[lit-ideas] The Life and Death of Paul Grice


In a message dated 11/10/2009 1:49:13 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,  
donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx writes:

What is  that room like btw? ['If you want to know me, come see my room', 
as they  say]
 
----
 
Yes, I think Witters _is_ being banal.
 
"You cannot say "I die" if you are dead, and you cannot say "I die" if you  
are leaving. Best to pass over in silence".
 
Grice considers further the problematization of "I"

"I can  say, "I kill an ant, the ant is dead. An ant hasn't got a soul.
   So by killing an ant, you are saying something _true_. With 
   _people_ (made up of body and soul) it is different. You can 
   kill Peter, but you cannot say "Peter is dead" for "Peter" 
   ceases to refer to the psychosomatic unity that a person  is
   -- unlike an ant".
 
The room is pretty small, and you have to climb a very terrible stairway to 
 get to it. Grice would have his students piled up (Geo. Richardson, of 
Glasgow,  recalls in his obit of Grice in "St. John's College Records"), 
and THEY would refer to Grice as "Godot", waiting for him without  
predictable expectations as he was.
 
Grice was TUTOR -- he couldn't care less about being 'university lecturer'  
which he also was. The official title is TUTORIAL FELLOW. He became such 
before  the Phoney War, if you know what that means!
 
So his post was "Tutorial Fellow in Philosophy, St. Johns". 
 
St. John's, being the RICHEST college in Oxford (Former Prime Minister,  
Tony Blair, attended -- and keeps sending big sums of all the money he 
gathered  while in office), it always had 

TWO tutors.
 
When Grice was TUTOR, the OTHER tutor was Scots-born philosopher John  
Mabbott. When Mrs. Grice was reading Mabbott's memories ("Oxford Memories"), 
she 
 read the passage where he mentions Grice, "An excellent colleague". Grice  
replied, "I never would have thought that good old Mabb had such a high  
reputation of me".
 
When Grice left for The Berkeley Hunt University of California, it was then 
 Mabbott and they appointed this American coming from nowhere, Gordon P. 
Baker. 
 
When Mabbott died, Peter S. M. Hacker was co-appointed Tutor, and the  
boring thing was (I write that out of envy) is that he found Baker the perfect  
person to work with, so they did collaborate as authors for years.
 
When Baker died, Hacker has been, since, the only Tutorial Fellow of  
Philosophy at St. John's.
 
----
 
Surely you cannot say anything about "Grice" today: "Grice is dead", "Grice 
 died". Etc. "Grice" refers, strictly, to the psychosomatic unity that 
ceased to  exist on Aug. 28, 1978. Plus he was cremated, so the little 
spatio-temporal  continuity that for Strawson makes up for a person was 
fulminated by 
then  yet.
 
"Grice exists" does not make sense today.
 
"Grice died" does; with the proviso that the 'reference' of "Grice"  
underwent an eschatological transmutation when he expired. So that the Fregean  
referent of "Grice" became 'vacuous' with his last breath.
 
Such is life.
 
J. L. Speranza
   The Villa Speranza, Bordighera
 



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