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Free Will
Mental Causation
James Symposium
H. Paul Grice

Paul Grice was a member of the ordinary language school of philosophers who, following the later Wittgenstein, sought to find meaning in the usage of language. Others included J. L. Austin, Stuart Hampshire, and John Searle.
Implicature vs. Implication
Grice was interested in the additional meaning in statements beyond what the normal syntactic and semantic analysis of a statement provides. This meaning depends in a complex way on what the utterer of the statement intends to mean by it, and on what the hearer takes to be the utterer's intentions. Here is Grice's
Suppose that A and B are talking about a mutual friend, C, who is now working in a bank. A asks B how C is getting on in his job, and B replies, Oh quite well, I think; he likes his colleagues, and he hasn't been to prison yet. At this point, A might well inquire what B was implying, what he was suggesting, or even what he meant by saying that C had not yet been to prison. The answer might be any one of such things as that C is the sort of person likely to yield to the temptation provided by his occupation, that C's colleagues are really very unpleasant and treacherous people, and so forth. It might, of course, be quite unnecessary for A to make such an inquiry of B, the answer to it being, in the context, clear in advance. It is clear that whatever B implied, suggested, meant in this example, is distinct from what B said, which was simply that C had not been to prison yet. I wish to introduce, as terms of art, the verb implicate and the related nouns implicature (cf. implying) and implicatum (cf. what is implied). The point of this maneuver is to avoid having, on each occasion, to choose between this or that member of the family of verbs for which implicate is to do general duty.
Statements often mean something other than the literal meanings of the words and the syntax would suggest. And some statements get overloaded with pleonastic additions, even in what appears to be pure logic. Grice says that, "It is true that p," says no more than p, for example. (Others argue that it says something about the utterer certifying the statement's truth.)

For example, the statement "Could you open the door?," is not a question about the hearer's ability, nor is it a factual statement in the indicative mood. It is actually an imperative like "Will you (please) open the door?"

One might infer that the conjunction "Mary had a baby and Mary got married" implies that the baby came before the marriage. This "implicature," as Grice calls it to distinguish it from logical implication, can be cancelled by adding, "not necessarily in that order."

The statement "Lincoln was assassinated and Lincoln is dead" cannot be so cancelled.

Maxims of the Cooperative Principle (cf. Davidson's Principle of Charity?)
Grice developed four sets of maxims to govern "talk exchanges." Their names were explicitly modeled on Kant's Tafel der Kategorien - Quantität, Qualität, Relation, Modalität.

Quantity - Make your contribution as informative as is required for the current purposes of the exchange. Do not make your contribution more informative than is required. (Compare Occam's Razor and Beard.)

Quality - Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence. Do not say what you believe to be false

Relation - Be relevant.

Manner - Avoid obscurity and ambiguity. Be brief and orderly. Be perspicuous.

Analytic-Synthetic Distinction
Grice and P. F. Strawson wrote a defense of the analytic-synthetic distinction that had been a tradition in philosophy, especially used to distinguish logical statements (assumed analytically or tautologically true, true by definition of the terms) from empirical statements, that depend on evidence in the world.

Willard Van Orman Quine had attacked that distinction during a visit to Harvard by Rudolph Carnap in 1940-41. Carnap lectured on the distinction, which for him and for Harvard philosopher C. I. Lewis was fundamental, and found himself under attack by Quine.

Quine published his famous "Two Dogmas of Determinism" in 1953, arguing that in the end the "truth" of analytic statements, the proofs of mathematical theorems, and the use of logic, also depend on empirical verification.

The key idea of Quine's empiricism (and of David Hume's) is to deny the existence of any a priori, logically provable, knowledge of the world, whether analytic or synthetic.

As Charles Sanders Peirce had said, nothing is logically and necessarily true of the physical world.

Logical truths like the Principles of Non-Contradiction and Bivalence (Excluded Middle) might be true in all possible worlds, but they tell us nothing about our physical world, unless they are applicable and empirically verified.

