[lit-ideas] Grice's Eighth Wonder

  • From: "" <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> (Redacted sender "Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx" for DMARC)
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 20 Jun 2015 06:00:42 -0400

In a message dated 6/20/2015 3:58:19 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx writes:
"Going back from viper's nests to the original statement - "Just wondering
at the eerie silence." Am beginning to wonder whether JLS has ... become
the 'anti-Grice', but it's taking him a few days to work out his new tropes."

I would say the grammar is different, or 'depth' grammar, if you must use
pretentious Witterisian parlance. R. Paul, a philosopher, is just wondering
(implicating rather than justly wondering) at the eerie silence. McEvoy,
also philosophically, is wondering whether. There is still room for further
grammatical variation, as when Palma wonders because.

And we know from the Theaetetus 1555d that "philosophy begins in wonder" --
implicating: God knows where it ends). Aristotle wondered whether
philosophy ended, and wonder that perhaps it did not end. In any case, he
the Theaetetus in Metaphysics (982b12) when he writes, in Greek: "It was
their wonder, astonishment, that first led men to philosophise and still leads


Lowell is being philosophical in his vision of Sir Launfal, for he has
Launfal wondering:

And what is so rare as a day in June?

Is Launfal being rhetorical? Or is he asking his addressee (the lady, a
"damsel in distress" as he calls him) to come up with similes: "Your wit is
ever so rare as such a day, Sir Launfal").

No. Launfal provides his own answer:

1 And what is so rare as a day in June?
2 Then, if ever, come perfect days
3 Then heaven tries the earth if it be in toon
4 And over it softly her warm ear lays

Since line 2 does NOT provide the answer that it EXPLICITLY asks for, the
implicature is that Sir Launfal is putting forward the proposition: "A day
in June is VERY RARE" (as opposed to a day in February which is _common_?).
Note the covert reference to the lady in distress in "her warm ear". (As
Lowell remarked: "her" may refer BOTH to the lady and to the earth, which is

He goes on:

5 Whether we look, or whether we listen
6 We hear life murmur or see it glisten
7 Every clod feels a stir of might,
8 An instinct within it that reaches and towers
9 And grasping blindly above it for light
10 Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers.

The phrase, 'climb to a soul' is a metaphor, or trope.

If a day in June is VERY RARE for Sir Launfal -- granted this is
implicatural: Cfr.

Sir Launfal: What is so rare as a day in June?
The Lady: Your wit.
Sir Launfal: Wrong: a day in June is NOT rare.

it may be different with silence being eery. All this is a source for
philosophical wonder.

"It was their wonder, astonishment, that first led men to philosophise and
still leads them" -- recall the Stagirite.

If you are just wondering AT the eerie silence (rather than wondering
whether silence is eery) you may also wonder at eery being used circa 1300,
"timid, affected by superstitious fear".

It was a north England and Scottish variant of Old English "earg",
"cowardly, fearful, craven, vile, wretched, useless".

Skeat hypothesises it's from a now lost Proto-Germanic root *argaz
(cognates: Old Frisian erg "evil, bad," Middle Dutch arch "bad," Dutch arg, Old

High German arg "cowardly, worthless," German arg "bad, wicked," Old Norse
argr "unmanly, voluptuous," Swedish arg "malicious").

The implicature seems to be that if there is silence, there is, to use the
Swedish expression, something "arg" about it -- and usually SOMEONE who is
being "arg" "lurking in the background" as they also say it in Swedish.

The use of 'eery' to mean to "cause fear because of strangeness" is first
attested 1792.

And if you were wondering, Finnish arka "cowardly" is a Germanic loan-word.
(There are other Germanic loan words, so-miscalled, because, for all we
know, the Finns never cared to returned them to the Germanics).



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