Wednesday, May 11, 2005

definition of grice

In the post at logicandlanguage about Harman (see previous post here), I found a link to the Philosophical Lexicon, which defines grice thus:

grice, n. Conceptual intricacy.
"His examination of Hume is distinguished by
erudition and grice." Hence, griceful, adj.
and griceless, adj. "An obvious and griceless
polemic." pl. grouse: A multiplicity of
grice, fragmenting into great details, often in reply to
an original grice note.

Harman, inference and implication

Apologies for the long pause. Normal service -- whatever that might be-- is hereby resumed.

The third term is here. No teaching, so I should be dealing with a huge pile of marking and working on my PhD.

Does reading blog posts about the difference between inference and implication count?

Gillian at comments on a point that Gilbert Harman makes in the first chapter of Change in View -- and which has been in the back of my mind all through working on my PhD:

When I was a graduate student at Princeton (many days ago), we used to joke that Gilbert Harman had only three kinds of question for visiting speakers:

  • Aren't you ignoring < insert recent result in psychology >?

  • Aren't you assuming that there is an analytic/synthetic distincton?

  • So you say, < insert one of the speaker's claims >, but isn't that just conflating inference and implication?

...The following claims are ubiquitous and false:

  • Logic is the study of the principles of reasoning.

  • Logic tells you what you should infer from what you already believe.

Each overstates the responsibilities of logic, which is the study of what follows from what - implication relations between interpreted sentences; one can know the implication relations between sentences without knowing how to update one's beliefs.

Suppose, for example, that S believes the content of the sentences A and B, and comes to realise that they logically imply C. Does it follow that she should believe the content of C? No. Here are two counterexamples:

1. Suppose C is a contradiction. Then she should not accept it. What should she do instead? Perhaps give up belief in one of the premises, but which one? Logic does not answer the question - as we know from prolonged study of paradoxes - because logic only speaks of implication relations, not about belief revision.

2. Suppose she already believes not-C. Then she might make her beliefs consistent by giving up one of the premises, or by giving up not-C. Or she might suspend belief in all of the propositions and resolve to investigate the matter further at a later date.

Hence these questions about inference and belief revision - about what she should believe given i) what she already believes and ii) facts about implication - go beyond what logic will decide. That's not to say that logic is never relevant to reasoning or belief revision, but it isn't the science of reasoning and belief revision. It's the science of implication relations.

Convinced? Gil has a short and very clear discussion of this, and the pernicious consequences of ignoring it, in the second section of his new paper (co-authored with Sanjeev Kulkarni) for the Rutger's Epistemology conference.