[hist-analytic] Carnap and Grice and Absolutism
Roger Bishop Jones
rbj at rbjones.com
Sun Feb 28 16:10:37 EST 2010
JL liked my introduction of "absolute" instead of the
previous "dogmatic" as a label for the kinds of "minimalism"
which we imagine Grice in opposition to, by contrast with
Carnap's pluralistic ontological pragmatism, in which some
minimalisation is undertaken without prejudice, as a matter
of convenience for some purpose in hand.
However, since Speranza also spoke of "objective" I have to
say that I think that a better term for the purpose, and am
inclined to hold back "absolute" for some other more exotic
purpose not yet exposed.
It is the hallmark of the kind of metaphysical ontology from
which Carnap abstains that it claims that certain
ontological principles are "objective" rather than
"conventional". i.e. in Carnap's language, that these
truths are not internal to some "linguistic framework" but
are in his term external.
Passing to the matter of "Extensionalism", Google seems to
think the term scarcely used, by contrast with
"Extensional", which has quite a complex variety of uses.
Three possible senses occur to me.
The first is the creed that we can do without any kinds of
entity which are not extensional. One might easily suppose
from reading Grice that this was what he had in mind.
However, I have to say that for my part I find this so
implausible that I find it hard to believe that there ever
have been such extensionalists, and am therefore lead to
doubt that this could have been what Grice had in mind.
The second is the creed that we can do without primitives
which are not extensional, i.e. that such intensional
objects as we require are reducible to extensional objects
in some way.
The third is the creed that in fact there are only
extensional objects, together with what Russell would have
called "logical fictions" constructed from extensional
entities but having the characteristics of intensional
I think it probable that the second thesis is true, but I do
not know how this can be demonstrated conclusively.
It is not difficult to show how certain kinds of intensional
objects can be defined in extensional languages, and I know
of none which could not be so defined. But I don't know how
one could formulate and demonstrate a general thesis to the
effect that intensional objects always are definable in terms
of extensional objects.
Carnap argued in Meaning and Necessity that an extensional
metalanguage would suffice for the intensional object
languages which he deals with in that book, but I'm not
aware of him having offered a more general argument.
So I think Carnap and I would are probably inclined to
accept the second thesis, but not dogmatic, whereas Grice
might be disinclined, but possibly also not dogmatic.
The third thesis is for Carnap and I in the domain of
This is the strongest contender for an interpretation of
Extensionalism as one of Grice's demons, but there is no
conflct with Carnap here.
It looks like Grice is not here intent on demonising any
doctrine of Carnap, though there might still be a less
demonic disagreement about whether a certain kind of
pragmatic reduction is technically feasible.
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