[lit-ideas] Re: When you were in Oxford, did you dine in college?

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 10 Jan 2012 11:23:20 -0500 (EST)

Dummett thought that a 'retrospective prayer' WAS possible. Grice  
disagreed. On the whole they disagreed on the place of "!" operator in  
conditional 
promises:
 
"If you love her, leave her!"
 
The protasis, "if you love her", cannot have "imperatival" force. This  
transpires in the post-collocation of the explicature:
 
"Leave her if you love her"
 
And so on.
 
---
 
McEvoy _implied_, "Dummett is dead" (McEvoy posted an obituary of Dummett). 
 ("A link thereof," strictly).

This led us to read the book by  Dummett,

"Grammar and style", where he considers the  sentence,

"When you are in Oxford, do you dine in college?"

-----  This relates to Popper.

McEvoy writes:

In a message dated  1/10/2012 1:59:35 P.M. UTC-02, 
donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx writes:

"The issue that I was drawn to post re Dummett was realism v  anti-realism"
 
-- and, via implicature, re the fact that Dummett had died.
 
"and, in particular, how this issue is affected by the extent to which we  
accept the existence of entities independent of their 'knowability'."
 
--- As in "knowledge about the past". It is curious that Dummett wrote a  
book, "Truth and the past" (or something) and ALSO about the _future_ of  
philosophy...
 
McEvoy:
 
"But I am not sure how Dummett sees the issues from the titbits in the  
obits (though it seemed Dummett had a whiff of verificationism in that what  
exists for him must somehow depend on what is knowable)."
 
---- Yes. I would not think it much of a stretch to call Dummett a  
latter-day verificationist. Peacocke expanded even on this.
 
---
 
McEvoy:
 
"I should say that Popper's 'realism' is not only against 'verificationism' 
 in any logical sense such as might ground a theory of induction but 
carries  through on this at a fundamental metaphysical or ontological level:"
 
---- A further intersection is the _justification_ issue, since Dummett  
wrote infamously about the 'justification' of both induction AND  deduction.
 
---
 
(Strawson took up the former).
 
McEvoy:
 
"that is to say, for Popper, 'what is real' is logically independent of  
what is known (of what is real) - this means our attempts to know (or, better, 
 guess) 'what is real/what is the case' are always conjectural. The 
'problem of  knowledge', in Popper's approach, is how to properly evaluate 
conjectures - how  to assess their relative merits. There is no need, on this 
approach, to ground  the relative merits of conjectures in some characteristic 
of 
the act of knowing  that (somehow) guarantees that the knowing reflects what 
is the case."
 
Indeed.
 
In the old days, Oxford philosophers would NEVER speak of 'knowledge':  
being and appearance at most (Bradley). With Dummett, it is indeed about the  
rather pompous sounding words, "knowledge" and "reality" (title of his  book).
 
McEvoy:
 
"This represents a radical shift from the approach of traditional theories  
of knowledge. Not only is there no need but it cannot ever be done - these 
are  the lessons behind Popper's claims that 'all knowledge is conjectural' 
but that  we can nevertheless guess which of our conjectures are to be 
preferred. These  lessons are exemplified by studying the workings of 
'science'."
 
On top of that, I don't think Dummett was interested, as Popper wasn't  
either but Grice was, about the use of 'know'. Dummett realised that Grice was  
onto something when considering the _point_ of such utterances as:
 
"I know it".
 
-----
 
"before you know it"
 
and so on.
 
"Know" has respectable uses (besides the pretty disrespectable ones that  
Popper emphasised).
 
----
 
McEvoy:


"But I turn to some other things - beginning with Popper's remark,  made in 
a reported conversation, that "grammar" is a late stage in the  development 
of language (he has in mind "grammar" in a Chomskyan sense and in  the 
ordinary sense of the rules governing how language makes sense). Now this  
remark might be challenged by a linguist on the basis that if a language is to  
have any sense it must, by definition as it were, have grammar. But let us, 
as  Wittgenstein was fond of saying, look at an actual case. This weekend I 
was  engaging with a child of about 18 months that is not at the stage of 
making  sentences but can utter some names ['mama', 'papa'] and some utterances 
-  'uh-oh' and 'bye-bye'. The child's use of 'bye-bye' is interesting for 
it uses  the utterance the number of distinct ways. One is in the context of 
having to  say 'bye-bye' to someone: this may be where the child was 
'taught' the  utterance. But the child most commonly uses 'bye-bye' to express 
that 
they have  had enough of something - whether a story being read or food 
being  offered."
 
This may be dialectal for
 
"by-the-by"?
 
_
 
"[The child]," McEvoy continues, "also uses 'bye-bye' in a variant of  
'having had enough' when the child is also being made anxious - so when brought 
 
too close for comfort to cows or dogs, for example, it will verbalise this 
with  a 'bye-bye' and the body-language of retreat. The child also has a 
fascination  with any gadgets and with computers - but is aware it should not 
be touching or  approaching computers. Believing itself alone, the child 
heads under a chair  where it has seen a lap-top and is reaching in to pull the 
lap-top out when they  become aware of an adult entering the room - the 
child draws back from the  computer and says 'bye-bye' to it, all the while 
checking that the adult is  aware of this clear utterance. It seems to me in 
this last case the use of  'bye-bye' is a form of dissembling - the child is 
verbalising to signify to the  adult (falsely) that the child's interest in 
the computer has come to an end or  even to pretend that such interest does 
not exist (as if just by chance the  child had ended up proximate to a lap-top 
which it wants nothing to do with). It  seems to me that studying 
language-acquisition in children must be important as  a testing ground for our 
'philosophy of language', whatever that may be - and,  in particular, that 
cognitive awareness of a kind much more sophicasted than the  child's capacity 
to 
express itself must, in many of these cases, predate the  development of the 
child's capacity to express itself."
 
