It may be obvious to Grunebaum that “Hands Across The Bay” was the rather naïve
epithet for a series of philosophical seminars held alternatively at Stanford
and Berkeley (where he taught).
McEvoy: “When I spoke of the "obvious" it was really a concession.” And this
may give me an opportunity to expand of Grunebaun’s reference to Hardy:
In a lecture, G. H. Hardy announced that a proposition, at which point one of
his addressees demurred and said that it was not obvious. Hardy then halted the
lecture, paced outside the lecture room for a quarter of an hour, returned, and
said “It is obvious.” Grunebaum is discussing Moore’s defence of common sense,
and notes: “This [defence] seems to consist in the presumed acceptability of
the obvious. But this seems unsatisfactory on the grounds that the conceptION
of the OBVIOUS is NOT an objective conception. Obviousness requires consent, on
the part of the parties concerned, on the OBVIOUSNESS of the OBVIOUS.” At this
point it might do to expand on Grunebaum’s reminiscence (I’m rephrasing it a
bit, for emphasis):
i. G. H. HARDY: And “p” is, obviously, very obvious.
P. D’UBERVILLE: It’s not obvious to me!
HARDY interrupts the exchange for a quarter of an hour and returns.
HARDY: “p” _is_ obvious.
Surely Hardy has not yet shared with D’Uberville, to echo Grunebaum, the reason
why what is obvious to Hardy should be obvious to D’Uberville. We can imagine a
ii. Hardy: It is obvious that C.
D’Uberville: It is not!
Hardy: But it is. It obviously derives from premises P1 and P2, which are
D’Uberville: What is OBVIOUS to me is that your conceptION of the obvious is
hardly obvious to me. You are accepting rules of inference that I don’t. And,
worse, in the formulation of premises P1 and P2 you are just using different
formation rules! You seem enamoured with Layman Allen’s “WFF ‘N PROOF,” which,
while I find charming, object to its being based on Polish notation, rather
than the good ole one of the good ole Principia Mathematica by good ole
Whitehead and Russell!
Hardy: But surely it is obvious what was behind Layman Allen’s choice!
D’uberville: To thee! But pray, what is it that you find so obvious in Allen’s
Hardy: Allen is following Lukasiewicz’s original notation. And Allen’s
rule-book explicitly refers to this source. Allen thought it obvious it would
have been tricky to use, on dice, the “Principia Mathematica” symbols, or
variants thereof: consider “˄” and “˅” which are sometimes used to represent
“and” and “or”. You OBVIOUSLY cannot have THOSE on dice, without causing a
McEvoy goes on: “What might appear obvious when spelled out might not be
beforehand, etc.” And even afterhand, as Beckett would have it. Is the
etymology of ‘obvious’ obvious? For the Ancient Romans, it meant, “in the way,
so as to meet, meeting, to meet”.
McEvoy: “Darwin's theory of natural selection was one where, when understood,
it appeared obvious” The “when understood” seems to beg the question, and as
Lewis Carroll says, “it’s not respectable to beg.” I grant it would perhaps be
less obvious to see what happens with Darwin’s natural-selection theory when it
is MISunderstood (as it often has!).
McEvoy goes on: “… in a kind of 'Why did no one think of that before?' way.”
Well, ‘obvius,’ in Latin, means, strictly, ‘[that is] in the way.’ It is an
adjective (and as Humpty Dumpty notes, they are the trickiest) which derives
from an adverb, “obviam,” where “obviam” is a complex expression from “ob,” the
preposition for “in front of” or “against,” and “viam,” the accusative of
So I would think it all depends on which way you are taking. It seems more
obvious to think that the SENSE of ‘obvious’ developed from ‘ob’ meaning ‘in
front of’. Something would be obvious if and only if that something were right
“in front of” one’s way. But they may be some Roman bias implicit here, since
they thought all roads led to their capital, while they actually lead to