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[entry, MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences]
GRICE, H. PAUL
GRICE, H. PAUL (1913-1988), English philosopher, is best known for
his contributions to the theory of meaning and communication. This work
(collected in Grice 1989) has had lasting importance for philosophy and
linguistics, with implications for cognitive science generally. His
three most influential contributions concern the nature of communication,
the distinction betwen speaker's meaning and linguistic meaning, and the
phenomenon of conversational implicature.
Grice's concept of speaker's meaning was an ingenious refinement of the
crude idea that communication is a matter of intentionally affecting
another person's psychological states. He discovered that there is a
distinctive, rational means by which the effect is achieved: by way of
getting one's audience to recognize one's intention to achieve it. The
intention includes, as part of its content, that the audience recognize
this very intention by taking into account the fact that they are intended
to recognize it. A communicative intention is thus a self-referential, or
reflexive, intention. It does not involve a series of nested intentions
--the speaker does not have an intention to convey something and a
further intention that the first be recognized, for then this further
intention would require a still further intention that it be recognized,
and so on ad infinitum. Confusing reflexive with iterated intentions,
to which even Grice himself was prone, led to an extensive literature
replete with counterexamples to ever more elaborate characterizations of
the intentions required for genuine communication (see, e.g., Strawson
1964 and Schiffer 1972), and to the spurious objection that it involves
an infinite regress (see Sperber and Wilson 1986, whose own "RELEVANCE"
theory neglects the reflexivity of communicative intentions). Although
the idea of reflexive intentions raises subtle issues (see the exchange
between Recanati 1986 and Bach 1987), it clearly accounts for the
essentially overt character of communicative intentions, namely, that
their fulfillment consists their recognition (by the intended audience).
This idea forms the core of a Gricean approach to the theory of speech
acts, including nonliteral and indirect speech acts (Bach and Harnish
1979). Different types of speech acts (statements, requests, apologies,
etc.) may be distinguished by the type of propositional attitude (belief,
desire, regret etc.) being expressed by the
Grice's distinction between speaker's and linguistic MEANING reflects the
fact that what a speaker means in uttering a sentence freque diverges
from what the sentence itself means. A speaker can mean something other
than what the sentence means, as in "Nature abhors a vacuum," or
something more, as in "Is there a doctor in the house?" Grice invoked
this distinction for two reasons. First, he thought linguistic meaning
could be reduced to (standardized) speaker's meaning. This reductive
view has not gained wide acceptance, because of its extreme complexity
(see Grice 1989, ch. 14 and ch. 6, and Schiffer 1972) and because it
requires the controversial assumption that language is essentially a
vehicle for communicating thoughts and not a medium of thought itself.
Still, many philosophers would at least concede that mental content is a
more fundamental notion than linguistic meaning, and perhaps even that
SEMANTICS reduces to PROPOSITIONAL ATTITUDE psychology.
Grice's other reason for invoking the distinction between speaker's and
linguistic meaning was to combat extravagant claims, made by so-called
"ordinary language" philosophers, about various important philosophical
terms, such as 'believes' or 'looks.' For example, it was sometimes
suggested that believing implies not knowing, because to say, e.g., "I
believe that alcohol is dangerous" is to imply that one does not know
this, or to say "The sky looks blue" is to imply that the sky might not
actually be blue. However, as Grice pointed out, what carries such
implications is not what one is saying but that one is saying it (as opposed
to the stronger 'I know that alcohol is dangerous" or "The sky is
blue). Grice also objected to certain ambiguity claims, e.g., that 'or' has
an exclusive as well as inclusive sense, as in "I would like an apple or
an orange," by pointing out that the use of 'or,' not the word itself, that
carries the implication of exclusivity. Grice's Modified Occam's Razor
("Senses are not to be multiplied beyond necessity") cut back on a
growing conflation of (linguistic) meaning with use, and has since
helped linguists appreciate the importance of separating, so far as
possible, the domains of semantics and PRAGMATICS.
