[lit-ideas] Re: The Causal Theory of Perception

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 3 Feb 2014 13:47:49 +0000 (GMT)

>You are right, it is entailment, not implicature, that Grice wants to assign 
seeing. A statement like: "John saw the cat on the porch" would then 
have it as part of its meaning that the cat was on the porch.>

The substantive metaphysical issue surely cannot be dissolved or resolved or 
solved so easily: viz. the issue of whether, when John has an experience of 
'seeing a cat' in his 'internal world', there is anything in the 'external 
world' that is (a) the "object" of this experience (b) a cause of this 

We cannot surely conclude that, just because "John has an experience of 'seeing 
a cat' in his 'internal world'", it follows by entailment that "there is 
something in the 'external world' that is (a) the "object" of this experience 
(b) a cause of this experience." Such an entailment cannot be predicated on the 
mere fact that we may (somehow) mean "there is something in the 'external 
world' that is (a) the "object" of this experience (b) a cause of this 
experience" whenever we say "John has an experience of 'seeing a cat' (in his 
'internal world')". The fact we may mean this does not mean that what we mean 
is true.

That is, we cannot sidestep the substantive metaphysical question of whether it 
is the case that "objects" play a causal role in their perception by treating 
this as equivalent to a question of what we may generally mean when we say 
"John sees a cat on the porch" (or the like). We may as well argue that if we 
mean by "God exists" that God really does exist, then our saying "God exists" 
entails that it is the case that God exists, and so conclude that it is in fact 
the case that God exists. As an argument this is both feeble and confused, 
switching from 'meaning' to 'truth' in an invalid way.


On Sunday, 2 February 2014, 19:07, Omar Kusturica <omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
You are right, it is entailment, not implicature, that Grice wants to assign to 
seeing. A statement like: "John saw the cat on the porch" would then have it as 
part of its meaning that the cat was on the porch. Admittedly, "John saw the 
cat on the porch but it wasn't there" would be odd. But it is interesting to 
note that "John didn't see the cat on the porch" does not necessarily entail 
that the cat wasn't there,as we might expect. That is, the negation does not 
seem to pertain to the entailed meaning. I wonder how Grice deals with this.


On Sunday, February 2, 2014 12:36 PM, "Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx" <Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx> 
In "How Pirots Carulise Elatically: Some Simple Ways", Grice writes:

"a pirot can be said to potch of some obble  x
as fang or fent;  also to cotch of x, or some obble o,
as fang or feng;  or to cotch of  one obble o and 
another obble o' as being fid to one   another."

I propose to introduce


as a psychological predicate correlative to 'believing'. For what is the  
good of a philosophy of perception if it won't help us with beliefs (and 
plus,  Grice does speak of 'perceptual beliefs' like the belief that the pillar 
box  seems red to him).



as a predicate like 'red'.

In the above, then, it's

o is φ

the object (or 'obble') as perceived by the subject (or pirot) is  'red'

is the 'that'-clause that becomes the clause of perception (or  
'potching'). Then, a specimen of a 'potching' or perceiving can grow into  
(say, a belief) -- Interestingly, in "Causal Theory" Grice compares  the 
thesis he wants to defend with one that ALSO sees
 knowledge as a type of  belief 
(He lists as a suspect thesis that which states that if you KNOW  something 
you don't believe it --


p. 140 -- the six propositions that he considers there, including "What is  
known to me to be the case is not also believed by me to be the case", are 
worth  checking out. They can be fun! --.

It's with this idea of obbles being or seeming φ1, or φ2 or φn, according  
to perceptual (potching) mode I, II, III, IV or V (the five 'senses' of  
perception) that Grice intends to generalise the phenomenon of the alleged  
'factivity' of "see" (as
 in "I see that it is raining") into further and more  
complicated philosophical phenomena. Or not (cfr. "I heard that it ;the sky 
--  the cloud] was thundering" > therefore, it [the cloud] was thundering). 

We are also considering if we can make use of Aristotle's quaternary  view 
of causation when we speak of the causal theory of perception

In a 
 message dated 2/1/2014 2:52:15 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, 
omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx  writes:
"For Aristotle, the perceiver receives the sensible form of the  object, 
thus presumably the formal cause of perception would be contained in the  
object itself. (Although the potentiality to receive the form needs to be  
present in the receiver.) Since I have at hand a paper by Mortimer Adler, "  
Sense Cognition: Aristotle vs. Aquinas" I thought  that I would quote a  part 
it. Adler says that the Aristotelians and the Thomists agree that: (a)  
that, in the case of material composites, the form of that which is knowable 
and  can become actually known
 (i.e., the form of the quod) must be received 
in the  knower, separated from or without its matter (i.e., the matter to 
which it is  united in
 the quod); A distinction is further made between 
'sensible forms' and  'intelligible forms'."

Mmm. I like that.

I like to use 'quod' like  that. Indeed a hylemorphic compound, as I think 
people call it: form-and-matter,  or form-cum-matter. 

"the form [eidos, forma] of that which is  [PERCEIVABLE by the subject] and 
which can actually BE PERCEIVED [the form of  the quod] MUST BE RECEIVED by 
the perceiving subject separated from its  matter."

I suppose that in the causal theory of perception it is the  MATTER that 
matters, hence Grice's emphasis on objects being 'material'. But I  suppose he 
should grant some status to the formal cause, too.

 we  should explore why only the 'efficient' cause came to acquire 
relevance in later  philosophy.

