The text reads:
"A matter stated is one to which this chapter applies if and only if the
purpose, or one of the purposes, of the person making the statement
to the court to have been to cause another person to believe the matter,
cause another person to act or a machine to operate on the basis that the
matter is as stated."
Is this Griceian -- or what?
Is this circular -- or what?
Let's be charitable.
Let's suppose we are focusing on Frege's (and Grice's revision of the)
concept of 'assertion' and an utterer's STATING that p.
The first to provide a conceptual analysis of that was S. R. Schiffer in
his DPhil Oxon under Strawson. But my favourite treatment is in D.
(of Leeds, not Oxford) in his "Words and deeds" --: a man of words and not
of deeds is like a garden full of weeds" -- whose subtitle goes,
in the theory of speech acts".
Let's go back to the text:
"A matter stated" e.g. that
i. snow is white.
"is one to which this chapter applies if and only if the purpose,"
"or one of the purposes, of the person"
"making the statement"
i. snow is white.
"appears to the court to have been to cause another person to believe the
Grice had SO MANY PROBLEMS with that! He notably rejected a PURELY or
'merely' as McEvoy might prefer -- vide Hart/Honore, Causation in the law
causal account of things. His enemy here was C. L. Stevenson who being a
behaviourist was ONLY into 'causation'. For Grice, this conceptual
analysis is insufficient, because we need the concept of 'reason to do',
'cause for doing'.
The intention has to work as a reason for the addressee to believe the
matter, i.e. that snow is white.
"to cause another person to act or a machine to operate on the basis that
the matter is as stated."
The distinction is a good one, but rather informally stated. What we have
here is a bit of the distinction that Grice draws between
the merely exhibitive.
Belief is an exhibitive attitude. You believe that snow is white, and you
want to make your addressee believe that snow is white.
We need a protreptic attitude, too, a desire, a conation. This the text
expresses as having the addressee "ACT", but for the conceptual-analytic
philosopher, the concept of 'willing' is more basic, and there cannot be
'acting' unless there is 'willing'.
So PHILOSOPHICALESE can refine a LEGALESE conceptual analysis.
Popper could disagree!
Thanks to McEvoy for his one-liner, talking of Popper, and Kuhn. For
Popper, to paraphrase, Kuhn glorifies the uncritical. And science is
Rocket science is critical.
Ritchie was talking about birds which reminds me of Popper's favourite
bird: the penguin. For Darwin, it was the finch (vide Mr. Popper's
and Darwin's Finches).
But back to Grice v Grice: let us analyse the hearsay rule in terms of
Grice's concept of meaning (itself analysed in terms of intending) as
applies across the pond, as some Brits and some Americans call it (the
"Atlantic" Ocean), since Grice was both, and English law (as we've seen in
previous posts) has features it shares with European law (which is Roman
and English law gave birth (metaphorically) to American law.
But let us go back to meaning and intending, with a view to approaching
via conceptual analysis or problem-solving, since, after all, "hearsay
rule" alleged problems are alleged, again, to be mere *language* problems.
The "hearsay rule" merely proscribes the repetition, in court, of any
"out-of-court" statement, "p", where "p" is offered to prove the truth of
matter asserted or stated in "p" - vide Fed. R. Evid 801.
Of course, to determine whether a statement, "p", is being offered to
the truth of the matter "p" asserts, a court needs to determine what the
statement "p" means in the first place.
In this respect, applying the "hearsay rule" is similar to interpreting a
statute or a contract.
In all these cases, the court interprets a language, alas, at one remove
from the context of its utterance (hence "hear-say").
Scholars have long recognised that problems about statutory and contract
interpretation are questions about Griceian meaning.
What's more, legal philosophers have effectively used conceptual analysis
of a Griceian type to elucidate these and other interpretive questions.
Surprisingly, however, relatively little effort has been made to apply the
same Griceian considerations in the conceptual analysis of the "hearsay
Roughly, the concept of "hearsay" is analysed as a "statement" -- an
utterance where there is "matter stated" or "matter asserted", other than
statement explicitly made by the declarant (hereinafter utterer U) while
testifying at the trial or hearing -- when this utterance is offered in
to prove the truth of the "matter asserted" -- or the "matter stated" by
assertion or statement.
References of the Griceian type for statutes and contracts may include
essays such as that by M. Sinclair ("Law and language: the role of
in statutory interpretation", 46 U. PrrT. L. REV. 373), L. Solan,
our limits: the decline of textualism in statutory cases and the rise of
Griceianism, WIS.L. REV. 235, P. Tiersma ("The language of perjury:
truth, ambiguity, and the false statement requirement", 63 S. CAL. L.
373 and "Comment: the Language of offer and acceptance: speech acts and
question of intent and Griceian intention, 74 CAL. L. REv. 189).
We can quote at least one case of the application of the philosophy of
language in terms of implicature in the analysis of the hearsay rule.
C. Callen uses Grice's "cooperative principle" (Grice's joke on Kant),
however, as a mere auxiliary aid in understanding the very purpose
-- and giving a RATIONALE -- and explanatory adequacy -- to the hearsay
and also in demarcating the analysis of the concept of "hearsay" from
"non-hearsay" (Callen, "Hearsay and informal reasoning", 47 VAND. L. REV.
Callen argues that an "out-of-court" statement "p" should be considered as
falling under the concept of "hearsay" if
(a) U offers "p" to establish a piece of reasoning
(e.g. "q") that U would have m-intended his addressee A
to draw from "p",
(b) an assessment of the degree of
accuracy of U's implicit claim of co-operation
or helpfulness (as Grice says in his 1964 lectures
at Oxford on implicature) is essential to a
thoughtful, unprejudiced, fact finder's determination
of this piece of reasoning's reliability.
Legal philosophers thus have drawn on insights from the discipline of
philosophy of language Grice specifically refers to as "pragmatics" ("do
multiply senses beyond necessity") to offer a way to understand (and
apply in the real-world) the definition of the concept of "hearsay", as
expressed in the federal rules of evidence -- where "matter asserted" is
Pragmatics is simply to understood: it is that field of philosophy
concerned with how we use language in real-world contexts to accomplish
objectives, goals, purposes, or intentions.
By identifying the conventions, rules, or, as Grice prefers, 'procedures'
that "govern" language usage (as a rational and reasonable activity),
pragmatics provides a way to analyse what an utterer U means when U says
states -- something, "p", and how meaning is conveyed through his
(Grice distinguishes, with Austin, between, 'by uttering x, U means that
p' and 'In uttering x, U means that p').
Pragmatics of the Griceian type has then obvious utility for the analysis
of the concept of "hearsay"
Grice looms all over the field of pragmatics -- and it actually he
supersedes our beloved H. L. A. Hart here (Hart admired Grice too)
Grice's theory of implicature simply revolutionised philosophers's
understanding of how they had previously misunderstood Plato's claim that
knowledge does not entail belief. It does!
It is, in a nutshell, Grice's pragmatic conceptual analysis of "mean" (on
which his theory of what an U "implicates" rests) that has the greatest
import for an analysis of the concept of "hearsay" in the hearsay rule.
The English verb, "to mean", is an extraordinarily difficult concept to
analyse, even to Grice -- it took him some 30 years to reach some more or
sufficient and necessary conditions.
And some still think that no single theory of meaning has been accepted
The definition of "hearsay" in the federal rule of evidence (Rule 801 --
not the first one, and thus hardly the main one!) requires an inquiry into
what Grice call "utterer's meaning."
What we offer is a formula for the provision of a conceptual analysis of
"hearsay" based on Grice's theory of utterer's meaning.
We can apply this approach both to basic situations and to a number of
alleged "hearsay" problems
Ultimately, Grice's analysis facilitates the resolution of even the most
intractable "hearsay" issues while effecting the RATIONALE underlying the
It has explanatory adequacy.
Our conceptual objectives here are twofold.
First, by showing how "hearsay" cases fit into an established
framework, to wit, the Griceian one, we hope to respond to some of the
criticism around the prevailing understanding of the hearsay rule.
Vide Levinson, S. Pragmatics.
Just as, traditionally, syntactics is taken to be the study of the
combinatorial properties of words and their parts, and semantics to be the
of meaning, so pragmatics is, for Grice, the analysis of language usage,
implicature and disimplicature.
