Communication partners don’t always attempt to cooperate. Often, the whole intention of their communication is to deceive.
The work of an important language philosopher has just gained relevance after recent events – a statement that admittedly can’t often be made. Although this is an excellent example of how philosophy can actually help us better understand the world, evidently either philosophers are dropping the ball in getting this word out, or no one has been passing along their attempts. Anyway, it all has to do with this sudden “post fact” world we’ve suddenly found ourselves in. And how there have been so many distortions of the truth lately it’s blurred everyone’s ability to discern truth. And what exactly even is a lie?
With his work, generally developed from the 1940s to 1960s, the English philosopher, Paul Grice rocked the world of academics with his theories on meaning and ordinary language. The previous sentence is actually an example of Grice’s implicature. I didn’t state it, but by adding the words, “of academics” to the phrase “rocked the world,” I implied something beyond the sentence’s literal meaning. By flouting the maxim of quantity, which basically says that if a person is adding more to a statement than seems necessary, he is probably doing so for a reason. This reason is the unsaid implicature of the statement. (My implicature was that only the academic world noticed).
In addition to quantity, Grice also created the maxims of relevance, quality, and manner. If, when speaking, someone uses language that seems irrelevant, or of false quality, or strangely ambiguous, there must be an alternative reason why. Another example is of a previous boss being asked about a job applicant’s previous work flouting the maxim of relevance when claiming the former employee to have “perfect handwriting.” The inference would be that the job applicant is not qualified, since the previous boss failed to follow the maxim of relevance. Continue reading “What Even is a Lie?”