[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:
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
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
(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
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
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
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
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
-- 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
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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