Grice and Strawson published "Defense of a Dogma" in 1956. They said that Quine "declares, or seems to declare, not merely that the distinction is useless or inadequately clarified, but that it is altogether illusory, that the belief in its existence is a philosophical mistake.” They argue that the analytic-synthetic distinction has a well-understood use in the philosophical tradition, which "seems to suggest that it it absurd, even senseless, to say that there is no such distinction." And they conclude bluntly that "Quine's case against the existence of the analytic-synthetic distinction is not made out."

Grice wrote an essay on Meaning in 1948 and revisited it several times over the years. The topic was controversial, from the nineteenth-century work of Gottlob Frege (Meaning is Sense), through Bertrand Russell, the young Ludwig Wittgenstein, and the Vienna Circle, (Meaning is Verification), to the late Wittgenstein (Meaning is Use).

Grice's work is subtle, attempting to distinguish between natural meaning (such as Peirce icons or indexicals, where the meaning is not conventional) and what he calls "non-natural" meanin that is only a matter of convention (like Peirce's symbols).

It has been my suggestion that there are two distinguishable meaning concepts which may be called "natural" meaning and "non-natural" meaning and that there are tests which may be brought to bear to distinguish them. We may, for example, inquire whether a particular occurrence of the verb "mean" is (active or nonfactive, that is to say
Recall Wittgenstein's "The world (of facts, or "states of affairs") is all that is the case"
whether for it to be true that so and so means that p it does or does not have to be the case that it is true that p; again, one may ask whether the use of quotation marks to enclose the specification of what is meant would be inappropriate or appropriate. If (activity is present and quotation marks would be inappropriate, we would have a case of natural meaning; otherwise the meaning involved would be nonnatural meaning. We may now ask whether there is a single overarching idea which lies behind both members of this dichotomy of uses to which the word "mean" seems to be subject. If there is such a central idea it might help to indicate to us which of the two concepts is in greater need of further analysis and elucidation and in what direction such elucidation should proceed. I have fairly recently come to believe that there is such an overarching idea and that it is indeed of some service in the proposed inquiry. The idea behind both uses of "mean" is that of consequence; if x means y then y, or something which includes y or the idea of y, is a consequence of x. In "natural" meaning, consequences are states of affairs; in "nonnatural" meaning, consequences are conceptions or complexes which involve conceptions. This perhaps suggests that of the two concepts it is "nonnatural" meaning which is more in need of further elucidation; it seems to be the more specialized of the pair, and it also seems to be the less determinate; we may, for example, ask how conceptions enter the picture and whether what enters the picture is the conceptions themselves or their justifiability. On these counts I should look favorably on the idea that if further analysis should be required for one of the pair the notion of "nonnatural" meaning would be first in line. There are factors which support the suitability of further analysis for the concept of "nonnatural" meaning. "MeaningNN" ("non-natural meaning") does not look as if it names an original feature of items in the world, for two reasons which are possibly not mutually independent: (a) given suitable background conditions, meaning, can be changed by fiat; (b) the presence of meaningNN is dependent on a framework provided by a linguistic, or at least a communication-engaged community.

It seems to me, then, at least reasonable and possibly even mandatory, to treat the meaning of words, or of other communication vehicles, as analyzable in terms of features of word users or other communicators; nonrelativized uses of "meaning," are posterior to and explicable through relativized uses involving reference to word users or communicators. More specifically, what sentences mean is what (standardly) users of such sentences mean by them; that is to say, what psychological attitudes toward what propositional objects such users standardly intend (more precisely, M-intend) to produce by their utterance. Sentence-meaning then will be explicable either in terms of psychological attitudes which are standardly M-intended to produce in hearers by sentence utterers or to attitudes taken up by hearers toward the activities of sentence utterers.

