[lit-ideas] Renan's Implicature

  • From: "" <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> (Redacted sender "Jlsperanza" for DMARC)
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 5 Dec 2015 08:57:01 -0500

In a message dated 12/3/2015 2:32:05 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
jejunejesuit.geary2@xxxxxxxxx writes:
"O God, if there be a God, save my soul if I have a soul."
La prière de l'agnostique: O Dieu, s'il y a un Dieu, sauve mon âme si j'ai
une âme."

Attributed to Renan.

Interesting from a logical point of view! Grice was fascinated with this!
Hacker, his successor at St. John's, Oxford, finds it ridiculous!

The logical form seems to be:

p --> q!

We were talking about 'implied assertion', but here we have not even a
'conditional assertion', but a 'conditional imperative'.


then symbolises

i. save my soul.

The vocative is

ii. O god.

Now, the verb, 'save', being transitive, qua relation (alla
Whitehead/Russell's Principia Mathematica) can be symbolised as a dyadic

iii. S(x, y)

And Renan notably uses the (Ex) quantifier to range over x and y.

Sticking with the French, let "A" represent the attribute of being a soul.
Renan talks about he HAVING a soul, so there is this extra verb, 'have',
which, like 'save', is also a transitive relation.

iv. H(x, y)

The final formulation seems to run along the lines:

v. (Ex)Dx & (Ey)H(r,y) --> S(x, y))


if there is an x such that x is god (Dieu), and if there is an y, such as
Renan has it, which is his soul, let god save it.

Geary notes the implicatures are complex: "While strictly an imperative,
"God, save my soul" can hardly be. One cannot ORDER God." In a postscript,
Geary notes: "This use of 'imperative' is Roman, not Christian. The emperors
were always using the imperative: it was second nature to them. But Christ
brought a new use to the word 'imperative' and enriched the language: we
say 'pray', not 'command'.

Geary reminds us that Renan entitled his prayer, 'the sceptic's prayer':
'sweet and short', "if full of implicatures, that he left unexpanded."

The two uses of 'si' (French for 'if') in Renan's prayer is indeed evidence
of its complex logical form. Far more complex, since we were recently
discussing this, than Sraffa (a favourite author with Geary) with his
Neapolitan gesture.



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