[lit-ideas] Re: "Must We Mean What We Say?"

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 24 Oct 2007 17:36:40 EDT

"I then surveyed your next two points. I was about to pour  scorn on the first
when I observed this.
>>         "I bet it  takes you a long time to get to your classes."
>>   This is what Austin called a 'performative' thus neither true  nor  
Then I opined or inferred that you were  of course joking all along. Ooops."
That's an easy way out, ednit? So, go on and say it "And I  found it a waste 
of my time to bother to reply in  earnestness".

But mind, "There's a silver lining behind every cloud", so perhaps, as  
Petronius says in "Satyricon", "behind a joke, there's a truth".
Mind, the idea of a performative _having_ a truth-value was something that  
it took pains to G. J. Warnock to prove. For Austin, to claim that 
(3) I bet it takes you a long time to get to your classes.
does report a mental state (on the part of the utterer) such that the bet  
would be _false_ if the utterer does not have this mental state was utter  
mentalistic Cartesian nonsense. 
Note that it is against all standard of Oxonian conversational politeness  to 
reply to (3) with 
(3') No, you don't bet it. 
I mean, by what authority can an addressee _contest_ that the utterer is  
betting. This, for Austin, did not mean that a bet is always _true_, rather as  
he preferred, it was one of those utterances having a 'truth-value gap'. 
'Truth-value gap' was a collocation first used by Quine when he was  visiting 
Oxford -- back in the 1950s -- (Popper was not invited, I'm sorry to  say), 
under the sponsorship of mainly Grice and Strawson. 
Strawson later took up on the idea of a truth-value gap for things like  
"Prove to me whether it's true or false that In October it's triphon-upping day 
on the Thames" (or prove to me that 'The king of France is bald' is  false).
Swan-Upping Day is my favourite festival, and I treasure Sir Stanley  
Spencer's depiction of it (now in the Tate). 
(3-a) At Swan Upping Day we up the swans.
is true, while 
(3-b) At Triphon-Upping Day we up the triphons. 
_would_ be true in a universe containing triphons. This would mean that we  
would have to relativize truth-value to a possible-world semantics. While
(3-c) At Circling-Squaring Day we square the circle.
is impossible in any possible world (cfr. Bealer, and DellaRocca,  
"Essentialism and Essentialism"). 
The subject of this thread I took from Stanley Cavell's book, which relies  
heavily on Austin -- and is indeed a pun on the Mad Hatter's syllogism that 'to 
 say what you mean' is not the same thing a bit as 'to mean what you say'. 

J. L  Speranza,
Buenos Aires, Argentina

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