[hist-analytic] The price of the Bic Mac
Jlsperanza at aol.com
Jlsperanza at aol.com
Tue Jun 1 12:27:18 EDT 2010
In a message dated 6/1/2010 9:25:50 A.M., aune at philos.umass.edu writes:
we can know a priori that that stick has the length it has, whatever that
length may be. ... The point is a little subtle, but its sound as a dollar.
I was told that the way to see how an economy is doing in some country
(e.g. Thailand) is to inquire for the price of the big mac.
This may connect with Aune's claim,
"It sounds as a dollar"
For surely we can say that we KNOW a priori that whatever the big mac is
worth it is worth what it is worth.
I like the point by Aune on the "whatever that length may be". Grice works
on this, which Evans, I think, rather whimsically, calls Grice's 'stroke of
the pen' (following indeed Grice's own description of the device) I think
(in Varieties of Reference -- one of the few places where you do see
Grice's "Vacuous Names" cited). In any case, for Grice --
it's ALL about the 'whatever that may be'.
Grice uses this in connection with descriptors and features proper (as
'length' -- but I need to rephrase this to cover Baynes' other example, the
degree -- vis a vis commentary by R. B. Jones, very apt, on the complications
brought by mathematical examples here). So, Grice wants to say,
"He didn't do it." perhaps because "he" didn't exist.
"The man who is alleged to have done it"
"Who _is_ that man?"
"Whoever. Let's call him Bill".
i.e.: we can at any stage introduce a proper name as it attaches to what he
calls a 'dossier' -- a descriptor --. So, I take Grice's point to be
following Quine's suggestion that names are not as important as they are named.
Of course, Mrs. Bayne calling Steven "Steven" WAS important to her (and to
us and to Steven, last but not least), but Quine was being imaginative when
he said that "Steven exists" amounts to "There is an x such that it
Now, the 'whatever it may be' (or 'whoever he may be') allows Grice to play
with Donnellan in ways that connect with Kripke and this discussion, I
hope. For Grice, who wrote "Vacuous Names" in 1969 (it was published in
Davidson/Hintikka, "Words and objections"), is able to refer to Donnellan's locus
classicus in a footnote (this was BEFORE we had all been Donnellanised to
tears). But, typically, Grice finds flaws in Donnellan's approach -- which
he does not care to mention JUST THEN. He notes, though, that his own
"identificatory" versus "non-identificatory" uses of 'descriptors' echoes
Donnellan on the 'uses' of descriptors ('referential' and 'attributive'). Grice
seems to be suggesting that he is not ready to buy any conclusion about the
semantic-pragmatic interface into the bargain, which seems perhaps what
Kripke just did, as echoed by Patton in unpublished work (I referred to in
"Kripke and the history of philosophy", THIS LIST).
Grice is unclear as to what convention to adopt here. He opts for the
lower-case versus upper-case. So, "Bill" is non-identificatory, but "BILL" is
identificatory. It's trickier with symbols -- where we would need to use
lower case 'f' for feature and upper case "F" for an identified feature (if
that makes sense). Suppose we symbolise Aune's wording above:
"[W]e can know a priori that that stick has the length it has, whatever
that length may be."
Of course, Aune's point is about the "I know a priori" (that p) rather than
the logical form of "p" but let that be. The example is perhaps
complicated in that it uses 'length' which is best symbolised in some second-order
calculus. For try using 'long':
i. The stick has the length it has, whatever that length may be. (Aune's
ii. The stick is SOME meter long, whatever some may be. (uses 'long',
rather than 'length').
(This SEEMS to be different from the angle-degree thing that, as Bayne and
Jones note, belongs to theoretical geometry rather: proportions and
calculations apply to ANY circle whatsoever, in tems of radians, etc.)
Aune concludes his post:
"The point is a little subtle, but it sounds as a dollar."
which is back to the big mac.
"The price of the Big Mac is outrageous"
thus becomes, using Grice's identificatory-nonidentificatory distinction as
it represented by upper- and lower-case, respectively:
We represent the above as:
"THE PRICE OF THE BIG MAC is outtrageous"
-- when we have the knowledge (a posteriori) of the equivalence of the
price in terms of dollars and the absolute price of the dollar in terms of the
gold capital of the country where the currency originates. This, on the
assumption that it makes sense, is 'subtle', too, to use Aune's sobriquet, and
it too may sound as a dollar, or not.
"That's VERY expensive, whatever its price"
DOES SOUND slightly odd -- and my use of "VERY" there is 'emphatic', not
Griceanly identificatory. So perhaps 'expensive' IS different from 'long' (or
'expAnsive') -- as it applies to a stick, which for some reason, must
always refer to that thing in Paris -- if we are being metrical -- and assuming
the stick in Paris cannot EXPAND).
Going non-metrical may not help at this stage: The stick is five feet long
("foot" is of course equivocal as regards 'unit of measure' and 'end of my
leg' (for surely we can grow, qua species, contingently, out of bounds so
that the feet of the 'homo sapiens' is no longer a foot long, etc.) but
there is a name for that: disgression (disgricetion).
J. L. Speranza
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