[lit-ideas] Popper and Grice: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 13 Jan 2013 09:26:28 -0500 (EST)

Popper and Grice on Introspection and Experience
We are discussing various issues in the interface Grice/Popper (Grice b.  
1913, Popper b. 1902, so order of seniority kept here). 

In a message  dated 1/11/2013 9:11:21 A.M. UTC-02, 
donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx discusses "The  Invisible Man", with emphasis on 

"an invisible man would be a potential falsifier for Popper, even  though 
invisible to our eyesight, provided there were some observable way of  
testing his presence - compare 'atoms', which are invisible to our eyesight but 
which nevertheless may be shown to exist in an observable way via tests."
The keywords there seem to include "OBSERVABLE". In "Method in  
Philosophical Psychology", Grice played with Ramsey's Sentence and indeed 
speaks  of 
Ramsification -- Naming and Descriptions -- which may apply.
I am  more interested in tracing the idea -- if Isaiah Berlin was a  great 
philosopher, greatest still was the post he held at Oxford -- "The History  
of Ideas" -- cfr. the more boring topic in Oxford classes: "The History of  
England" -- of EMPIRICISM. 

How much of experience is constituted by OBSERVATION? Does introspection  
count as experience. How unobservable is, say, a pain? (Grice has a telling  
unpublication by the title, "Can I have a pain in my tail?").
"Indeed, Popper explains how we could have tests set up, using equipment,  
where the tests of the basic statements do not involve a human observing 
what  the test is taken to shown [the human observing only the test results] - 
a  beaker collecting rainfall would be a simple example but more striking 
examples  could be given."
Again, the keyword is OBSERVATION. In my previous post I noted that Swartz  
reprinted Grice's essay, "The causal theory of perception" in a book by the 
 title, Sensing, Perceiving and Knowing (a book of readings) -- which are 
perhaps  the most crucial three keywords to consider (but cfr. believing, 
which is  crucial too, and missing in the title).
"The role of observation, in Popper's view of science, is as a critical  
test - it is not regarded as a basis, still less a basis given by veridical  
Well, as Paul (G. A. Paul) knew, there is possible no problem about sense  
data. So, yes, 'sense datum' is yet another keyterm to consider. Sense  
experience, as used by McEvoy, to contrast with other types of experience -- or 
perhaps the 'sense' is merely emphatic. The 'veridical' is perhaps yet 
another  keyword. For Grice, as for most, "KNOWING" starts when we can speak 
'veridical'  (as opposed to hallucinatory), or as I prefer, truthful -- or just 
true --  there's something too much of a Latinist ring to 'veridical' but I 
get the point  -- note that in Latin, 'veridical' is a complex of verum AND 
DICO, I say the  truth.
In any case, the passage above combines the critical keywords then of  
OBSERVATION (which in Popper is opposed to THEORETICAL, as I understand -- and  
in Ramsey, the symbols O and T are used), EXPERIENCE, SENSING (shall we say) 
and  TRUE (as in the Taming of the True, the title of a book by Neil 
McEvoy rejects a sort of evolutionary stance taken by Grice:
"it is possible that a radically mistaken perception of 'reality' may be  
adequate as an instrument for survival. Darwinism does not furnish proper  
grounds for the dubious philosophical notion of 'justified true belief'"
In his unpublication, Grice actually makes the stronger point that  
sense-datum theorists (like Paul, and the early Grice -- not to mention most  
pre-Grice empiricists) were wrong in IDOLISING the idea of a sense datum, since 
a sense-datum, in Grice's view, is not really too good a thing from an  
evolutionary standpoint. Yes, it is a necessary but not a sufficient condition. 
As he notes, people need to eat APPLES, not sense-data of apples. So, it is 
what  he calls (rather inappropriately, but I love him) "material object" 
that becomes  the thing with evolutionary value. We, qua agents, are 
influenced by material  objects.
Unlike Popper, Grice was a diehard (if that's the word) Causalist. Cause, a 
 notion he defended just because Hume had demolished) provides for Grice 
the  answer to MANY issues:
------ there is a robin in the bush.
---------- I see a robin in the bush, I hear a robin in the bush.
------------------ I say, "I know there is a robin in the bush", "I believe 
 there is a robin in the bush".
We have three levels: the 'dico', or utterance (the third level), a second  
level of sense experience, and the FIRST level of the 'fact' (or 'material  
object'). It is, simplistically, and simply, this very fact that CAUSES the 
 other two. Alvin Goldman followed this thread.
When I say that 'material object' is a misnomer, I am thinking Kant and my  
teacher in metaphysics. With Kant, it is the DING (or thing -- 'ding' is a  
German term, not an onomatopoeia) -- "an sich", he adds for emphasis -- 
that  counts. Never the OBJEKT. The Latin-language philosophers were perhaps 
less apt  in their choice of terms. Note that in French, Latin 'causa' gives 
'chose',  which is Kant's "Ding". The Classical Latin writers would use, 
perhaps  mistakenly, 'res', to mean the same thing (as in REALIA). 
We may want to expand on Popper's self-description, reported by  McEvoy:

