The misquoted hippopotamus: saying that (there's a hippopotamus in the
I append below a note on a book on 'reported discourse' from the LINGUIST
It all relates to Grice's 'There's a hippopotamus in the refrigerator', as
mis-recollected (as 'There's a _rhinoceros_ in the refrigerator') by P.
Feyerabend in _For & against method_ (MIT) in a letter to I. Lakatos:
May 31 1971,
Had to participate in an exam last week
with Grice where one of the main things
was a discussion of the sentence 'there was
a rhinoceros in my refrigerator,' which sentence
has been made famous by a guy called Donald Davidson
who seems to study words in Princeton. This almost
made me a rationalist again, but only almost.
The ref. is to Davidson's 'On Saying That' (repr. in _Words and Objections_
and excerpted below). (I owe the refs. to L. M. Tapper). It all concerns
Grice's fine distinctions re: 'saying that' in WOW, p.87ff -- the bit
(opening section) from the 5th William James lecture _not_ published in
_The Journal of Philosophy_ where Grice writes:
"A lot of unanswered questions remain: [e.g.]
reliance ... on a favoured notion of 'saying'
needs to be further elucidated."
Grice then goes on to propose (in that same opening section) a definition
of "saying-that" in terms of "doing something with x"... (And note Grice's
remark re: "troubles about the quoted variable, 'p' will be in direct
speech and so cannot be a quotation of a clause following 'U meant that'").
The question is: would we say that, in the Davidson-Feyerabend example, by
uttering what she does, U says that (or even _means_ that) there's a
hippopotamus in the refrigerator? (It may all be slightly different in
Davidson writes in 'On Saying That':
"An example will help bring out the fact that the
thesis applies not only to translaation between
speakers of conspicuously different languages, but
also to cases nearer home. Let someone say (and now
discourse is direct), 'There's a hippopotamus in
the refrigerator': am I necessarily right in reporting
him as having said that there is a hippopotamus in
the refrigerator? Perhaps; but under questioning he
goes on, 'It's roundish, has a wrinkled skin, does
not mind being touched. It has a pleasant taste,
at least the juice, and it costs a dime. I squeeze
two or three for breakfast.' After some finite amount
of such talk we slip over the line where it is plausible
or even possible to say correctly that he said there
was a hippopotamus in the refrigerator, for it
becomes clear he means something else by at least
some of his words than I do. The simplest hypothesis
so far is that my word 'hippopotamus' no longer
translates his word 'hippopotamus': my word 'orange'
might do better. But in any case, long before we
reach the point where homophonic translation
must be abandoned, charity invites departures.
Hesitation over whether to translate the saying of
another by one or another of various non-synonymous
sentences of mine does not necessarily reflect a lack
of information; it is just that beyond a point there
is no deciding, even in principle, between the view
that the Other has used words as we do nut has more
or less weird beliefs, and the view that we have
translated him is wrong. Torn between the need to
make sense of a speaker's words and the need to make
sense of the pattern of his beliefs, the best we
can do is choose a theory that maximizes agreement.
Surely there is no future in supposing that in
earnestly uttering the words 'There's a hippopotamus
in the refrigerator' the Other has disagreed with
us about what can be in the refrigerator if we
must then find ourselves disagreeing with him
about the size, shape, colour, manufacturer,
horsepower, and wheelbase of hippopotami."
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