[hist-analytic] Grice's Betes

Roger Bishop Jones rbj at rbjones.com
Mon Feb 22 13:17:47 EST 2010

I have given further consideration to Grice's Betes Noires 
and the risk that they would be an impediment to 
conversation with Carnap, and I have read at least some of 
what he writes of them in PGRICE (but cut of at page 81!).

I would like to suggest that the key to Grice and Carnap 
understanding each other in this context is to make a 
distinction between different kinds of "Minimalism".

The signs are that this is not a distinction which has 
occurred to Grice, but I believe it is key to understanding 
why not all minimalisation is as bad as Grice seems to think 
it is, and to his understanding of Carnap.

The distinction I draw is between dogmatic minimalisation 
and pluralistic or pragmatic minimalisation.
(there probably are three there, but for the time being I 
will treat the second two as one).

The distinction is best understood by reference to 
phenomenalism and materialism.  Grice cannot understand how 
someone can be both a phenomenalist and a materialist.
Insofar as these are dogmatic minimalisms this seems to me 
reasonable.  But Carnap is a pluralistic and a pragmatic 
minimalist, and as such he is both a phenomenalist (or would 
like to be if he could make it work) and a materialist 
(supposing that to be a reasonable description of his 
materialistic language).
For Carnap the phemonemalistic language will be useful for 
some purposes, and the physicalistic for others, and either 
can be used for addressing the problems to which they are 
best suited.

This pragmatic element is crucial in motivating much 
minimalism.  Of course, that's not always the case. Many 
nominalists are dogmatic and will rejects the ontology of 
set theory without offering any other solution to the 
problems it addresses best.

In mathematics, minimalisation is a way of simplifying the
rigourisation of mathematics using formal systems. 
Its not a nominalistic minimalisation for it embraces a 
lavish abstract ontology, but the ontology is exclusively of 
pure well-founded extensional sets, so there is only one 
kind of abstract entity.  One could have chosen some other 
kind of abstract entity, or a broader selection, but this 
one is the simplest and there are practical advantages in 
selecting just the one kind of entity.  So its a good idea 
to chose.  And you have to chose even if you are going to 
have lots of different kinds of abstract entity, there is 
always a minimalisation of kinds goind on in these 
foundational enterprises.
It need not be a dogmatic minimalisation, one can (and many 
do) advocate and make use of such foundation systems, but 
accept any number of alternative and contradictory 
minimalisations, and even use different ones for different 
problems (though its likely to be simpler to stick to one).

So the question is, if the idea of pluralistic minimalism 
could be made clear to Grice, would he be more tolerant of 
such minimalisms than he is of (what I like to call) 
dogmatic minimalisms?

There are special issues to be addressed in connection with 
extensionalism, and probably for some other specific -isms, 
but I will leave these for another day.


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