[hist-analytic] Grice and Aune on avowals

jlsperanza at aol.com jlsperanza at aol.com
Thu Jun 23 17:49:43 EDT 2011

I should revise all this, but recently, out of a discussion, elsewhere, 
as to whether it is possible for an utterer to misunderstand himself 
(or ´his self´, as I prefer), I came across this bit by Grice which 
reminded me of Aune´s brilliant autobiography, and the point about 
Grice´s expressed interest in Aune on avowals.

Grice is considering a specific scenario, but he wants to suggest that,

"By uttering x, I mean that p"

is a bit of an avowal, where "a bit of" is just a redundant otiosity.

He is considering a pupil (or tutee, as I prefer). Since Strawson was 
one such, allow me:

Grice: You should bring a paper tomorrow.
Strawson: You mean a newspaper? Will the "Independent" do?
Grice: No. I don´t mean a _newspaper_. I mean "a piece of written work."
Strawson: By _me_,  expect.

Grice is considering further challenges. Consider a journal entry -- 
Grice´s favourite scenario for "Griceian utterer´s meaning withot an 
audience or addresee". "In retrospect, now that I think of it, perhaps 
when I did say, "You should bring a paper tomorrow I meant a 
"newspaper". Rather, Grice considers a challenge by, say, Strawson. Of 
the form:

"Are you _sure_ you mean "a piece of written work" and not a newspaper?"

Grice´s commentary comes out in "Studies in the Way of Words" (that 
Aune quotes). It belongs to a rather early piece by Grice totally 
concerned with something quite different: philosopher (as Moore called 
him) and his paradoxes.

Grice writes of a possible challenge by, say, Strawson,

"I expect you ultimately do mean, "a newspaper"".

---- (cfr. Freud on slips which mean other than they say, as it were).

Grice comments, and here is where this indirect reference to Aune can 
be made.

"It would be absurd at this point for the pupil to  say,

"Perhaps you only think, mistakenly, that you mean 'a piece of written  
work', whereas you
really mean 'a newspaper'."

Grice goes on to propose an analogy with,

"I have a headache".

"((And)) ((T))his absurdity seems the absurdity
of suggesting to someone who says he has a
pain in his arm that  perhaps he is mistaken
(unless the suggestion is to be taken as saying
that  perhaps there is nothing physically wrong
with him, however his arm feels)."

I regret that Grice did not expand on the "unless", because it´s quite 
central to the issue at large, as to the incorrigibility or privileged 
access or "avowals", that Grice also considers, indirectly, in "Method 
in philosophical psychology", now repr. in "Conception of Value" --- 
For Grice, for any psychological attitude psi, held by agent A, it is 
plausible to add an iteration of it. "I believe that p", "I believe 
that I believe that p". "I want that p", "I want that I want that p", 
and so on. He goes on to represent these iterated attitudes by means of 
a subscript, "believe-2" ("He believes-2 that p") standing for this 
higher order belief (Grice´s terminology is on "judging" and "willing" 
there, and generalising over "accepting").

Grice goes on note a caveat against a simplistic analogy of an avowal 
as "I have a headache" with "I mean a piece of written work".

"It  is important", Grice notes, "to notice that
although there is a point of analogy between
MEANING  SOMETHING and having a pain, there
are striking differences."

--- These concern the space-time coordiantes, as it were.

"A pain may start and stop at specifiable times"

-- ditto a willing, or a belief (or judgement).

Grice goes on:

"((E))qually something may begin to look red to one at
2:00 P.M. and cease to look read at one at 2:05 P.M."

-- a very important illustration that pertains to the most 
philosophical side of avowals as it relates to sense-data of the type 
that Grice will later defend in "A causal theory of perception".

"But it would be ABSURD", Grice notes, as he focuses on the particulars 
of "... means...",

"for  my pupil ... to say to me,

"When did you begin to MEAN that?"


"Have you stopped meaning it yet?"

--- This may have to do with the _standing_ status of an intention. If 
meaning RESOLVES in intending, there shouldn´t be much of a problem to 
qualify things here: "I spent all day yesterday intending to travel to 
France, and then I changed my mind". Cfr. "I spent all day yesterday 
meaning, by "bachelor" something OTHER than "unmarried"".

