[lit-ideas] Re: Presumptive Meanings: Geary vs. Davidson

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  • Date: Tue, 10 Feb 2015 17:53:29 -0500

My last post today!
On top of what Geary says, when Levinson finished his big book on  
conversational implicature, he was looking for a title. He came up with one of  
Geary's favourite words: 'presumptive':
Presumptive Meanings: The Theory of Generalized Conversational  Implicature
When we speak, we mean more than we say. In this book Stephen C. Levinson  
explains some general processes that underlie presumptions in communication. 
 This is the first extended discussion of preferred interpretation in 
language  understanding, integrating much of the best research in linguistic 
pragmatics  from the last two decades. Levinson outlines a theory of 
meanings,  or preferred interpretations, governing the use of language, 
building on the  idea of implicature developed by the philosopher H.P. Grice. 
Some of the  indirect information carried by speech is presumed by default 
because it is  carried by general principles, rather than inferred from 
specific assumptions  about intention and context. Levinson examines this class 
general pragmatic  inferences in detail, showing how they apply to a wide 
range of linguistic  constructions. This approach has radical consequences 
for how we think about  language and communication.

In a message dated 2/10/2015 3:21:43 P.M.  Eastern Standard Time, 
jejunejesuit.geary2@xxxxxxxxx asks in a post he  provocatively calls, "Truth, 
Justice, and the American Way: "Am I wrong to  presume that all knowledge is at 
best presumption?"
Tertulian would say "at worst". ("Have you noticed that in ordinary  
conversation, 'at best' and 'at worst' are almost interchangeable?" -- Wooster  
Geary goes on:

"So all of this is just "let's assume that..."?   It doesn't matter, of 
course, but I'd kind of like to know because, well, you  know, my emotional 
life, it sort of matters to me and I don't want to get all  bent out of shape 
over a mispresumption."
This is a double-prefixed one. Double prefixed ones are lexemes that, as  
the name implies, bear two prefixes:
'pre-' and 'mis-'. 
There are many of them, but the order of prefixes is not allways  
interchangeable. Cfr. premissumption.
Geary goes on:
"I realize that my presumptions [are] nothing more than the product of my  
world -- the old "Always already immersed in a  world" thing, you  know?  I 
am my culture and I don't know if it's possible for me to ever be  not my 
culture, even when I reject parts of my culture, that too comes out of my  
Strictly, culture applies to agricultural peoples only. Nomads don't have  
one, nor do they presume to have one.
mid-15c., "the tilling of land," from Middle French culture and  directly 
from Latin cultura "a cultivating, agriculture". 

Geary goes on:
"But I would sure hate to get all worked up only to realize that what I was 
 all worked up over was just mis-presumption on my part, stemming from my 
unique  culture."
The paradox here is that the presumption that your presumption is only a  
mispresumption is also a presumption. It could be an orthopresumption.
("Mis-" sometimes applies to 'wrong' -- "mis-use"; the antonym should be  
"ortho-", right, as in 'orthodoxy'.
"ortho-", prefix, meaning: straight, upright, rectangular, regular; true,  
correct, proper," now mostly in scientific and technical compounds" in in  
variants of Geary's terminology, as in orthopresumption.)
Geary goes on:
"That, in fact, I could be completely wrong about my understanding of  
everything. EVEN what I'm writing right now.  But you've got to admit that  
that's highly unlikely -- I mean, come on, a man of my intelligence  --  
 Get real.  So I presume I [am] right in all this."

Davidson once said that there is transcendental justification, as he  
called it, to the effect that AT LEAST one of my beliefs (he meant 'his') has 
be TRUE.
So we may call Geary Davidsonian or Davidson Gearian. 

"Since knowledge of the world is inseparable from other forms of knowledge, 
 so global epistemological scepticism — the view that all or most of our 
beliefs  about the world could be false — turns out to be committed to much 
more than is  usually supposed. Should it indeed turn out that our beliefs 
about the world  were all, or for the most part, false, then this would not 
only imply the  falsity of most of our beliefs about others, but it would also 
have the peculiar  consequence of making false most of our beliefs about 
ourselves — including the  supposition that we do indeed hold those particular 
false beliefs. Although this  may fall short of demonstrating the falsity of 
such scepticism, it surely  demonstrates it to be deeply problematic." -- 
Davidson entry in Stanford. 
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