" was a 'tottering, old metaphysician'."
With emphasis on the tottering. I believe Grice saw himself as a  
metaphysician, too, and in his case, there was an official reason for this,  
since he 
was in charge of the "Metaphysics" course at the UC/Berkeley -- and  where 
he would elaborate with his colleage G. Myro on things like the  
relative-theory of identity (a = a at time t1, only). And so on. Grice left the 
of books he hoped one day to write, one was a "new method in  metaphysics", 
which he entitled, "From Genesis to Revelations". 
In "the Vulgar and the Learned" note, I pointed to Grice's attitude  
vis-à-vis Moore, and which I have discussed elsewhere  --  vis-à-vis Grice's 
comments on Eddington's "Two Tables", for  example. Plus, Grice made a nice 
distinction between hypothesis (the most the  scientist can provide) and 
hypostasis (the thing the metaphysician, old or not,  tottering or not) should 
provide. This fine distinction appears in his "Actions  and Events" (Pacific 
Philosophical Quarterly) and is meant as commentary on what  Grice saw as 
Davidson's naive scientific realism.

"But Popper is also an opponent of that "Devil" that puts  forward a false 
and uncritical worship of common sense knowledge"
I'm not sure we want to identify a thing like G. E. Moore (nice Irish  
surname there)'s 'common sense' with the technical term 'knowledge'. There may  
be common-sense statements that we do not count as knowledge and vice versa. 
 Grice's "common sense"--'ordinary language' commentaries on his reading of 
 Norman Malcolm on Moore may be appropriate here: "I have two hands" (I 
know I  have two hands -- cfr. the unwanted implicature: someone thought I 
doubted it).  (But it's true that the passage that McEvoy is commenting makes a 
lot of the  term 'knowledge', so I should revise that)
"or that seeks to defend such knowledge from criticism by deeming it "the  
very system of ideas require to make intelligible the idea of calling in  
question anything at all"".
I think Grice is into attacking the sceptic more so than defending the  
dogmatic there. This is subtle, since it is a sceptical stance one that makes  
the idea of calling in question anything at all INTELLIGIBLE". Perhaps the  
emphasis is on 'anything', whose logical form is complicated.
In any case, Grice could be counted to come to rally to the defense of  the 
underdog(ma) everyday, as R. Grandy's pun went. (Recall his reply to Quine  
in collaboration with Strawson, "In defense of a dogma" -- of  analyticity 
-- he left the OTHER dogma of empiricism untouched:  the idea of a basic 
observational statement, which led Quine to his Duhem  indeterminacy thesis). 

