[lit-ideas] Re: Donnellaniana

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  • Date: Sun, 22 Feb 2015 09:06:18 -0500

Grice refers to Donnellan's essay, 'Reference & Definite Descriptions,  
Philosophical Review, vol.75 (submitted in 1964, but rejected, and finally  
published in 1966).  
Grice says he is not sure he is "wholly sympathetic towards the  
conclusions which he draws from the existence of the distinction" between what  
Donnellan had dubbed an "attributive" and a "referential" use of a definite  
Grice's two corresponding usages are labelled, respectively,  
"non-identificatory" (and symbolised by italics) and "identificatory"  
(symbolised by 
  1. Jones's butler will be seeking a new  position.
*The F* is G.
2. Jones's butler  got the hats and coats mixed up.
THE F is  G.

Grice refers to these different 'usages' of definite descriptions' pertain  
to pragmatics (utterer's intentions and conversational implicature), rather 
than  semantics (logical form):

Grice writes: "It is important to bear in mind that I am NOT suggesting  
that the difference between these devices represents a difference in the 
MEANING  or SENSE which a descriptive phrase may have on different occasions; 
the  contrary, I am suggesting that descriptive phrases have no relevant  
systematic duplicity of meaning: their meaning is given by a Russellian  
Grice is again robbing Peter to pay Paul -- (Donnellan, interestingly,  
criticised BOTH Russell and Strawson, while Grice remained a faithful  
Russellian, vide his "Definite descriptions in Russell and in the vernacular"). 
Grice is here concerned with what we may regard as 'knowledge by  
acquaintance', or to use G Evans's phrase (in The Varieties of Reference),  
'recognition-based identification'. For this Grice provides a linguistic 
namely, the addition, to any definite description, of the phrase, 'whoever he  
[it/she] may be". Grice notes that only the attributive (or 
non-identificatory)  usage allows for the addition of the phrase:

Jones's butler, whoever he may be, will be seeking a new  position.
*Jones's butler, whoever he may be, got the hats and  coats mixed up.

Grice writes:

"We may say with respect to [the referential or  identificatory use] that 
some particular individual has been 'described  as' [or 'MISdescribed as', as 
the case may be. Speranza], 'REFERRED to  as', or 'called' Jones's butler 
by the [utterer]. No such comments  are in place with respect to [attributive 
or non-identificatory  usages]."
It is in this context that Grice introduces the notion of a "dossier"  
associated to a definite description. In this he is, as Evans notes, more or  
less following Strawson in 'Identifying Reference & Truth Values'  (in
Logico-Linguistic Papers), although not explicitly using the notion of  
Grice defines a dossier as follows:

"Let us say that utterer U has a dossier for a definite description D  if 
there is a set of definite descriptions which includes D, all the members of  
which U supposes to be satisfied by one and the same item. In [the  
non-identificatory usages], unlike [the identificatory ones], the [utterer]  
intends the audience to think (via the recognition that he is so  intended) 
1. that U has a dossier for the definite description D which  he has used, 
2. that U has selected D from this dossier  at least partly IN THE HOPE 
for D. 
This is labelled a 'tremendously important feature of referring  
expressions' by Evans, and given a kind of cognitive background:

"[An] organism must have more than the simple capacity to find previously  
encountered objects familiar; a recognitional capacity must be associated 
with  (i.e. enable the subject to recall) the appropriate dossier of 
information.  Under these circumstances, selection pressures would strongly 
organisms  which possessed, or were capable to developing, this capacity. G 
Evans, The  Varieties of Reference, Oxford University Press, p.276. (Grice 
also  cited on p.50 and 306).

Grice proposes a method having to do with semantic interpretation (rather  
than the syntactical one involving the 'whoever he may be' idiom) when 
stressing  the fact that the existence of BOTH these two non-identificatory and 
identificatory uses conform to truth-conditional semantics. The apparent  
difference is explained in terms of the distinction between what the utterer  
SAYS - rendered by means of the logical form - and what he has MEANS 
(rendered  by the communicative intentions): 

"the truth-conditions for a statement [of the identificatory type] no less  
than for a statement [in the non-identificatory use], can be thought of as  
being given by a Russellian account of definite  descriptions. Though what  
a [utterer] has SAID may be FALSE [in
the identificatory use] what he MEANT  may be true (for example, that a 
certain particular individual (who is in  fact Jones's gardener) mixed up the 
hats and coats. 
Another device, of the linguistic type, that Grice introduces to  
distinguish between these two uses is the effects of the replacement of the  
description by a [proper] name, yielding:

*Jones's butler* (let us call him Bill) will be seeking a new  position.
JONES'S BUTLER (let us call him Bill) got our coats and hats  mixed up.