[G]ranted that there is a rational demand for absolute value, one can then perhaps argue that within whatever limits are imposed by metaphysical constructions already made, we are free to rig our metaphysics in such a way as to legitimize the conception of absolute value; what it is proper to believe to be true may depend in part on what one would like to be true. Perhaps part of the Kantian notion of positive freedom, a dignity which as rational beings we enjoy, is the freedom not merely to play the metaphysical game but, within the limits of rationality, to fix its rules as well. In any case, a trouble-free metaphysical story which will safeguard the credentials of absolute value is to be accepted should it be possible to devise one. I have some hopes that the methodology at work here might link up with my earlier ideas about the quasi-practical character of metaphysical argument.

In his "Actions and Events," Grice was sceptical about introducing, 'out of the blue', as it were, 'chance and causal indeterminism' to solve something like the problem of freewill.


In his 1986 article, "Actions and Events," Grice distinguishes four elements or stages in the step-by-step development of freedom. J.L. Speranza provided this brief summary.

First stage:

"transeunt" causation: in inanimate objects. Hume's realm -- the atomists's realm. This is "external or 'transeunt' casuation," "when an object is affected by processes in other objects."
Second stage:
'internal' or "immanent" causation: where a process in an object is "the outcome of previous stages in that process, as in a 'freely moving' body."
Third stage:
"Internal causation of living beings"

"in which changes are generated in a creature by internal features of the creature which are NOT earlier stages of the same change ... but independent items, the function (or finality) of which is ... to provide for THE GOOD of the creature in question."

Fourth stage:
"a culminating stage at which the conception of a certain mode by a human .... of something as being for that creature's good is SUFFICIENT to *initiate* the doing of that thing."
------ Grice expands on this interesting last stage:
"At this stage, it is ... the case that the creature is LIBERATED ... from all factive causes."
J. L. Speranza (of the Grice Club) on Grice on Freedom
Speranza provides an analysis of Grice's thoughts on free will. Page references are to Grice's essay "Actions and Events," in the Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 1986.
WoW is "Grice's book Studies in the Ways of Words.
In something like a "shopping list" that Grice provides for issues on 'free', he notes: "Attention to ... freedom calls for formidably difficult ... undertakings" including the search for a justification for the adoption (or abandonment) of an (ultimate) end. The point is to secure that freedom does not 'dissolve into compulsion or chance' (p. 34). Grice proposes four items for this 'shopping list'.

A first point is that "full action calls for 'strong' freedom". Here one has to be careful that since Grice abides by what he calls the "Modified Occam's Razor" (WoW:III) he would not like to think of this two ('strong freedom' and 'weak freedom') as being different _senses_ of the word 'free'. Again, his 'calls for' is best understood as 'presupposes'. It may connect with, say, Kane's full-blown examples of decisions in practical settings that 'call for' (or presuppose) libertarianism.

A second point is that the desire-belief characterisation of action (of the type favoured by Davidson and the early Grice) has to accomodate for the fact that we need freedom which is strong. In Grice's words: "Strong freedom ensures that some actions are represented as directed to ends which are not merely mine, but which are also FREELY ADOPTED or pursued by me." He was previously discussing the case of the gym instructor, "Raise your left arm!" which may relate!). The serious point then involves this 'free adoption' or 'free pursuit'. Note Grice's use of 'personal-identitity' pronouns: 'not merely mine'. It should connect with what Aristotle said of actions as being 'up to me' (and Kant's idea of the transcendental ego). A will can be mine in a sense like Kant's 'liberum arbitrium': a low-level desire which is circumstantial. A 'weak freedom' then would satisfactorily account for action as directed to an end which is mine. A 'strong freedom', and a strong freedom only, would account for action as directed to an end which is mine, but, unlike, say, some circumstantial desire which may have sprung out of some circumstantial adaptability to a given scenario, is, first, FREELY adopted by me, and second FREELY pursued by me. The use of the disjunctive particle 'or' in the above is of some interest. Grice seems to be suggesting that unless you have adopted an end freely you are not pursuing it freely (in this strong connotation that 'free' sometimes has).

