Paul Grice:
ASPECTS OF REASON (Oxford Univ Press, 2001)

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This book collects the John Locke lectures of 1979, that Paul Grice continued to refine until his death in 1988. Here Paul Grice tackled the issue of reasoning, a brand new topic for him, who remains mainly famous for his speech theories. Alas, he did so in his usual, unnecessarily complicated, inexact and redundant lingo. One feels sorry for the students who had to listen to these lectures.

To start with, Grice debates the concepts of "reason", "reasons", "reasoning", "reasonable" and "rational", which of course largely depends on the English language, and ends up sounding like a poor man's version of mathematical Logic. It never occurs to him that this could simply be words that, in the English language, happen to derive from the same linguistic root, just like "table" and "tablature".

Grice identifies three kinds of "reasons": justificatoy, explanatory and justificatoy-explanatory, but then sows that the first one lies at the heart of the others, so the other two can be conveniently ignored. Justificatory reasons are either alethic (reasons for belief) or practical (reasons for action), just like one can divide epistemic necessity (e.g., water must freeze at freezing temperature) from practical necessity (e.g., a student must study very hard). His "equivocality thesis" is kind of cryptic, but seems to suggest that the meaning of the two kinds of reasoning is the same: an alethic statement entails a practical one.

The only intelligent argument to be found in this book is that reasoning skills vary from person to person. Cleary, Grice's were not very high.

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