Here, there is an apparent asymmetry between which Grice analyses,  
precisely, in terms of the distinction between a truth-value associated to WHAT 
explicitly communicated (for the non-identificatory use), as opposed to  
WHAT IS MEANT (including conversationally implicate) (for the identificatory  

Grice writes:

"A subsequent remark [to a non-identificatory use]  containing [the newly 
introduced proper name] 'Bill' will have THE SAME  TRUTH-VALUE as would have 
a corresponding remark in which *Jones's butler*  replaces 'Bill'. If Jones 
has no butler, and if in consequence it is FALSE  that *Jones's butler* will 
be seeking a new position, then it will be [also]  false that Bill will be 
seeking a new position ... [However, in the case of  an identificatory use], 
it will NOT be true that a a subsequent remark  contaning [a newly 
introduced proper name such as] 'Bill' will have the same  truth-value as would 
a corresponding remark in which 'Bill' is  replaced by 'Jones's butler'. 
For the person whom the [utterer] proposes to  call 'Bill' will be the person 
whom he MEANT when he said, 'Let us call  JONES'S BUTLER [sic in capitals. 
Speranza] Bill', viz. the person who looked  after the hats and coats, [...] 
and if this person turns out to have  been Jones's gardener and not Jones's 
butler, then it may be TRUE  that Bill mixed up the hats and coats and FALSE 
that Jones's butler mixed  up the hats and coats."
The distinction between the non-identificatory and the identificatory use  
is based thus on the way in which they react to the replacement of the 
definite  description by a proper name.
Grice writes:

"[In the identificatory use] remarks of the form 'Bill is  such-and-such' 
will be INFLEXIBLY TIED [cf. Kripke's rigid designation], as  regards 
truth-value, not to possible remarks of the form 'Jones's butler is  
such-and-such", but to possible remarks of the form 'The person whom U  meant 
when he said 
'Let us call Jones's Butler 'Bill' is such-and-such'".
Grice further considers the issue of "vacuous" descriptions, in connection  
to Strawson's concerns. Grice writes of the different uses of 'vacuous 
definite  descriptions', even when used in an identificatory way - including 
what he calls  'parasitic' uses.
Grice writes:

"It is important to note that, for a definite  description used in 
explanation of a name to be employed in an  IDENTIFICATORY way, it is NOT 
that the item which the explainer  MEANS (is referring to) when he uses the 
description should ACTUALLY  EXIST. A person may establish or explain a use 
for a name A by saying 'Let  us call THE F A' or 'THE F is called A' even 
though every  definite description in his dossier for 'the F' is vacuous. He 
may  mistakenly think, or merely deceitfully intend his hearer to think, that  
the elements in the dossier are non-vacuous and satisfied by a single  
item; and in secondary or 'parasitic' types of case, as in the narration  of or 
commentary upon fiction, that this is so may be something  which the utterer 
non-deceitfully pretends or 'feigns'. 
Incidentally, when Donnellan replied to criticisms [by A. Mckay] to his  
'Reference & Definite Descriptions' (which we have seen is cited by Grice in  
'Vacuous Names'), as e.g. 'Putting Humpty Dumpty Together Again' 
(Philosophical  Review, now repr. by OUP in the Donnellan volume) he relies on 
intentional stance. Donnellan is concerned with A. Mckay's allegation of  
'linguistic anarchism' (as when an utterer can mean what he wishes, as Humpty 
 Dumpty does in Alice in Wonderland). Donnellan writes:

Donnellan writes:

"In the analysis of meaning given by Grice [In  Meaning [PR, 1957, but 
written in 1948], reprinted in Studies in the Way of  Words], a speaker means 
something by an utterance when he has a certain  complex kind of intention 
involving recognition on the part of his audience  of his intention ... It does 
not follow from this analysis that speakers might,  out of the blue, mean 
anything at all by any utterance."
Donnellan's example is using 'the book' to mean a rock.
Donnellan writes:
"Suppose there is a rock on my shelf that has been carefully carved to  
resemble a book and that I know the person I am speaking to cannot recognise it 
 for what it is. I say to him  'Bring me the book with the blue  binding'.  
It seems at least plausible to say that I referred to a  rock. When a 
speaker uses a definite description referentially [or as  Grice would have it, 
an identificatory way. Speranza] he intends his audience  to take the 
descritption as characterising what it is he want s to talk  about. p.214. 

An interdisciplinary note: the linguistic-philosophical literature on  
definite descriptions is also dealt with, from a cognitive linguistic point of  
view, by P N Johnson-Laird and A Garnham, of the Centre for Research on  
Perception & Cognition at the University of Sussex, in their essay,  
'Descriptions & Discourse Models' (Linguistics & Philosophy, 3, 371-393,  and 
further work in Oxford by M. Sainsbury and D. E. Over). 

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