[hist-analytic] BRUCE AUNE'S Philosophical Autobiography

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Tue May 10 22:15:13 EDT 2011

What an excellent thing, Steve!

Thanks  so  much for sharing, Bruce Aune!

In case Aune will provide  some  references to his second part of the 
memoir, I was thinking of  dropping a  few!

Notably -- but I will have to  doublecheck:

(alphabetically ordered)

OWENS, review of Ryle,  Aristotelian Society,  1977
WARNOCK, "Saturday mornings", in Berlin et  al

and there may be a  few more! And indeed, it is so fine to see  all the 
connections, as these remarks  on 'free' below, which may  relate.

I have shared this elsewhere, but I  provide some running  commentary then 
to the Grice narrative in B. Aune's memoir.

It was  excellent to have Aune's remembrance of Grice's own brand  of a 
Play Group.  I would think Grice was indeed into "Play Group Revivivus",  i.e. 
the idea  to replace Austin, as it perhaps was impossible. Grice would say 
that it was  reported to him, as said by Austin, "But they want to lead. But 
who can lead but  ME?" Or words to that effect.

Indeed, when Owens, as I was  saying  wrote his obituary for Gilbert Ryle 
in the proceedings of the  Aristotelian  Society (for 1977), it is all 
(mainly) about Grice. Grice had a bit  of a  mystifying thing about him. 

Owens recalls how Austin's Play Group   had had its own share of an icon 
status, back in the day. Ryle, for one,  would  have loved (if indeed did not 
love) to have joined (he amused  himself saying),  but he wasn't young 
enough. (Austin's 'rule' for  admission to his play group was  "Be born after 

Upon Austin's  demise (of cancer, in 1960 -- the  strongest blow to Oxonian 
ordinary  language philosophy, ever, so pathetically  reminisced by Pitcher 
in  Berlin), Grice, who 'coined', as it were, "Play Group",  would still  
reorganise the thing. -- vide Warnock, as I say, "Saturday mornings"  with  
Austin in Berlin et al. Warnock felt the piece merited, as it did, an   
inclusion in the "History of Philosophy" section of his own brilliant,  Morality  
and Language (Blackwell). But perhaps fings ain't what they  used  t'be?

Now our brilliant Club member, Bruce Aune, reminisces  Grice's  "Saturday 
mornings at Corpus Christi College."". indeed, it was,  as with Austin,  'by 
invitation only.' I should provide, elsewhere, a good  photo of Corpus 
Christi: Oxford's best college *by far*. It was, of couse  Grice's alma mater (he 
played football for Corpus, and in his free time edited  the philo 
undergrad journal, "The Pelican").

Aune tells us: "The Saturday  discussions that  Grice led when I was there 
were a continuation of the  Saturday morning  discussions previously led by 
J.L. Austin."

At  various places. Warnock  tells us that, with Austin alive, Austin would 
 rather fancy the posh conference  room at Grice's own college, St John's.  
Personally, being quite familiar with  the atmosphere, I would NEVER have  
allowed for indoor meetings, Oxonian weather  notwithstaning. What, with  
The Meadows out there which are ever TOO GOOD to be  missed. And what's the  
use of being a peripatetic if you are not gonna  walk?!

Plus, Oxford  is the HEKADEMIA rediviva: the grove where Plato 
philosophised. Not the hussle  and bussle of the City that Aristotle's Lykaion  knew. 

Aune  continues: "The meetings I attended generally had five or six   
discussants." A far cry (but don't deafen me) from Grice's remembrance of   
vintage Play Group. Grice lists   (alphabetically):

--   vide Speranza, "Join the Play Group". Grice is making a point: how can 
 Bergman  call them "English futilitarians" and Gellner, "a couple of  
English snobs", when  'we were so different'. There was so much variety  back in 
the day, that indeed,  one wonders who one felt _by lunch  time_.

Aune continues: "I can no  longer remember all the people who  attended. R. 
M. Hare was nearly always there,  but he never, as I recall,  addressed a 
single word to me."

Some of the  groupers belonged to  the earlier Thursday evening group 
(Urmson did). Vide  Berlin, "Austin and  the early beginnings of linguistic 
philosophy"). Indeed, there was a bit of a  class thing, too. Austin thought 
perhaps he was superior.  Hart, too.  Hampshire too. These three had attended 
the vintage "Middle Play  Group"  meetings, and the "Old" Play Group meeting 
at All Souls. Austin's  "Middle"  Play Group meeting was a bit of a 
'professional' thing intended for   full-time tutors. Grice's "Late" "Play Group" was 
a bit of a  different  implicature, if not animal.

