cannot. None of this 
is easy or obvious. It  is important to know the  history of all this 
work. Those who do not know  history are doomed to  repeat it. 

Best wishes to all, 

George   
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