[hist-analytic] Carnap And Grice Outside The Box

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Thu Mar 4 02:01:07 EST 2010

Carnap and Grice on 'arbitrary,' 'conventional', and 'synthetic'
In a message dated 3/3/2010 12:12:04 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,  
rbj at rbjones.com writes:
"It sounds like a discussion of the kinds of  pragmatic criteria which are 
involved in acceptance of a "language framework"  (just guessing).If so, and 
it he is correct, then that is good for the  possibility of Carnap being 
happy with formal discourse about morals. However,  even in that case, and 
supposing that he allowed P-
rules in that context  (P-rules in science capture synthetic truths)"
--- Sorry for naivete. "P" standing for ... physics?
"or rather let us say E-rules (for Ethical), then Its moot whether he would 
 count them as synthetic. I think he would still want to deny "cognitive  
context"  subject to possible change of words, and actually synthetic  
might be a better word to use (synthetic content). So the possibility here  
which I am contemplating (modulo 
changes in concept names) is that Carnap  would admit moral reasoning in 
two possible ways.  First, if one can give  meaning to moral terms, then one 
can reason to analytically true moral claims by  capturing those meanings in 
A-rules and then deducing results from them. This is  all within his very 
strict conception of philosophy as logic, and the only issue  is whether these 
languages are pragmatically acceptable (on which I would expect  Carnap to 
allow us to make up our own minds). The second method would allow  A-rules 
capturing the meanings of moral terms, and also E-rules capturing moral  
principles over and above those which are analytic.  In this case the  results 
are not philosophical or scientific in Carnap's conception, and lack  
cognitive content.  But the meta-theoretic claim that such and such a  principle is 
provable in that context will be analytic and might possibly count  as 
I think I prefer your first suggestion. One qualm here would be with views  
like Blackburn, so-called "anti-realism" -- perhaps a good bete noire, if 
ever  there was one, or 'quasi-realism'. I.e. the idea that moral claims are 
not true,  but not because they fail to be true, but rather because it's a 
satisfactoriness  (in Tarski's sense) other than 'alethic', or 'assertoric', 
or 'theoretical' or  'factual' which is at play?
Roger Bishop Jones continues:

"I am puzzled by the reluctance to call Carnap an ontological  pluralist.  
If this is because it is thought that this would make him a  metaphysician, 
then I think this is mistaken. A metaphysician should hold that  ontological 
truths objective (rather than conventional) and therefore cannot be  a 
pluralist.  Either some entity exists or it doesn't there's surely no two  ways 
about it for a metaphysician? I note here, though it really belongs  
somewhere else where Grice is in the picture, that "conventional" as here  
contrasted with "objective" is a very weak term and does not carry much of the  
usual ordinary connotation of "convention". One thinks of the many case where  
there are different ways of describing the same thing, and notes that this 
shows  that 
some features of the description cannot therefore be known to be  features 
of the object described. One seeks to distinguish between what is an  
"objective" feature or reality from what is just a feature of the language with  
which we talk about reality.(I think this is the distinction which Strawson  
draws when 
he talks of descriptive and revisionary metaphysics, possibly;  the one 
just exhumes the language, the other 
purports to reveal the  reality). To talk about something as being 
"conventional" in this sense says  nothing about how the language got its structure 
and meaning.  It just says  that the thing under consideration comes from 
the language rather than some  aspect of reality."
I see. Good points. I see Carnap calls, incidentally, Strawson (and maybe  
Grice, since he was usually pigeonholed as one too) a "linguistic 
naturalist" or  "naturalist" for short. So the idea of 'conventionality' as you attach 
it to  'language' per se is pretty central. For where would WE be without a 
language or  lingo as I prefer? 
So I will consider those points. There must be perhaps a better term.  
"Arbitrary" maybe. I'm thinking of passages by Grice, -- his ref. to  
"Deutero-Esperanto" in WoW:Meaning-Revisited, where he wants to be totally  
disassociated with the idea of language being conventional. As a Griceian the  least I 
can do is follow his usage or recommendation as to use! But I see what  you 
mean. It's not like Grice is thinking of a characteristica universalis as  
you yourself have done in your rich X-logic projects!

But will keep thinking about these things. Thanks for input.
J. L. Speranza

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