[lit-ideas] The Pears Cyclopædia

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  • Date: Mon, 14 Sep 2015 09:20:50 -0400

In a message dated 9/13/2015 6:54:04 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx writes:
True to type, Pears writes about these issues ...

The (geno-)type inherited from his father, and ultimately from Andrew
Pears's father, and so on ad infinitum. Andrew Pears was the son of a farmer,
and was born in Mevagissey, Cornwall but moved to London, where he
established a barber's shop in Gerrard Street in the Soho and began to produce
cosmetic products.

Generations of this geno-type later, D. F. Pears, a friend of H. P.
Grice's, became a crucial figure in English philosophy from its heyday in
post-war Oxford when ordinary-language philosophy was just beginning to

Pears, who contributed with Grice on work in the philosophy of action and
metaphysics (they co-authored with Strawson "Metaphysics"), also wrote on
topics in the philosophy of mind, metaphysics and philosophy of language.

It may be less easy to pin a particular set of doctrines on Pears than on
some of his illustrious friends and contemporaries (like Grice or
Strawson), but that is unfair: philosophical philosophy of mind would have
different without him, and arguably, thanks to the self-effacing balance of
his approach, he was the only Wittgensteinian "to get Witters right".

Pears was sent originally to Westminster (to add 'school' is non-U
according to Nancy Mitford), where the philosophers P. N. Gardiner (another
of Austin's Play Group, like Pears, Strawson, and Grice) was fellow pupil
and they became lifelong friends.

Pears was in the Royal Artillery during the second world war.

Unfortunately, he was seriously injured in a practice gas attack.

On demobilisation, Pears studied classics at Balliol College, Oxford, and
developed an interest in current philosophy thanks to a lucky accident.

What was the lucky accident?

As he fled the Randolph hotel (across from Grice's college, St. John's)
after being assaulted by a beefy baronet, Pears broke his leg, and, as he was
being carried to the ambulance, grabbed a book from a friend to read in

It was a philosophy book. Had it been a novel by Agatha Christie, Grice
would have been different.

Pears became research lecturer at Christ Church soon after graduating in

Pears's early essays were included in the collections, edited by A. G. N.
Flew (Grice's first tutee at St. John's), of cutting-edge linguistic

But Pears was strangely diffident, and (at first) always needed a glass of
Guinness and two digestive biscuits (in that order) before giving a
philosophy lecture.

In the 1950s, he, Sir Peter Strawson and Sir Geoffrey Warnock, and his wife
Mary, all starting out on their philosophical careers, staged a series of
debates on what was then the Third Programme, which were later adapted into
three books. For one of them, Pears invited Grice, and the thing came out
as "Metaphysics" (co-authored Grice/Pears/Strawson) -- a brilliant essay
that is referenced in the "Metaphysics" entry in Edwards's influential
encyclopaedia of philosophy (Not to be confused with the Pears Cyclopædia*).

In the 1960s, Pears found himself "driven to the conclusion that there
must be a causal connection between desire and action, because there seems to
be no other theory that fits the phenomenon".

Although this line went drastically against the prevalent Wittgensteinian
doctrine that reasons cannot be considered causally, it soon became

Full credit should go to Pears for this.

Pears was not, or never seemed to be, ambitious, apart from his desire to
get to grips with problems that interested him, irrespective of
philosophical glory.

The fact that he was at Christ Church where the adage is "There's glory for
you!" as uttered by Humpty Dumpty, may be a reason for this ("I don't know
what you mean by 'glory'". "A knock-down argument".) Pears knew that there
were FEW knock-down arguments in philosophy).

Rather, Pears pursued philosophy for its own sake wherever it led him, with
total purity of philosophical motive.

For Pears, as for Grice, philosophy was an exciting joint enterprise
("getting together to do philosophy should be like getting together to make
music") and far from being competitive, Pears loved fostering the work of
colleagues, especially brilliant ones like Grice, sending them congratulatory
postcards from wherever he happened to be (he was once in Australia), although
inevitably he had his quarrels too.

Perhaps he never quite attained the stature expected of him, being less
influential through his writing than through brilliant, witty discussion, and
something of an unsung hero.

But as Geary says, "we have our share of sung heros".

Pears would rather self-deprecatingly say that he owed his entire
intellectual achievement to his extraordinary photographic memory.

And he was NOT being metaphorical. His idea in philosophical psychology is
best summed up by Isherwood's adage, "I am a camera."

When he published an essay in 1971 B. A. O. Williams wrote that "combines
in a very pure form the more conversational and the more formal aspects of
analytic philosophy (it is rather reminiscent of a certain kind of
20th-century French music)".

Williams loved Debussy and loved to show off, slightly.

For Williams - they had given a fascinating seminar on identity together in
the 1950s, which was described as "the high-point of philosophical
activity of the time" - Pears's questions and discoveries, which were often
"deliberately, and realistically, vague", were "constantly shaped ... by a
project of self-understanding".

Fascinated by paradox, expert in psychology as well as philosophy, and with
an insight and empathy unusual in academic males of the time, Pears wrote
brilliantly on the self, self-deception and weakness of will.