We can describe Griceian pragmatics as the conceptual analysis of the
utterer's ability to compute out of sequences of utterances, taken
background assumptions about language usage, highly detailed inferences
about the nature of the assumptions utterer and addressee are making, and
goal or intention for which the utterance is offered as a means.
The notion of conversational implicature is one of the single most
important ideas in pragmatics and philosophy in general. The other is
Contrary to some very weak criticism, a conceptual analysis of "hearsay"
(in Rule 801, for example) is consistently and rationally applied even to
difficult Griceian cases.
Since there is always room for disagreement, we have entitled this: Grice
But we have another, more conceptual, objective.
We are proposing an analysis for the concept of "hearsay" that we hope can
assist a Griceian judge (if we find him) in resolving real-world "hearsay"
problems -- "outside the Griceian box," as it were.
Specifically, we advsie that judge to be Griceian, and focus on the
communicative INTENTION motivating the STATEMENT.
The judge should first recognise that the intention behind the utterance
requires a focus on pre-existing understandings (what Grice calls the
uncontroversial common ground) between the declarant U and her addressee
A pre-requisite to understanding the "hearsay rule" may well to understand
some of thehistorical debate about the scope of the rule.
This debate around the hearsay rule has a specific origin: the celebrated
nineteenth-century case of Wright v Tatham.
A Dickensian epic that meandered through English courts for the better
of a decade, Wright v Tatham is a suit by an heir at law to recover land
from a devisee under a will.
Wright v Tatham turns on the validity of the will, specifically on the
testator's sanity, no less (He was called "mad hatter" since his
indeed that of a hatter).
As evidence of the testator's sanity, U offers a few letters written to
allegedly insane testator in the years prior to his death.
None of the letters expressly -- or via explicature -- comments on the
testator's sanity ("Hey, hatter, you're mad").
But the content of some of the assertions suggested that the letter
"utterers" believed the testator was SANE.
This inference -- the letter "utterers" believe the testator was sane --
then offered as evidence that the testator was, in fact, sane.
The case went all the way to the House of Lords.
The letters were, alas, ultimately declared "inadmissible hearsay" because
their relevance depended on the credibility of the non-testifying letter
writers, anathema for English law.
We were saying part of our intention is to address some spurious criticism
against the analysis of the concept of hearsay' in Rule 801. Some of the
essays critical of the hearsay definition in Rule 801, as interpreted by
Advisory Committee should be known by heart, since many of them are
Vid: Eng. Rep. 488 (KB. 1837).
In any case, the Wright v Tatham case laboured through trials and appeals
for 8 long years before its final resolution in the House of Lords.
The Wright v Tatham case had began in 1830 at the Lancaster Spring assizes
but was resolved in 1838 in the House of Lords.
Two letters, one from the testator's cousin in Virginia discussing family
matters and one letter from a local vicar asking the testator to arrange
his attorney to resolve a dispute between the decedent and the township
are among those forming the heart of the Wright v Tatham case.
The letters ARE "hearsay" because the fact finder is being asked to trust
the memory, perception, narrative capacity, and sincerity of the letter
writers, without the benefit of cross-examination.
Wright v Tatham may be known best for a hypothetical suggested in dicta
by Parke, the author of the most influential opinion.
**************************** PARKE'S SHIP ******************************
Parke posits a hypothetical in which the sea-worthiness of a ship is at
As evidence of sea-worthiness of the ship, a party calls a witness to
testify that the ship's captain inspected it at the dock and then boarded
Parke concludes that the witness's testimony in that situation would fall
under the concept of "hearsay".
Well, first, because the captain is in effect testifying to the
sea-worthiness of the vessel.
Second, because the fact-finder is being asked to rely on the captain's
perception, memory, and sincerity without the benefit of
For both the letters actually offered in Wright and the ship-captain
hypothetical given in dicta, the fact finder is asked to make what has
as a "two-step inference."
1. From U's conduct -- writing a letter proposing a business transaction
and boarding a ship -- the fact finder is asked to infer U's BELIEF (or
Lockean idea) about some REAL-WORLD condition -- in the sanity of the
addressee and the seaworthiness of the ship.
Based on that belief, the fact finder is then asked to infer that the
real-world condition existed.
Grice, following the Kiparskys, calls this 'factivity'.
i. The addressee of the letter is sane.
ii. The ship is sea-worthy.