Grice notes another disanalogy between "I mean "a piece of written 
work" and "I have a toothache".

"Again there is no LOGICAL objection to a pain arising in any set
of concomitant circumstances; but it is SURELY ABSURD to
suppose that I *might* find myself _meaning_ that is
it is raining when I say, 'I want a  paper'".

This surely requires qualification, since, by Grice´s 
"Deutero-Esperanto" and his reduction of expression meaning to 
utterer´s meaning, that sounds like a highly plausible scenario, in 
Griceian terms.

Grice expands, in this early piece, as follows:

"Indeed, it is odd to speak at all of ´my finding
myself MEANING SO AND  SO,´ though it is not
odd to speak of my finding myself suffering from a pain."

It is in the next passage that he illustrates this oddity when it comes 
to "meaning that p", or, "q", by uttering x:


"At best, only VERY special circumstances (if any)
could enable me to say 'I want  a paper' MEANING THEREBY
that it is raining."

Or, as I prefer,

"By uttering "glory", Davidson meant "a nice knockdown argument" -- 
Davidson, "A nice derangement of epitaphs", in Grandy/Warner, PGRICE -- 
"Glory for Grice".

Grice concludes with a nod to "avowals" and "declarations of intention":

"In view of these differences, we may perhaps prefer to
label such statements as

"I mean a piece of written work'

(in the conversation with my pupil) as "declarations""

-- or avowals, in B. Aune's  parlance. The bibliography on avowal was 
only starting to grow, and no wonder Grice displayed such a genuine 
interest when he heard Aune addressing the topic in a direct and fresh 
way in his talk Corpus Christi. -- vide Aune, "Autobiography", in 
Bayne´s site.

Grice goes on:

"rather than as "introspection reports"".

Grice may be having in mind this idea that Hampshire took from Grice. 
Grice had written on "Intention and disposition" early on in his 
career. The paper is at the Bancroft library. Grice then possibly found 
that Hampshire (now paired with Hart) had expressed such a view 
(neo-Stoutian, as it were) in "Intention and Certainty". This triggered 
Grice to change his view, just because, and label it neo-Prichardian, 
rather, in "Intention and uncertainty" -- his British Academy lecture 

Grice goes on:

"Such statements as these are  perhaps like declarations
of intention, which also have AN AUTHORITATIVE STATUS in
some ways like and in some ways unlike that of a statement
about one's own  current pains."

One would think that since this is all tangential to the matter at 
course -- "philosopher´s paradoxes" -- Grice would leave it at that. 
Instead, always the analytic, he goes on to provide an expansion on 
what we mean by "authoritative". A rather hateful word, when we think 
that "author" = "utterer", more or less, in Grice.

Grice then notes:

"((But)) ((T))he immediately relevant point
with regard to such statements about MEANING as
the one I have just been discussing is that, insofar as they have
the AUTHORITATIVE status which they SEEM to have, they are NOT
statements which the speaker ((or rather, author, utterer -- JLS)) 
have come to accept AS THE RESULT OF a [Popperian, empirical]
INVESTIGATION or of a train of ((logical)) argumentation. To revert
to the conversation with my pupil, when I say,

"I mean a piece of written work."

it would be QUITE INAPPROPRIATE for my pupil to

"How did you _discover_ that you meant that?"


"What *convinced* you that you meant that?".

Grice THEN concludes, for the time being:

"And I think we can  see why a "meaning" statement
the conclusion of an ((logical)) argument or an ((empirical))

The reason is clarified:

"If a statement is accepted on the strength of an
argument or an investigation, it always makes sense
(although  it may be FOOLISH) to suggest that
the ((logical)) argument is unsound or that the
investigation has been improperly conduced ((as per
the canons of Mill´s methods, say)); and if this is
conceivable, then the statement MAY be mistaken, in which
case, of course, his statement has NOT go the
authoritative character which I  have mentioned."

("Studies in the Way of Words", Harvard U.  Press).

And so on. Thus, I just wanted to share with the forum this 
´historical´ bit as it pertains to the relevance of a philosophical 
discussion of avowals and such.


J. L. Speranza


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