[lit-ideas] Re: Donnellaniana

  • From: "" <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> (Redacted sender "Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx" for DMARC)
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 23 Feb 2015 18:30:27 -0500

In a message dated 2/23/2015 3:40:46 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,  
rpaul@xxxxxxxx writes: "Donnellan was a graduate student at Cornell, and later  
taught there."
Indeed, Grice suggests that Donnellan even taught while he was a student  
("Most of my students have been my teachers," Grice would say -- and Judith  
Baker can confirm the truth of that -- Grice may be using 'teacher'  
metaphorically, though).
Grice was invited to Cornell by Malcolm.
Unfortunately, the time Grice spent at Cornell, Malcolm was on a sabbatical 
 leave. That semester, Donnellan taught logic -- using two textbooks, 
Quine's  Method in logic ("rather boring", but with good examples -- my 
favourite: his  formalisation of "The apostles were twelve" using numerical 
quantifier  "(E12x)(Ax)" -- and Strawson's "Introduction to Logical Theory" 
Methuen) -- who credits Grice twice -- in the Foreword and in a footnote.
When Donnellan wrote "Putting Humpty Dumpty together again" he IMPLICATES  
that the impossible is possible (He was concerned with challenging 
well-known  tautologies or allegedly necssary truths, like "All whales are 
 Similarly, if all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put 
Humpty  together again, Donnellan is implicating whether putting Humpty 
together again  could be INTENDED, or merely WILLED.
This is in connection with A. McKay's criticism of Donnellan as "Griceian". 
Mckay saw Grice and Donnellan as 'linguistic anarchists', defending schemes 
 where an utterer can mean what he wishes, as Humpty Dumpty does in Alice 
in  Wonderland.
But Donnellan brings in Grice as anti-Humpty:
"In the analysis of meaning given by Grice [in  Meaning [PR, 1957, but  
written in 1948], reprinted in Studies in the Way of  Words], [an utterer]  
MEANS something [that p] by an utterance when he has a certain complex kind  of 
involving recognition on the part of his [addressee] of  his intention."
Donnellan critically goes on:

"It does not follow from this [correct] analysis that [utterers]  might, 
*out of the blue* [emphasis Speranza's], mean anything at all by any  
Palma may wonder about 'out of the green'. 
Donnellan's example is using 'the book' to mean a rock or stone. He may be  
having in mind Hobbes's Computatio, sive Logica, where Hobbes uses the 
example  of the expression 'stone' to mean a stone. 
Donnellan writes:
"Suppose there is a [stone] on my [book] shelf that has been carefully  
carved to resemble a book."
Suppose also 
"that I know the person I am speaking to [a student, say -- Speranza] can  
NOT recognise it for what it is"
i.e. a stone, but take it for a book.
"I say to him  
i. Bring me the *book* with the blue binding.
Donnellan's gloss:

"It seems at least *plausible* to say that I  _referred_ to a [stone] [and 
not to a book, even if I uttered  'book']"
Donnellan goes on:
"When [an utterer] uses a definite description referentially [or as   Grice 
would have it, in an identificatory way. Speranza] he intends  his 
[addressee] to take the description as characterising what it is  he wants to 
about" -- what the expression is about.
In Grice's parlance,
"By uttering "Bring me the book with the blue binding", Donnellan  means 
that his student is to bring the STONE [that has been carefully  carved to 
resemble a book with a blue binding].
"book" means book.

But in Donnellan's case, 'book' REFERS to a stone.
There are similar examples.
Suppose I say:
"Her husband is very cruel to her" 
 where "he" is not really her 'husband' but merely  her lover.
"He is drinking champagne like crazy" 
On top of that, "he" is a tetotaller, and what he wants the people in the  
sophisticated cocktail to think is that what is gingerale passes for  
Donnellan would say that by 'husband', the utterer is referring to a mere  
lover. And by 'champagne' the utterer is referring to gingerale. 
Suppose that in a baseball team there is only one player who chews gum. 
It is 'common ground' between Utterer and Addressee that this  ONLY member 
of the team that chews gum is called Smith.

Now, I utter
"The player chewing gum is about to be traded."
Since my addressee knows that is Smith, the utterer is REFERRING  to Smith 
(And, additionally, we can safely say that what I MEANT  when I said what I 
said is that Smith is about to be traded.
Now, suppose my addressee gets to know that we were all mistaken and that  
that the gum-chewing player is NOT Smith, but another one, named Nowell.
YET, we can still allow for the utterer to have meant that the player to be 
 traded was Smith, because the addressee "trades" (no pun intended) on what 
the  *utterer* believes, not on what he himself believes.
Mutatis mutandis, with Donnellan, his student and the stone resembling a  
book. The student may find out that Donnellan the 'book' is actually a piece 
of  stone. This may have moral consequences, because the student may claim 
that by  uttering,
i. Please bring me the book with the blue binding
Donnellan is LYING (seeing that he knows the alleged 'book' is a piece of  
It all amounts to answer the question,
"Who [or what] is the utterer REFERRING to?"
Donnellan and Grice had similar solid intuitions on that. 
It would seem, if the one and only gum-chewer of the team IS Nowell then  
THAT is the one the utterer is referring to (even if the utterer and the  
addressee think it is Smith). 
Suppose I utter,
"Smith's dog is shaggy".
"You mean Fido?"
If the utterer and the addressee think that the name of Smith's (male)  dog 
is Fido (when in fact it's a female dog and her name is "Marie"), by  
uttering "Fido is shaggy", the utterer is referring to _Marie_. 
It can be argued that
"Fido is shaggy."
(a misuse of the name)
is still _true_, though.
Suppose I go on:
"Smith found Fido in a shelter"
We have two definite descriptions here:
(a) "the dog that Smith found in a shelter"
(b) "the dog that the utterer thinks is called "Fido""
The total expansion should provide for a paraphrase of 'shaggy' too. The  
utterer may know that 'shaggy' is "hairy-coated", but think that his  
addressee thinks otherwise (that 'shaggy' means something different). 
in predicating, now, 'shagginess' of Fido, the utterer would still be  
predicating 'hairy-coatedness' of Fido, regardless of what his addressee may  
to (wrongly) believe.
Donnellan would go on to make a reference to Grice in a later essay  
included in a collection edited by P. Cole, to which Grice also contributed --  
but they never really agreed on the correct approach to definite descriptions. 
 Grice remained a Russellian at heart, while apparently Donnellan never 
was.  (Their attitude towards Strawson diverged, too; Grice was clear that he'd 
rather  be seen dead than accepting Strawson's 'truth-value gaps' while I 
don't think  Donnellan took the matter in quite the same way). 

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