Yes. In fact, 'bye-the-bye' is TOO colloquial to _some_. In German, they  
say, "Auf wiedersehen", which is more technical, but also more precise.
 
Note the distinction between

"GOOD bye"
 
and
 
"bye-the-bye".
 
And variants thereof.
 
----
 
The 'by', in "good bye' is indeed, to quote from Grice, _ambiguous_.  
Strictly, it means, "GOD be with you". 
 
----
 
McEvoy:

"As to Dummett's view that 'philosophy of language' is the key to  
philosophy more generally, I suspect Popper would say the problem with people  
like 
Dummett is that they don't have a proper 'philosophy of language' at all -  
and certainly not one that can do justice to language-acquisition and the  
higher-level functions of language like theorising and arguing. For Popper it 
is  the 'theory of knowledge' and not so-called 'philosophy of language' 
that is key  to philosophical understanding: and, as the example of the child 
perhaps shows,  even in explaining how we acquire language and understand 
'meaning' we cannot  operate without guessing what kind and level of 
'knowledge' is held by the  person acquiring and using language."
 
Grice would disagree.
 
In "Logic and Conversation", he focuses on _conversation_, more than in  
logic. One logician converses with another. The logical way to proceed is:
 
LOGICIAN 1: Hello!
LOGICIAN 2: Hello!
LOGICIAN 1: p
LOGICIAN 2: if p, q
LOGICIAN 1: q!
LOGICIAN 2: Bye-bye!
LOGICIAN 1: Bye-bye!
 
----
 
The utterance of 'bye-bye' has only ONE meaning, if many implicatures. The  
implicature, "I've had enough" only associates to 'bye-bye' via the 
etymological  fallacy, and so on.
 
Dummett had a number of children, and they all learned English (and  
smoking) from him (and their mother, Anne Chesney). While English is said to be 
 
the Dummett children's "mother tongue", this is disrespectful to Dummett, who 
 also participated in the _acquisition_, on the part of Dummett's children, 
of  'English'.
 
-----
 
This is from Avramides, who wrote a book on Grice, on Dummett:
 
"Oxford in the late 1970’s and early 80’s was a very special place for  
philosophy. Philosophers were not just writing the books we were all reading,  
but they were to be found as heads of Oxford Colleges and even as vice  
chancellor of the university."
 
"Philosophy was exciting and one wanted to be a part of it. There were  
visiting philosophers like Donald Davidson and Saul Kripke spending time in  
Oxford, seminars by young talents such as John McDowell and Gareth Evans, and  
lectures by the likes of Peter Strawson and J.L. Mackie,. Pre-eminent among 
 these was Michael Dummett, newly elected Wykeham Professor of Logic. He 
taught  only graduates — and the best worked with him. And he gave seminars to 
a packed  seminar room in Merton Street. We all wanted to understand 
anti-realism and  Michael held the intellectual key. We listened to him debate 
anti-realism with  Davidson, and anti-anti realism with John McDowell. That 
Michael was a  passionate campaigner (along with his wife Ann) for race 
relations only made him  more admirable in our young eyes. He was an 
intellectual 
with his feet on the  ground and his heart in the right place. And then we 
learned that he not only  played Tarot, but wrote a history of the game. (Some 
of us formed groups and  tried to learn the game from his book.)"
 
"Some years after arriving in Oxford I became a colleague, and then a  
neighbor. As colleagues we met regularly as members of the Tuesday Group  
(originally called the Freddie group after its founder, Freddie Ayer). Long  
after 
his retirement Michael attended regularly, and was a formidable  
contributor to discussions. As a neighbor he was a regular at residents’ events 
 — be 
it welcoming new neighbors, or celebrating the millennium. Ann and Michael  
were full of stories of Park Town and its inhabitants. Park Town is where 
he  raised his family, and he was as much a part of Park Town life as he was 
of  university life. Over a cup of tea he would tell a story or make an 
observation  — followed by his infectious giggle. Michael once explained that 
he 
made a  telephone call only to be put through to the answering machine. He 
observed:  “They call it an answering machine but it’s not. You can ask it 
questions, but  it won’t give you any answers.”"
 
"One day when my daughter was about 7 or 8 I let her walk to the shops on  
her own with a friend who lived on the street. On the way home she and her  
friend got into an “argument” about some topic or other. They came home to  
report that Michael Dummett had been walking behind them, and interrupted 
to put  them straight on a point — if only she could remember what it was! It 
seems such  a short time ago that Michael could be seen shuffling down the 
street of Park  Town to church, to New College for lunch, or just to buy a 
pack of cigarettes.  He is a figure I shall very much miss in both my home 
and my working  lives."
 
And so on.
 
Cheers,
 
Speranza





















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