McEvoy should be pleased that Wikipedia (recall Aristotle, “Wikipedia is
Wikipedia,” – Theophrastus’s example of a ‘blatant tautology’) has an entry for
‘razors (philosophical)’, which includes (and McEvoy might not be too happy
with the former) both Grice’s Modified Occam’s Razor, and oh surprise,
“Popper's falsifiability principle: For a theory to be considered scientific,
it must be falsifiable.”
A blunt razor, if you axes me!
But as for Grice’s razor – or rather, in Grice’s more pretentious prose,
“Modified Occam’s Razor,” do SENSES matter? I don’t think so. And that’s the
charm of Grice.
Suppose I say:
’Twas bryllyg, and ye slythy toves
Did gyre and gymble in ye wabe:
All mimsy were ye borogoves;
And ye mome raths outgrabe.
Suppose it’s actually a conversation
i. A: Anything new?
B: ’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe.
It would be otiose for A to ask what B meant. Obviously, B means that ’twas
brillig and the slighy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe.
The implicature is of course, “Nothing. Just reading Dodgson.”
Grice’s point, with HIS razor (or “Modified Occam’s Razor” – “Senses should not
be multiplied beyond necessity”) is that an utterer U can mean, by uttering a
token of utterance x, that p, even if “x” has no sense. 66
Popper who was into linear and parabolic equations, might argue that to
multiply by zero is a conundrum.
But I think Grice and Occam (or Ockham – do not multiply spellings beyond
necessity), when using ‘multiply’ they do not mean “x” as in algebra (“2 x 3 =
“I'll try if I know all the things I used to know. Let me see: four times five
is twelve, and four times six is thirteen, and four times seven is--oh dear! I
shall never get to twenty at that rate! However, the Multiplication Table
doesn't signify: let's try Geography. London is the capital of Paris, and Paris
is the capital of Rome, and Rome--no, that's all wrong, I'm certain! I must
have been changed for Mabel!”
Any number multiplied by 0 is 0. This is known as the zero property of
multiplication: X . 0 = 0
This does not mean that Grice’s Modified Occam’s Razor collapses (since
‘brillig’ has no _sense_, how can you multiply its NONsense?). But it may
different with Popper’s razor – if a razor McEvoy agrees with Wikipedia it is!
In searching the Grice Collection one finds one folder, “Pirotese”, so a
different conversation might ensue:
ii. A: Anything new?
B: Pirots karulise elatically.
Here the implicature might be, “I have read Carnap” (Grice took the
‘nonsensical’ sentence from Carnap’s Introduction to Semantics). It would be
otiose to multiply the sense of ‘pirot,’ since it hasn’t got one. (Actually,
the OED mentions that it is ‘arch.’ and ‘obs.’ for a sort of fish. Yet, by
uttering, “Pirots karulise elatically,” U manages to mean that pirots karulise
elatically, by exhibiting to his addressee that he, the utterer, believes that
pirots karulise elatically, and further, that he believes that Carnap is a
Grice used to refer to “Deutero-Esperanto” for things like this. Considering
this, it is obvious that Grice did not take his Modified Occam’s Razor too
seriously – because he, unlike Witters, as he often said, cared for what
utterers MEAN or IMPLY, and not just what expressions (which can be alleged to
have this or that Fregeian sense) do – “a distinction totally ignored by
Witters”. If in the second William James lecture Grice does appeal to Modified
Occam’s Razor, it is because he just feels like refuting Strawson, and he does!
(Grice disliked computers because they – or his – did not recognise neither
‘pirot’ nor ‘sticky wicket’ – and he puns on ‘pirot’ and ‘parrot’ when
referring, in his “Method in philosophical psychology,” to ‘very intelligent,
rational pirots,’ echoing Locke’s Essay Concerning Humane Understanding – and
the reference to Prince Maurice’s Parrot – section on “Personal Identity”).
Grice, H. P. “Pirotese.”
Grice, H. P. “How pirots karulise elatically: some simple ways.”
Grice, H. P. “Modified Occam’s Razor” – third William James lecture, Harvard.
Grice, H. P. “Aristotle on ‘being’” -- "The phrase “French citizen” standardly
means “citizen of France”, while the phrase “French poem” standardly means
“poem in French”."
"But it would be a mistake to suppose that this fact implies that there are two
(indeed more than two) meanings or SENSES of the [expression] “French.”
"The word “French” has only one meaning, namely “of or pertaining to France."
"It will, however, be what I might call ‘context-sensitive.'"
"We might indeed say, if you like, that while “French” has only ONE meaning or
SENSE, it has a variety of meanings-in-context."