[lit-ideas] Re: Grice's Colourless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 28 Apr 2014 17:36:17 +0100 (BST)

>A Popperian approach would be to wonder if 

Colourless green ideas sleep furiously.

is _testable_ and whether it could become sort sort of _objective  
knowledge_ in _some_ world ("He knew that colourless green ideas sleep  

These would not be Popper's main lines of thought: he would not suggest, for 
example, that some lines of poetry should obviously be mined for their testable 
applications - as if the sense of poetry were to be extracted by considering 
its testability in scientific terms. It is unfortunately a point that seems to 
need frequent repeating that, in Popper's terms, what has "sense" extends far 
beyond what is testable scientifically: and this is one of the fundamental 
points on which his approach should never be confused with any form of Logical 

Popper's contention would be that Reeve provides a context where what Chomsky 
offers as "nonsense" has a sense of sorts: and that this is yet another example 
where stipulations as to what is "sense" and "nonsense" can be met by 
constructing apparent counter-examples, and even if those counter-examples will 
then be stipulated as "nonsense" this only reveals the dogmatic character of 
the stipulation and how the stipulation flies in the face of the way we may 
ascribe some "meaning" to many things that are stipulated by philosophers to be 
"nonsense" [what philosophy of sense and nonsense has ever proved itself 
adequate to make sense of all poetry and its "sense" as poetry?]. 

Popper's central contention is that seeking to demarcate sense from nonsense is 
a fool's errand - what we should seek is to demarcate the true from the false. 
Somewhere in his work is a table setting out admitted parallels between 
'meaning' and 'truth' as objects of investigation: but his contention is that 
many philosophers have become misled to think that such parallels make 
meaning-investigation necessary and worthwhile - for a wide variety of reasons 
this is a widespread view that Popper considers to be philosophically and 
deeply mistaken. In "A Long Digression" in his Unended Quest, Popper takes this 
issue to the main issue on which he is divided from most other contemporary 
philosophers - to the extent that he thinks "A Long Digression" is both 
necessary and worthwhile to sketch his alternative view.

Popper does not think "meaning-analysis" has any greater or more useful role to 
play in philosophy (which should be truth-seeking) than it has in science 
(which should also be truth-seeking): among many other arguments, he argues 
that the rapid advance of the natural sciences since the Renaissance is due in 
large part to them abandoning scholastic "meaning-analysis" of the sort that 
still plagues philosophy, and indeed still turns many philosophical discussions 
into a mere morass of preliminaries as to 'meanings'.


On Monday, 28 April 2014, 0:58, "dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" 
<dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
We are discussing P. Reeve's quatrain:

"I have fresh, green ideas,  that I am wont to mull,
But alas!  When  life is drab and  dull, then  curiously,
Of grey ideas my troubled sleep  is full,
No rest then! Colourless green ideas  sleep furiously."

In a message dated 4/27/2014 6:30:22 P.M. Eastern  Daylight Time, 
rpaul@xxxxxxxx writes:
>Was this his life's work or merely  his doctoral dissertation?

Well, he, whose location is in Thousand Oaks, CA, describes his self as  
"[a]n Englishman, now resident in California."

He adds:

"I have had stories, poems and other short work published, but not yet the  
full-length work that will get me on Amazon's lists and enable me to give 
up my  day job (computer programmer)."

Next would be to look for Chomksy's source of the 'utterance', about which  
I'm sure, a few cross-references with Grice have already been attempted, 
and in  doctoral dissertations, too.

A Popperian approach would be to wonder if 

Colourless green ideas sleep furiously.

is _testable_ and whether it could become sort sort of _objective  
knowledge_ in _some_ world ("He knew that colourless green ideas sleep  

The Griceian approach would proceed step by step. 

If Chomsky did say, "Colourless green ideas sleep furiously", he  _meant_ 
it (most likely). Therefore, if he was following some constraint of  
conversation ('to be sincere'), the did believe that colourless green ideas  
(at the time of utterance) furiously.

Grice could argue that Chomsky did not _use_ the utterance, but merely  
_mentioned_ it.

And there are other possibilities -- as always --.



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