Aune goes on to describe  Hare: "He was not  superior or rude. I think he 
was simply reticent or  shy." Grice recalls Hare's  participations at the 
"Middle" Play Group. Shy  and a bit stuffy, perhaps.  Gardiner had been 
approached by a Greek student  with a bribe (asking him to  spare him of a tutorial 
on Monday, since he  was staying in London). Hare had  said that the proper 
answer would be, "I  don't accept bribes on principle."  Austin thought a 
"No, thanks" was just  fine.

"I think J. O. Urmson  sometimes attended. He was then a don  at Corpus." 
Urmson ended up writing  the obit for Grice for the  "Independent", which has 
a typo or two (regarding  Grice's dates). It is  sad that when Urmson later 
moved to Stanford, he would  rarely see Grice.  Fings ain't indeed. What 
Corpus had was this EXCELLENT  connection with the  classics. Note that 
Grice's tutor at Corpus had been Hardie,  which  literally introduced into the 
type of argument that passes for   'philosophy'!

NOZICK, pre-anarchic days: "And Robert Nozick, the   other young American 
visitor, was ALWAYS there."
But he never  reminisced  so charmingly!

"Nozick was younger than I. He had  finished his Ph.D.  earlier in the year 
at Princeton. His sponsor at  Oxford, as it were, was Grice.  He was 
attached to St. John’s College as I  was attached to Corpus."
But  note that Grice kept using Corpus, rather  than St. John's. Perhaps he 
wanted a  change of airs. Knowing the  geography, I can testify!  But St. 
John's was a  world of its own, and  perhaps Nozick then suffered from the 
'rigours' of Mabbott  -- good ol'  (Scots) Mabb, as Grice called him (and whom 
reciprocated by citing  Grice  in his "Oxford memoirs" (Thornton, 1986 -- 
that Grice read).  He was   the OTHER tutor (or 'don') of philosophy at St. 
John's. Similarly, like  Nozick,  Strawson, and Flew, and Unger, and Nagel, 
had been official  'pupils' of Grice at  St. John's. Incidentally, Richardson 
has a good one  here, which he 'shares' with  the readers of "St. John's 
College Records"  (obit. for Grice). For one, Grice's  acceptance at St. 
John's was  controversial. It had been stated by the Corpus  authorities that 'he 
never  returns library books'. Once appointed don, Grice  came to be  
(affectionately?) known as "Godot" -- as people kept collecting as  they  waited 
for him up  that very narrow stair to his office, overlooking  the  backyard 
(NOT the glorious college garden).

To reconsider,  however:  Nozick's career! Aune continues, as he focuses on 
Grice's method  proper: "I was  greatly impressed by Grice’s ideas, his 
intelligence, and  his critical  ability." Recall that these were the days of 
pre-fame. What  Australian  philosopher J. Passmore, who visited, has in 
"Hundred years of  philosophy" when he referrs, in a footnote, to Grice as this 
'ingenious clever  fellow' behind  much of what is going on in Oxford. 

"But..." -- "I  gradually came to the  conclusion that his way of doing 
philosophy was not  mine." This is of  course Grice's way of doing philosophy 
SATURDAY  MORNINGS. Having been to Oxford,  and London, I *know* that Grice 
would  never have gotten ME in one single  morning, so I admire B. Aune! I 
kant  think 'on' mornings. Plus, an Oxford  _Saturday_ mornings would rather 
find  me, I guess, totally adrift in London! But  I disgress! (And, on the 
other  hand, I grant it would be a bit of stretch to  'deem' a Tuesday seminar 
 with your official tutor a "Saturday  morning").

Aune continues:  "After a couple months, I gradually stopped  attending the 
meetings."  "There were really two reasons for this." To  consider: (A) 
REASON A --  Aune's dropping from the Play Group, i.e.  Grice's attempt 
to continue  an Austinian tradition in the face of  circumstances. "One was 
that Grice’s  procedure in the meetings left me  seriously dissatisfied." 
This was Grice  post-"British Council" official  activities. During the 
fifties, Grice  had belonged to the British council  (within the 
Sub-Faculty of Philosophy,  Merton college), for the organisation of  'Commonwealth' 
seminars for the  promotion of Brit philosophy. There was  something of 'too 
much of a tutor'  in him, sometimes.

