[lit-ideas] Brechtiana

  • From: "" <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> (Redacted sender "Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx" for DMARC)
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2014 08:25:03 -0400

In a message dated 10/28/2014 7:21:26 P.M.  Eastern Daylight Time, 
torgeir_fjeld@xxxxxxxx writes:
As you may know he  famously fled Germany in the 1930s, lived in Denmark 
for a number of years,  before taking refuge in the US, where he was 
marshalled before the Committee of  Un-American activities during the 

Oddly, back in Oxford, Brecht was Grice's bedside favourite reading.
He would often quote from "Flüchtlingsgespräche".
Grice was fascinated by Brecht's prose. He quotes in full from Brecht, when 
 Brecht recalls:
Denmark was at one time plagued by a succession of corrupt finance  
To deal with this situation, a law was passed in Denmark requiring periodic 
 inspection of the books of the Finance Minister. 
The odd (Griceian) thing is that the Finance Minister, when visited by the  
inspectors, said to them: 
'If you inspect my books, 
I shall not continue to be your finance minister.'
Grice found the implicature a delight.
As it happened, the inspectors retire in a bit of a confusion.
Only eighteen months later, Grice recalls, it was discovered that the  
Finance Minister had spoken nothing other than the literal truth.
As Grice notes, Brecht (and indeed the Finance Minister of Denmark) is  
exploiting the conversational implicature triggered by the modal ambiguity  in 
expressions of the future tense, i.e. between the mere future indicated  or 
and the thing the Finance Minister is involved with, the 'future'  that 
Grice calls 'intentional'.
"On top of that, the Finance Minister's use of the conditional is doubly  
implicatural in nature."
"The ambiguity," Grice notes, extends beyond the first person form of the  

There is, indeed, a difference between 
'There will-F be light' (future factual) and
 'There will-I be light' (future intentional).
"God might have uttered the second sentence while engaged in the Creation", 
 Grice notes -- "provided of course, he was an Englishman". 
"Sensitive Englsh speakers (which most of us are not) may be able to mark  
distinction by discriminating between 'shall' and 'will', Grice  regrets.
"'I shall-I go to London' 

stands to 
'I intend to go to London' 
analogously to the way in which 
'Oh for rain tomorrow!' 
stands to
 'I wish for rain tomorrow'."
Unlike Brecht, Grice was a personalist.
"Just as NO ONE *ELSE* can say JUST what *I* say when I say "I shall-I go  
to London". 
"If someone else says, "Grice will go to London", he will be expressing  
his, not my, intention that I shall go." 
The asymmetries marked by the wiki entry for the future may confuse people  

"Shall and its subjunctive "should" implicate obligation or determined  
intent when used in the second person and its plural, but implicate a  simple 
future meaning in the first and third.
On the other hand, "will" and its subjunctive form "would" implicate,  wish 
or intent for the future, other than in the first and third person, in  
which it implicates obligation or determined intent. 
Otherwise, it is used as the most neutral form and it is the most commonly  
The implicature, in a sign such as
Trespassers shall be prosecuted.
is then what Grice calls 'protreptic' and not merely 'exhibitive' (of the  
utterer's intentions).

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