Grice's Unspeakable Truths

Essays in Philosophy 11 (2):168-180 (2010)
Grice is often taken to have delivered a decisive blow against the tendency on the part of ordinary language philosophers to suspect that the presence of particular circumstances is requisite for philosophically interesting expressions to be in order, even to make sense, when deployed in particular cases. Grice’s attack has three parts. He argues that the presence of those particular circumstances isn’t bound up with the meaning of the expressions in question—the suggestion that those circumstances are present is merely a “conversational implicature”. He offers examples designed to show that utterances of the expressions at issue may be true or false even when the circumstances alleged to be requisite are nowhere to be found. And he identifies what he sees as a collection of rules of conversation the violation of which accounts for the oddity attending those expressions uttered in the absence of the circumstances in question. Here I try to show that each of these parts of Grice’s attack against the ordinary language philosophers fails and that Grice’s blow isn’t decisive at all.
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