The Dennes Room

Event Detail

Thu Feb 2, 2012
Howison Library, 4–6 PM
Philosophy Colloquium
Daniel Rothschild (Oxford University)
From Implicature to Convention

Paul Grice’s analysis of conversational implicatures is a success story of 20th-century philosophy of language. I discuss the derivation of some extremely simple implicatures, known as scalar implicatures, and show that the Gricean story has certain hidden assumptions that make it less appealing than it appears at first. I then argue that in one simple case, that of a two-point scale, the derivation of the relevant implicature can work on very lean rationality assumptions without recourse to some of the Gricean maxims. I show that, surprisingly, this derivation breaks down in the case of a three-point scale. Then, I discuss non-linguistic analogues of the strategic situation faced in conversation. I finish by suggesting how the game-theoretic approach to communication, pioneered by David Lewis in Convention (1969), might help us understand the structure of Gricean implicatures.