The evidence -- now packaged under the heading"implied assertions"-- is
however problematic to some legal philosophers because its validity turns
the un-cross-examined belief of U.
Parke's treatment has informed the debate about the definition of the
concept of hearsay for over 150 years.
Parke posited other hypotheticals as well; to wit:
(1) a proof that under-writers have paid the amount of the policy
------------ as evidence of the loss of a ship.
(2) proof of payment of a wager.
--------------- as evidence of the happening of the event that was the
subject of the bet.
(3) precautions taken by a family
----------------- to show that the person involved was insane
(4) the election of a person to office
---------------- as evidence of sanity.
(5) proof that a physician allowed a will to be executed
--------------- as evidence of the testator's competency.
V. C. MUELLER and L. C. KIRKPATRICK, "EVIDENCE". See also the symposium on
hearsay and implied assertions: how Would (or Should) the Supreme court
decide the Kearley case?
Wright represents what we may dub the "common law" analysis of the concept
of "hearsay" at least until the beginning of the twentieth century.
Courts and commentators of that era typically eschewed formal conceptual
analysis in favour of a loose, if still conceptual, approach to "hearsay",
focusing on the importance of the cross-examination of any witness.
The Hearsay Symposium, incidentally, addresses the problem of implied
assertions and featuring Allen, Berger, Callen, Friedman, Kirkpatrick,
Mosteller, Mueller, Park, Scallen, Seidelman, Swift, among others.
The symposium organizer C. Callen goes on to describe in some detail four
models for dealing with the "implied assertion" problem:
(1) the explicitness-based model.
(2) the dangers-based model -- cfr. Popper on problem-solving.
(3) Grice's communicative intention-based model.
(4) the system-based model.
Vide C. Callen, "Foreword to the Forum: Wallace Stevens, blackbirds and
It is not clear how seriously courts took the hearsay rule against hearsay
PRIOR to Wright v Tatham.
In his thorough study of the history of evidence law, "The rise of modern
evidnce law", T. Gallanis concludes that, as of the mid-1700s, the hearsay
bar was seldom enforced.
The concept of "hearsay" occupies much of the modern law of evidence.
Until 1755, it was accepted almost without comment.
Even in the years immediately preceding Wright v Tatham, some decisions
applying "the hearsay rule" engage, alas, in little or no analysis of the
concept of "hearsay".
Foote v. Hayne admitts a gone item of apparent hearsay and excludes
another, without explanation.
On the other side of the pond, American courts which did apply the concept
of "hearsay" generally avoided offering any analysis of the concept at
working instead from the assumption that the hearsay character of the
evidence was inescapable.
Thus Insurance Co. v. Mosley discusses admissibility of statements of
physical condition and state of mind without offering an analysis of the
Nicholls v. Webb analyses several hearsay issues, including declarations
against interest and business records, but states only that the general
objection to evidence, of the character of that now before the court, is,
it is in the nature of "hearsay", and that the party is deprived of the
benefit of cross-examination.
Those courts that offered more were extremely conclusory.
In Melius v. Houston a witness is not be permitted to testify to facts of
which he has no knowledge, and of which he is informed by the statements
others not parties to the suit.
In Salmon v. Orser, the declaration of a third party, out of court, not
examined as a witness, is not evidence of the fact stated in such
It is "mere" hearsay (to use McEvoy's favourite adjective).
The first great evidence treatise writer, S. Greenleaf in "A treatise on
the law of evidence", goes to analyse the concept of "hearsay" as evidence
which does not derive its value from the credit to be given to the
himself but rests in part on the veracity and competency of some OTHER
The United States Supreme Court adopts Greenleafs terminology almost
verbatim in Hopt v. Utah, whose credibility was at issue.
This approach, however, allows for essentially pretty "ad hoc" judgements
based on a range of credibility concerns, freeing courts either to take
hearsay rule to its Wright v Tatham-inspired limits, or to apply it more
In the twentieth century, the credibility-based approach embodied by
v Tatham began to fall out of favour. At the same time, Grice was growing.
The "reformist" trend, with its emphasis on black-letter rules, emerges in
the law of evidence as in other common-law disciplines.
Relying on Wigmore, courts find a concise analysis of the concept of
The concept of hearsay is analysed as extra-judicial utterances offered to
prove the truth of the "matter asserted" or "matter stated".