It would also interesting to see how Aristotle (rather than  Aquinas) saw 
this and how
 his analysis of perception was later received in  Hellenistic 
post-Aristotelian philosophy; after all, the idea of 'phantasmata'  and allies 
was the MAIN topic of what the Ancients called 'theoretical  philosophy' 
(aesthesis being perception) as opposed to the more boring ethical  philosophy 
about how to lead a happy life.

Back to Grice:

O. K.  also notes:

"As I understand, Grice says that a statement like: "I saw a  cat" 
conventionally implies that there really was a cat,"

I would think  that the technical notion to use here is that of ENTAILMENT. 
Of course we are  never sure what an entailment is, since it was a coinage 
by Moore that Grice  adored. But it can
 be represented logically as in

ergo  sum

We can say that 'sum' is an entailment of 'cogito'; or that 'cogito'  
ENTAILS 'sum'.

So, rather than
 'conventional implicature', we have  something pretty 
stronger here:

John saw a cat
A cat  exists.

It should be pointed out that perhaps we should follow Walter O.  and 
concentrate on cases of perceiving-that. That the cat is on the mat, for  
example, or that the pillar box seems red.

John sees that the pillar box  is red.
Therefore, the pillar box is red.

So, I would think  it's ENTAILMENT which is at issue. This is important 
because Grice wants to  contrast the 'implicature' with what the statement 
proper (what he meant, rather  than merely SAID). And entailments, oddly as it 
may sound, are parts of what
 is  said. Note his example:

He has stopped beating off his wife.

This  example Grice discusses in "Causal Theory", and it's a trick of an 
example, as  it should. It's also sexist and politically incorrect
 but I 
suppose Grice is  trading on received cliches there. I would make a distinction 
between the  AFFIRMATIVE:

He has stopped beating his wife.

which ENTAILS that  he has beaten his wife.

And the negative:

He has NOT stopped  beating his wife; he never started.

In the case of the affirmative, we  have entailment. In the case of the 
negative, it's not.

"He hasn't  stopped beating his wife" cannot ENTAIL that he has beaten his 
wife. That's why  Grice discusses this in 1961 as a stock example of a 
presupposition. The trick  is in the question,

"Have you stopped beating your wife?"

The joke  goes that even if you say, "No!" simpliciter, you may be taken to 
mean that you  are still beating her. Whereas if you expand that to read:

"No, I have  never stopped beating my wife; because I never actually 
started beating
 her, nor  is my intention to EVER do so."


So 'see' would have as one of  its entailments that the that-clause is 
true. "See" is a factive verb, in the  words of the Kiparskys, that Grice will 
later come to  quote.

"Conventional implicature" is used by Grice in a rather  technical term for 
things like

"She was poor but she was honest".  

Conventional implicature, like conversational implicature, differs from  
logical implication. Neither conventional nor conversational implicature deal  
with the truth-conditions of the statements involved.

But an 'entailment'  is more like the part of the 'sense' of the
even if not the complete  sense. '

Frege, incidentally, held pretty similar views, and he has views  on what 
he calls, informally, the 'colour' (or as I prefer, the coloratura) of  this 
or that
 remark, as opposed to its truth-condition or _sense_. 

Omar  goes on:

"... and if a speaker is using it differently, i.e. without this  
implication, or without necessarily committing himself to it, then this is  
disimplicature. We may choose to call it disimplicature or some other such term 
nevertheless there are such 'loose' uses of "see" in every-day  language."

Indeed. In fact, at one point in "Causal Theory" he does note  that his 
account may not be final for ALL uses of 'see', and that there are uses  of 
'see' which commit oneself to something STRONGER than the causal theory of  
perception (or weaker, as the case may be).


In Latin,
 these  verbs are referred to as 'verba percipiendi', and we 
should distinguish the five  senses (qua perception)

I saw that the cat was black
---- Therefore,  the cat was black

 heard that the explosion was a mile away
--  Therefore, the explosion was a mile away

I smelled that the rose was  sweet
--- Therefore the rose was sweet

I touched that the corpse was  fresh
--- Therefore the corpse was frech

I tasted that there was  alcohol in the beverage
-- Therefore there was alcohol in the  beverage

And now for the passage in Causal Theory:

p. 145  on


"I have  extracted from the first
clause of the initial
of the causal  theory of perception
an outline of a causal analysis of perceiving
which  is, I hope, at least not obviously
unacceptable. I have of course  considered
the analysis only in relation to seeing; a 
more careful  discussion would have to 
 attention to non-visual  perception"

[This he attempts in "Some remarks about the [five] senses,"  reprinted in 
Butler, "Analytic Philosophy" and in Ways of Words, and cited by  Sibley, 

"and even within the field of 
visual perception  the suggested analysis
might be unsuitable for some uses 
of 'see' which  would require a stronger
condition than that proposed by  the

DISIMPLICATED uses, such as

"Macbeth saw Banquo"  (when he was not there to be seen)


"Hamelt saw his father in  the ramparts of the castle of Elsinor" where he 
merely saw the ghost of his 

require rather a WEAKER condition, and it should be noted that  while the 
"Banquo" example occurs in Way of Words, the Elsinor example is only  in the 
Grice Papers, along with the coinage of 'disimplicature'. Grice felt that  
talk of disimplicature may minimise his contribution to the theory of  
implicature, and he might be right!



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: