[lit-ideas] Re: Feline Implicature

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 1 Jul 2011 04:56:42 EDT

In a message dated 6/30/2011 4:44:52 P.M., _rpaul@xxxxxxxxx 
(mailto:rpaul@xxxxxxxx)  comments on Wittgenstein's

Was ist der natürliche Ausdruck einer Absicht? 
Sieh eine Katze an,  wenn sie sich an einen Vogel heranschleicht; oder ein 
Tier, wenn es  entfliehen will.

>It seems clear that Wittgenstein meant his cat to be  stalking seriously.
Still. One wonders. One can press the point that a cat, being domesticated, 
 hardly constitutes (or his behaviour) the natural expression of anything. 
I  would love to have variants alla Grice of
"Cat means...".

Note that in 1948, "Meaning", Grice, in a rather desperate, but  charming, 
act, calls "mean to" a case of "natural meaning". (He is  distinguishing 
'mean' as in "That yawn means boredom" and ""Trouble and strife"  means 'wife"" 
and finds that he has to account, somehow, for phrases of the  "mean-to" 
Perhaps I'm mislead by Witters's sophisticated verb, here, 'to stalk'. Why  
is the cat stalking the bird? What is the cat stalking the bird for? And so 
on.  What does she mean _to do_? Is it all as obvious as in the cliche that 
Geary  wants contradicted, "Cats aren't killers"? -- 
The example with the 'deer' (the cognate with German 'Tier') here is  
perhaps just as vague, and note that again some level of 'domestication' is  
tragically involved. A deer, which has been captured, looks for a release.  
Perhaps we can imagine a scenario here which _is_ natural: the deer has been 
 to a blind alley, as it were, by a lion, and wants to escape. But it seems 
 Witters has a human in mind. For how would we _see_ those things if a 
human is  not involved?
In the cat case, again, the fact that most cats that I've seen 'play' with  
birds just for the fun of it does not help. I've never seen a domesticated 
cat  _eat_ the bird they had captured. So that, 'kill' TO 'eat' -- in the 
intentional  description -- is even more of a bit of a stretch.
Anscombe of course built her sophisticated (if slightly wrong) theory of  
intention ('under a description') upon such vague examples. But this is  
Cambridge for you. Meanwhile, Grice, quoting from Stout, and Prichard, and with 
input -- sometimes not too welcome -- from Hampshire and Hart -- was 
building on  a theory of intentional action what would supersede Anscombe's in 
subtlety by  _far_.
Note that _if a cat could talk_ (cfr. Wittgenstein's, "if a lion could  
talk"), and we can expand on explicit communications and implicatures we are  
still in dubious terrain. For Grice, I think that while there IS a gradual  
development of psychological attitudes from, say, cats (or deers*--animals) 
to  Homo Sapiens, our ascriptions of meaning are 'intentionalist' and built 
on the  power of introspection which is at most a dangerous thing when 
applied to 'lower  beasts' (as Grice calls them) on the risk of 
the whole  venture.
And so on.
Grice, "Method in philosophical psychology", in Conception of Value.
--- "Meaning", in Studies in the Way of Words
*Horn has a Griceian theory for 'deer' (Tier) becoming animal. Lord  
Huntington displays the deer (cervus, plural) he has captured, and utters, 
_animals_, no?". Hence, the implicature was fossilised that a _deer_ is the  
animal par excellence. Grice notes that the Latinate 'animal' does not fare 
any  better since that a fossilised implicature to the effect that there's 
more to a  man than a 'soul' (anima) requires a change of epithet.
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