Re: McEvoy on context. For the record, an expansion on Grice’s
“anti-contextualist” view – he allows that implicatures can be cancelled
‘contextually,’ rather than ‘explicitly,’ so one has to be careful. In what he
jocularly, in a paradoxical way, entitles “The general theory of context,” and
which he delivered in a seminar as “University lectures”, Grice writes:
"Philosophers often say that context is very important."
"Let us take this remark seriously."
"Surely, if we do, we shall want to consider this remark not merely in its
relation to this or that problem, i.e. in context, but also in itself, i.e. out
"If we are to take THIS seriously, we must be systematic, that is, thorough
--- this was intended for his STUDENTS, not his colleagues.
Grice goes on: "If we are to be orderly we must start with what is relatively
"HERE, though not of course everywhere, to be simple is to be as abstract as
possible; by this I mean merely that we want, to begin with, to have as few
cards on the table as we can."
--- the bridge player in him. He competed for Oxfordshire for auction bridge.
Like philosophy and cricket, bridge was more than a hobby to Grice.
Grice goes on: "Orderliness will then consist in seeing first what we can do
with the cards we have; and when we think that we have exhausted the
investigation, we put another card on the table, and see what that enables us
to do." --- Till we win, of course. It is not hard to discern Austin's
influence here, in the insistence that a particular philosophical commonplace,
if it is to be accepted as a useful explanation, must first be subject to a
rigorous process of analysis."
Grice] argues in these lectures that thinking seriously about context means
thinking about conversation. A rather bold inference!
Chapman goes on:
This is the setting for most examples of [utterer’s] meaning.
The relevant context was to be assumed to be limited to what Grice calls the
environment': to the content of the conversation itself."
"Conversation was assumed to be concerned simply with the business of
transferring ['information'] between [two participants]."
And so on. Cfr. Gardiner, Entwistle, and Firth.
When I say 'students' we have to recall that Grice was "University Lecturer"
for the whole of Oxford, not just Philosophical Tutor at St. John's. And his
point remains: Grice is considering the claim made by SOME philosophers that
'context is important'. Grice considers the claim IN CONTEXT as a joke.He wants
to consider it "out of context".
Grice's point being that if the slogan,
"Context is important"
should have some philosophical bearing, it should be a GENERAL claim, thus
refuting itself. Hence the title, the "General" theory of context.