It is found indispensable, as a test of truth, that every living witness
should, if possible, be subjected to the ordeal of a cross-examination,
it may appear, what were his powers of perception, his opportunities for
observation, his attentiveness in observing, the strength of his
recollection, and his disposition to speak the truth.
The original motivation or RATIONALE for "the hearsay rule" is that the
statements of the out-of-court declarant U are made in the absence of a
Gallanis explains hearsay rationales in the eighteenth and nineteenth
By the beginning of the nineteenth century, that rationale was
to one focusing on the absence of cross-examination.
Although frequently cited by nineteenth-century treatise writers, Wright v
Tatham escaped significant critical analysis for decades.
C. McCormick (in "The borderland of hearsay") notes the absence of
analysis of Wright v Tatham.
Most authorities simply ignore Wright v Tatham's suggestion that
NON-assertive conduct (or something which is NOT a statement) can be
elided the alleged "implied assertion problem" (the addressee of the
not insane) presented by the letters.
Greenleaf notes that the hearsay rule rejects all hearsay reports of
transactions, whether verbal or written, given by persons not produced as
M. PHILLIPPS and T. ARNOLD, "A TREATISE ON THE LAW OF EVIDENCE"
cite Wright v Tatham's holding with respect to letters, but implying that
courts in England did not extend the holding to NON-assertive conduct.
In practice, an enormous amount of allegedly "implied-assertion" evidence
almost certainly came in without judges or lawyers recognising the
See R. LEMPERT and S. SALTZBURG, "A MODERN APPROACH TO EVIDENCE."
American courts have generally dealt with the problem of whether
non-assertive conduct falls under the concept of "hearsay" by failing to
that such conduct might present a hearsay problem.
See: M. Ariens, "Progress is our only product: legal reform and the
codification of evidence.
Fitzgerald v. State quotes J. WIGMORE, "A TREATISE ON THE SYSTEM OF
EVIDENCE IN TRIALS AT COMMON LAW.
Ironically, Wigmore refuses to offer a formulaic definition (never mind
analysis) of the concept of 'hearsay'.
Wigmore merely states that "the hearsay rule" signifies a rule rejecting
assertions, offered testimonially, which have not been in some way
to the test of cross-examination.
Vide: J. WIGMORE, "A TREATISE ON THE ANGLO-AMERICAN SYSTEM OF EVIDENCE IN
TRIALS AT COMMON LAW. .
Over the next half century, the "truth-of-the-matter-asserted" definition
became internalised in the common law of evidence.
With the passage of the federal rules of evidence, "hearsay" is
Under Federal Rule of Evidence 801, the concept of "hearsay" is analysed
a statement, p, other than one made by the declarant U, while testifying
the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter
asserted in p.
The substitution of a single, concise rule for a vague, conceptual
principle necessitated some line drawing on the difficult issues presented
Wright v. Tatham.
Although influential commentators praised Wright v Tatham for its
intellectual integrity, few wanted a hearsay rule as broadly exclusionary
v Tatham seems to require.
Furthermore, courts defining "hearsay" in truth-of-the-matter-asserted
terms increasingly held that Wright-type evidence was NOT hearsay.
In discussing statements that are not hearsay, such as verbal acts,
states that if an extra-judicial utterance IS offered which is not as an
assertion to evidence the matter asserted, without reference to the truth
the matter asserted, the hearsay rule should not apply.
This is the language courts adopt.
A handful of reported decisions use the phrase "truth-of-the
matter-asserted" to refer to "hearsay" prior to the publication of
Vietor v. Spalding endorses a definition centered on the
"truth-of-the-matter-asserted" formula which appeared in the ill-fated
model code of
evidence and in the slightly more successful uniform rules of evidence.
"Hearsay" is evidence of a statement which is made other than by a witness
while testifying at the hearing offered to prove the truth of the matter
This was never adopted in any jurisdictions
A "hearsay statement" is a statement of which evidence is offered as
tending to prove the truth of the matter M-INTENDED to be asserted or
The formula got its real boost, however, from C. McCormick, who used it in
his treatise, "HANDBOOK OF THE LAW OF EVIDENCE", and perhaps he had heard
Grice, Way of Words.
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