Aune goes on: "We  generally discussed recent  journal articles (one was 
Rawls’ “Justice as  Fairness”)." Rawls ended up  quoting from Grice's 
earliest "Personal  identity" (1941) in "Philosophy  and public affairs." Indeed, 
Grice's idea of an  Oxford tutorial, was:to  combine
33% linguistic botanising
33% an  article from a recent  journal
33% Kantotle.
(vide "Prejudices and  predilections", in  Grandy/Warner, PGRICE).

Aune adds: "But the room  lacked a  blackboard." And, consequently, [pieces 
of] chalks (I  disimplicate). I lay  the blame on Urmson, who being the 
'don' should have  produced it. Plus, I  would rather have stayed in the 
gardens of Corpus even,  which, admittedly,  tend towards the noisy side on a 
Saturday morning. Aune goes   on:

"And, instead of attempting to formulate clear and   definite  assertions 
about the arguments used". Grice notes that with  Austin he  saw the Saturday 
mornings as RELAXING, even exhilarating,  experiences by, back  in the day, 
full-time dons, to liberate theirselves  (sic) from the rigours of  the 
profession (to 'educate'). (On the other  hand, Mrs. Grice never got to  
understand how a bunch of grown ups could  spend hours writing crosses on bits of  
papers. Or trying to learn  Eskimo).

Aune continues: "... we discussed numerous examples in what  seemed to me 
an indefinite and inconclusive  way." I wonder how Nozick  feared in 
botanising. Personally, I would NEVER  have attended a Saturday  morning without my 
pocket "Roget's". 

Aune goes  on: "We seemed, in  fact, to make very generous use of the 
case-by-case method  that John  Wisdom employed in the seminar I described 
earlier." Botany, or  as I  prefer, cartography.

"I found it dissatisfying." This may  have to  do with what topics covered. 
When analysing 'freedom of the will', that   Grice and Aune tackled, Grice 
starts with free, alcohol free, free   wheeling, free for lunch, liberal
frank in conversation --- Grice,   "Notes with Judy" in The Grice Archives. 
Judy being Baker.
and so  on...  Can give you a headache if you are heading for Kant. (Kant   

Aune: "I had no justifiable philosophical objection to the   procedure." 
That is, "I could NOT reasonably claim that it would not or  could  not bring 
solutions to significant problems", or, at least, "result  in a greater  
understanding of significant issues." -- such as  'freedom'.

"But I  didn’t find the procedure satisfying." Perhaps a  cup of coffee 
would have  helped. I never organise a Saturday morning  without ample 
refreshments of  various types. I would even bring my  ukelele, if not my harp.

"I didn’t  enjoy it." Too bad. Sad. Of  course Aune is being hyperbolic, 
and  amusingly so. Of course he enjoyed  it!  Look back on those contributions 
 by Nozick, and the repostes by  Grice, and the general atmosphere of 
genial  conviviality about it all!  (And report!)

But then, there's this serious  (B) REASON B to  consider. Whitehead wrote 
Principia  Mathematica.
Russell wrote  Principia Mathematica.
I hold those to be  true. Yet we  say,
Whitehead and Russell wrote Principia  Mathematica.
While  Whitehead is a philosopher, and Russell is a  philosopher, we would 
HARDLY  say that "Whitehead and Russell" is a philosopher.  Perhaps Grice 
WAS being  slightly quessertive when he held that Richard Grandy  and Richard 
Warner  (the author of "Grice") could be treated as a 'multiple'  
personality. And  there's Grice/Strawson, In defense of a dogma, Grice/Baker,  
Davidson on  akrasia, and so on. But it is _Grice_ who is a philosopher.  So 
there's a  LOT to be said for Aune's appeal to individuality.

Aune  dropping  from Grice's attempt at reviving the Play Group. ("Play 
Group  Redivivus").  "The other reason was that I wanted to be working at my 
own   task."

As I say, age matters. Because the Play group was originally   intended for 
middle-aged, as it were, full-time dons, to socialise with   theirselves. 
On the other hand, there's the TUTORIAL. One wonders, indeed,  WHEN  Oxford 
provides room for philosophy proper: solitary thinking. Grice  will  
eventually find the place: his old Wolkswagen as he parked it outside  his  Spanish 
house up in the Berkeley hills. In ALL OTHER times, it was  always  'getting 
together as to do music'. Grice's 'at-homes' up in the  hills of  Berkeley 
were similarly legendary -- with some Oxonian names  dropping by: Myro,  
Searle, Sluga, ...).

