Saying that

From: J L Speranza (
Date: Sun Oct 27 2002 - 04:13:15 GMT

  • Next message: mjmurphy: "Re: Saying that"

    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
    List Vol-13-2744.

    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:
                             Berkeley, Calif.
                             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
    Tamil, even).



    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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