Conversational IMPLICATURE is a case in point. What a speaker implicates
is distinct from what he says and from what his words imply. Saying of
an expensive dinner, "It was edible," implicates that it was mediocre at
best. This simple example illustrates a general phenomenon: a speaker
can say one thing and manage to mean something else or something more
by exploiting the fact that he may be presumed to be cooperative, in
particular, to be speaking truthfully, informatively, relevantly, and
otherwise appropriately. The listener relies on this presumption to make
a contextually driven inference from what the speaker says to what she
means. If taking the utterance at face value is incompatible with this
presumption, one may suppose that she intends one to figure out what she
does mean by searching for an explanation of why
she said what she said.
Although Grice's distinction between what is said and what is implicated
is not exhaustive (for what it omits see Bach 1994), the theoretical
strategy derived from it aims to reduce the burden on semantics and to
explain a wide range of nonsemantic phenomena at an appropriate level of
generality. This strategy has had lasting application to a wide range of
problems in philosophy of language as well as other areas of philosophy,
such as epistemology and ethics, and to various areas of research in
linguistics and computer science, such as the LEXICON, ANAPHORA,
DISCOURSE, and PLANNING. Economy and plausibility of theory require
heeding Grice's distinction between speaker's and linguistic meaning,
and the correlative distinction between speaker's and linguistic
REFERENCE. Rather than overly attribute features to specific linguistic
items, one can proceed on the default assumption that uses of language
can be explained in terms of a core of linguistic meaning together with
general facts about rational communication.
Bach, K., 1987, 'On communicative intentions: A reply to Recanati.'
Mind & Language 2: 141-154.
Bach, K., 1994, 'Conversational impliciture.' Mind & Language 9:
Bach, K. and R. M. Harnish, 1979, *Linguistic Communication and
Speech Acts*. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Grice, P., 1989, *Studies in the Way of Words*. Cambridge, Mass.,
Harvard University Press.
Recanati, F., 1987, 'On defining communicative intentions.' *Mind
& Language* 1: 213-42.
Schiffer, S., 1972, *Meaning*. Oxford: Oxford University
Sperber, D. and D. Wilson, 1986, *Relevance*. Cambridge, Mass:
Harvard University Press.
Strawson, P. F., 1964, 'Intention and convention in speech acts.'
*Philosophical Review* 73: 439-60.
Carston, R., 1988, 'Implicature, explicature, and truth-theoretic
semantics.' In *Mental Representations: The Interface between Language
and Reality*, R. Kempson, ed. Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University
Press. Reprinted in Davis, ed. (1991), pp. 33-51.
Davis, S., ed., 1991, *Pragmatics: A Reader*. Oxford: Oxford University
Grandy, R. and R. Warner, eds., 1986, *Philosophical Grounds of Rationality:
Intentions, Categories, Ends*. Oxford: Oxford University
Harnish, R. M., 1976, 'Logical form and implicature.' In *An Integrated
Theory of Linguistic Ability*, T. Bever, J. Katz, and T. Langendoen,
eds., New York: Crowell. Reprinted in Davis, ed.
(1991), pp. 316-364.
Horn, L., 1984, 'Toward a new taxonomy for pragmatic inference: Q-based
and R-based implicature.' In *Meaning, Form, and Use in Context*,
D. Schiffrin, ed. Washington: Georgetown University
Press, pp. 11-42.
Levinson, S., forthcoming, *Default Meanings: The Theory of Generalized
Lewis, D., 1979. 'Scorekeeping in a language game.' *Journal of
Philosophical Logic* 8: 339-359.
Neale, S. 1992, 'Paul Grice and the philosophy of language.' *Linguistics
and Philosophy* 15: 509-59.
Recanati, F., 1989, 'The pragmatics of what is said.' *Mind & Language*
4: 295-328. Reprinted in Davis, ed. (1991), pp.