McEvoy ends his post with:

"Where common sense is dogmatic it may come into conflict with science  
and, if the tests fail it, common sense should be rejected: but where common  
sense is essentially self-critical it is part of common sense to recognise  
mistakes, and so common sense tells us to reject our common sense notions if  
well-tested science shows those notions to be mistaken. The reification of  
common sense is as bad, and uncritical, as the reification of science that 
leads  to "scientism".
Good point about good sense rectifying itself. Note that, perhaps,  
strictly, McEvoy's utterance:
"so common sense tells us to reject our common sense notions."
may perhaps read, with the aid of numerical subscripts:
so common-sense-2 tells us to reject our common-sense-1 notions.
It seems to me that, in some reading, the above can be read as:
"Common sense tells us to reject our notions which we alleged to be common  
sense". Or not.
In the long run, perhaps we should distinguish between
Aristotle's Common Sense (if he has one)
Moore's Common Sense
and last but not least Grice's Common Sense.
To go back to the passage elaborated on by McEvoy: 
Grice: "We must be ever watchful against the Devil of scientism, who would  
lead us 
into myopic overconcentration on the nature and importance of  knowledge, 
and of  scientific knowledge in particular;"
Grice, in "Meaning Revisited", terms "knowledge" and ideal notion, alla  
Plato, like indeed "meaning" or 'circle'. It may have no sublunary 
realisation,  he comments. 
"the Devil who is even so 
audacious as to  tempt us to call in  question the very system of ideas 
required to 
make  intelligible the  idea of calling in question anything at all"
---- this audacity may need elaboration. The devil is bad (or is it evil)  
and his temptations Wilde would say are best dealt with by yielding to them. 
 Note that for Christian Doctrine, the devil is a fallen angel, though. 
To simplify:
"to call in question" -- to question:
"to tempt" -- to lead.

We are led to doubt the very system ("of ideas" is perhaps otiose in  that 
this is not one of Locke's idea, but more of what Bernays calls the  
building blocks of rationality: concept formation -- cfr. Davidson on the idea  
conceptual scheme) which makes doubt possible.
Grice seems to be playing with Descartes's malignant demon notion. Note  
that Grice followed in other fields Ackrill in identifying Aristotle's  
EUdaimonia with some sort of godfather good (i.e. not malignant) demon.
Grice is strong in his word: 'make intelligible'. Descartes and the  
malignant demon: does intelligibility enter the picture? Note that Grice is  
thinking of a scenario where the very idea of a Cartesian methodical doubt, as  
it were, is made a piece of nonsense. Or not.
Grice finishes the quoted passage:
"and who 
would even  prompt us, in effect, to suggest that since  we do not really 
but only  think that we think, we had better  change our minds without 
Here he may be playing with Hintikka. As Palma knows, Hintikka thought that 
 for any "p"
if A knows that p, then A knows that A knows that p.

Grice's claim is weaker, and concerns 'THINK'.
I think she is lovely.
I think I think she is lovely.
The devil prompts us to reason:
WE don't THINK that she is lovely.
We only THINK that we THINK that she is lovely.
This is pretty subtle.
"since we do not REALLY think" -- here Grice is punning on Austin's  
'sexist' (thus called by Grice) trouser word, 'real'. As in "The real problem  
here is Popper" (as opposed to the more correct, and never otiose, "The problem 
 here is Popper".
"since we do not really think [i.e. think, simpliciter -- Speranza] but  
think that we think"
is best seen as a syllogism: the logical form of 'since'.
We only think that we think
"since we do not really think 
but only  think that we think"
---- Therefore, we do not think.
"we had better change our minds without undue 
delay." He is possible  punning on 'mind' here, which is often misused as 
when someone says, "I was  going to go to Memphis but changed my mind". It's 
more like a change in one  ASPECT of the mind, but not the whole bit". 
Note that formalising a thing like:
Geary thought of visiting the confluence of the Wolf and Mississippi  
He then changed his mind (implicature: he didn't).
Geary's mind at one point: visiting the confluence of the Wolf and  
Mississippi rivers.
Geary's mind at point 2: not such visiting desire.
It may be argued that we can 'change' the display of furniture in a room,  
the idea of 'changing' the mind is a bit, shall we say, exaggerated. The 
mind is  not really changed, or exchanged for something different. Simply, a 
desire or  two gets dropped, as the penny.

To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

Other related posts:

  • » [lit-ideas] Popper and Grice: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea - Jlsperanza