A third point then introduces 'causal indeterminism'. Grice writes: "Any attempt to remedy this situation by resorting to the introduction of (a) CHANCE or (b) causal INDETERMINATION will only infuriate the scientist without aiding the moral philosopher". The remark has to be understood casually. For, as it can be shown, many scientists have resorted to precisely that introduction and in any case have not self-infuriated. The professional tag that is connoted by 'the moral philosopher' should also be seen as best implicated than entailed. A scientist who does resort to the introduction of indeterminism, say, may be eo ipso putting forward a serious consideration regarding moral theory as such. In other words, a cursory examination of the views of scientists like Eddington or moral philosophers like Kane should be born in mind when considering this third point by Grice. His reference to 'chance' should best be understood vis-a-vis Aristotle's emphasis on 'tykhe' and some things happen just 'by accident', which should also open a can of worms for the naive Griceian (but not the sophisticated one).

A fourth point or item in Grice's shopping list involves the idea of value. "The precise nature of 'strong' freedom ..." turns out to consist, we hope, in 'the idea of action as the outcome of a certain kind of 'strong' valuation' -- where this strong valuation "would include the rational selection [as per, say, rational decision theory --] of ultimate ENDS." What Grice elsewhere calls outweighed or extrinsically weighed rationality,where it's the end that is rational, not the means towards the end ("Probability, desirability, and mood operators").

For the record, there is a different line, which Grice also pursues. "Action (full human action) calls for the presence ... of reasons ... which require that the actions for which they account should be the outcome of strong rational valuation." Both lines, Grice notes, "suggest that action requires both strong freedom and strong valuation."

Grice then sets to consider how to adapt the desire-belief psychology to reach these goals. "In the case of ultimate ends," Grice writes (p. 35), "justification should be thought of as lying (directly, at least) in some outcome not of their FULFILMENT but rather of their PRESENCE-AS-ENDS." This may relate to his Kantian views on the good will (and the evil will). Grice had considered actions like 'giving Jones a job', by Smith. He was arguing that, in his idiolect, Smith may be deemed to have given Jones a job, whether or not Jones "actually gets the job". In a more general fashion then, it's the presence of an end (of a given action) that provides the justification of the end, and not its mere fulfilment.

A second point involves: "My having such and such an end, E1, or such and such a combination of ends [E1 and E2], would be justified by showing that my having this end, ... will exhibit some desirable feature (... that the combo will be harmonious -- [for how can one combine one's desire to smoke with one's desire to lead a healthy life?]". Harmony is one of the six or so requirements for a 'happy life' -- essay on "happiness" in "Conception of Value".

A third point involves "the desire-belief psychology" as being "back in business at a higher level". "The suggestions would involve an appeal, in the justification of ends, to HIGHER-ORDER ends which would be realised by having first-order ends, or lower-order ends of a certain sort. Such valuation of lower-order ends lie within reach of the desire-belief psychology." Grice has an important caveat at this point: "The higher-order ends involved in the defense would themselves stand in need of justification, and the regress ... might well turn out to be vicious" -- here one is recalled of Watson's further requirements to things like freedom and personal identity to overcome the alleged counterexamples to freewill provided by Harry Frankfurt.

It is after the laying of a shopping list, as it were, and considerations such as those above that Grice concludes his "Actions and Events" with a defense of noumenalism, complete with the inner conflict that it brings. "So, attention to the idea of freedom may lead us to the need to resolve OR DISSOLVE the most important unsolved problem of philosophy. Namely: how we can be at the same time members both of the phenomenal and the noumenal world". "Or, "to put the issue less cryptically, to settle the internal conflict between one part of our rational nature -- the SCIENTIFIC part which calls or seems to call for the universal reign of deterministic law and the OTHER part which insists that not merely MORAL RESPONSIBILITY but EVERY variety of rational belief demands exemption from just such a reign." (p. 35).

The intermediate paragraphs above are very interesting for their remarks about "desire-belief psychology." Besides his nonsensical demons in the Frankfurt cases, Harry Frankfurt is famous for second-order and maybe higher-order desires.

J.L.Speranza provided an account of Grice's eight levels of pirots, from Grice's Method in Philosophical Psychology.

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