This would be later formalised by Hintikka. And Pears's considerations on
'akrasia' possibly influenced Grice in his "Is weakness of the will

Philosophers, he complains in "Motivated Irrationality" tend to ignore that
reason "is a force that is stronger in some people than in others" and
"project into ordinary thought and behaviour the rationality of their own
analyses of ordinary thought and behaviour", adding, "their prejudice is
among bystanders, who forget what it is like to be a participant".

That's why Grice's festschrift came out as "Philosophical Grounds of
RATIONALITY: Intentions, Categories, Ends": an affront to Pears, whose focus of

attention was motivated IRRATIONALITY.

One reason that he loved the great philosophers was the aspiration he
ascribed to each of them of understanding humans as they are, grounded in
fleshly reality.

Pears would metaphorically refer to a "false prison" (as opposed to a 'true
prison'), where philosophers are condemned when they bring "postulates
of reason", instead of "making us see how our own linguistic devices work,
simply by putting them in their place in our lives."

It was exhilarating to be taught by Pears.

He would often say, "learned by Pears", because his bedside table was "Wind
in the Willows", where the point is made that 'learn' is better English
for 'teach' than 'teach' ("I learned'em! I learned'em!").

Thus, Pears often took on tutees whom other dons were wary of, arguing
that you could never tell who his tutees were, since they were not carrying on
some line of his, but developing their own interests.

Spotting nonsense was Pears's great strength.

He was what Grice called a "balloon-pricker".

With his eye for the absurd, and sense of the fantastical, Pears was
life-enhancingly funny and a brilliant raconteur, telling stories in so frank
and ingenuous a way that it was hard to tell, and hardly seemed to matter,
whether they were true or not true.

He would quote Walt Whitman to that effect, saying that amusement is more
important than truth itself.

He and the Russian-born Isaiah (later Sir Isaiah) Berlin seemed to think
that the whole point of life was to make one another laugh.

He knew everyone, and the gossipy part of philosophy was his meat and

Pears believed that he did his best work when in a good mood, and, as
visiting professor in Los Angeles, he would drive to the beach each morning and

sit by the Pacific Ocean ("I can't see why they call it pacific" --
implicating the waves in the early morning were "impressive"), writing and
watching the dolphins.

Passionate and erudite about art, he was influential in setting up the
Christ Church Picture Gallery -- that also contained some 'sculptures' or
statues ('three-dimensional pictures,' if you must).

He and Mary (later Dame Mary) Warnock shared a love of interior decoration,
and scoured obscure shops for fabulous materials when given the task of
decorating a philosophy hang-out by J. L. Austin, whose famous Saturday
mornings in the 1950s he attended with Grice.

He once tried to redecorate the room Grice had managed to secure for
Austin's Play Group meetings at St. John's, but Grice said, "I think your
redecoration would kill the effect of its charming undecorative character"
room looked like the board of a commercial company, and Austin seemed to
enjoy his Saturday mornings at Grice's St. John's than the re-decorated rooms
by Pears -- "He felt like the boss that he was, Austin did.").

Before his marriage to Anne Drew in 1963, he and the Warnocks would go on
holiday together in various regions of Italy, the Warnock children finding
him hilarious, and he taking them completely seriously. Pears's Italian
wasn't bad at all!

Pears's own idyllic childhood summer holidays in a house near Salcombe in
south Devon (which he tried to recreate for his son and daughter) left him
with a love for botany and of studying moths and butterflies.

In fact, Pears had inherited a butterfly collection from an uncle, also
surnamed Pears, which he considerably added to, until, dismayed by seeing the
light fade from a moth's eye, he decided not to kill it, but to photograph
it instead.

The moth photograph is now in possession of the Pears Estate.

Pears used to dispatch male Emperor moths from his cottage near Oxford to
mate with females in the garden of Patrick Gardiner, three miles away - and
it apparently worked.

Skilled at cooking, gardening and carpentry, Pears was always practical
and quick-witted,

Once, when he arrived at the scene of a car accident in the High, Pears
instantly tore up his shirt into bandages while his philosopher companion at
the time merely dithered.

Always, perhaps, he was trying to follow the advice of of Hume: "Be a
philosopher but, amid your philosophy, be still a man" and perhaps Kipling:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
yours is the earth and everything that’s in it,
and—which is more — you’ll be a man, my son.



*The Pears Cyclopaedia is a one-volume encyclopaedia published in the
United Kingdom. Pears Soap launched Pears Shilling Cyclopaedia in December
Since 1953 it has been published annually. The 58th edition, published in
the autumn of 1948, stated that "This book is published annually". However,
the 61st edition was not published until 1953, the 60th being published in
1950. Prior to the 58th edition it was published 'as demand required',
which meant that in some years 3 editions would be published and at other
times more than a year would pass between editions. The most recent edition
(2014-2015) is the 123rd edition, published in September 2014. Each edition
features an atlas, a gazetteer, a list of prominent people (past and
present), a miniature encyclopaedia of general information, and a
list of events. In addition, each edition features a collection of around a
dozen or more other sections about specialist subjects such as cookery,
classical mythology, gardening, etc. The selection of these is rotated from
to year.
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