Aune: "I wanted to be  writing." Implicature: he  wasn't. Cancelled: "And 
that was what I was  doing." "At that time of my  philosophical life, I 
worked out my ideas on  my typewriter, not in  talk."

Oddly (?) Grice never learned to type  (but learned to smoke from  his 
aristocratic mother, Mabel Fenton). He uses  'typewriter' as an example of  
useless thing (for him, "who don't type"  (Reply to Richards, -- "Prejudices and 
predilections, which become the life and  opinions of Paul Grice", by Paul 

Aune gets at his reminiscing  best: "Grice’s  (a) rambling,  (b) leisurely, 
and (c) seemingly  inclusive discussions" ... "took  too much time away 
from the work I wanted  to be doing myself." Hey! It  was just a couple of 
hours post-breakfast and  pre-lunch! Just kidding! But we  would need to 
elaborate on the three  features:
(a) -- 'ramble' being the  best. Cfr. peripatetic. Rambles  with Grice on 
the Meadows, as it  were.
(b) 'leisure'. Albritton's  favourite word: 'otium'. Otiose.  Business 
being lack of otium (nec-otium,  negozio). Also, it rhymes with  'pleasure', 
(c) 'seemingly  inconclusive'. For, "if philosophy  generated no new 
problems it would be  dead." (Grice).

Aune concludes his  genial Griceian narrative:  "Philosophy is a highly 
PERSONAL [rather than  convivial -- but we know  what he means] pursuit, at 
least for me, and admirable  as I thought he  was, Grice pursued philosophical 
issues in a way I simply did  not find  congenial."

Still, we are ever so grateful to Aune for having  cared  to reminisce them 
all so charmingly!


J. L.   Speranza
--- for the Grice Club, etc.

Anon.  "Professional philosopher and amateur cricketer". Obit of Grice. The 
London  Times. 1988.
Aune, B. 2011. Episodes from a life in philosophy: a memoir. In  Bayne, 
History of analytic philosophy at
---  http://www.hist-analytic.org/LifeSansApA.pdf
Grandy, R. E. and Warner, R. O.  PGRICE. Philosophical grounds of 
rationality: intentions, categories, ends.  Oxford: Clarendon.
Grice, H. P. 1939. Privation and negation. In The Grice  Collection.
-- 1948. Meaning. Repr. WoW
-- 1949. Disposition and  intention. In the Grice Collection.
-- 1961. The causal theory of perception.  Aristotelian Society
-- 1962. Lectures on negation. Oxford.
-- 1966. Some  remarks about the senses. In Butler, Analytic Philosophy
-- 1966. Logic and  conversation: the Oxford lectures. In The Grice 
-- 1986. Reply to  Richards, in Grandy/Warner.
-- 1989. WoW. Studies in the way of words.  Harvard.
--. Prejudices and predilections, which become the life and opinions  of 
Paul Grice.
-- Notes with Judy. The Grice collection.
--. The Grice  Collection. Includes tapes, etc. Bancroft Library, 
University of California at  Berkeley.
-- and J. Baker. Davidson on weakness of the will
-- and P. F.  Strawson. In defense of a dogma, 1956. Philosophical Review
Owen, G. E. L.  1977. Obituary of Ryle. Proceedings Aristotelian Society
Pitcher, G. in  Berlin et al.
Richardson, G. Obituary of Grice. St. John's College Records,  St. John's 
college, Oxford. ("Common Room" library).
Speranza, J. L. -- Join  the Grice Club!
Urmson, J. O. Obituary of Grice. The Independent,  1988.
Warnock, G. J. 1973. Saturday mornings, in Berlin, Essays on Austin,  repr. 
in "Language and morality", Blackwell, 1983


In a  message  dated 5/10/2011 1:53:18 P.M. , Baynesr at comcast.net  writes:
Bruce Aune in an  act of generosity (he was invited to go  elsewhere) has 
consented to allowing  Hist-Analytic to post his  philosophical 

Bruce has been an  active participant  in analytical philosophy form many 
years; and his experiences  with  people such as Feigl, Sellars, Strawson, 
many others provides  insights  rarely available to the philosophical 

It is with  great pleasure  and pride in Hist-Analytic that his many 
interesting  reflections and experiences  can now be shared. These 
documents reveal  
a great deal about the man, the  philosopher, and the sense of what was  
going on during the "act of creation" or,  at least, when the world  was, 
many of us,   young.




Steven   R. Bayne


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