Philosophy Paul Grice
by
Matthew Benton
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 March 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0257

Introduction

Herbert Paul Grice (b. 1913–d. 1988) was a British philosopher and linguist, and one of the pivotal figures in philosophy during the 20th century. He wrote in many areas of philosophy, including the metaphysics of personal identity, logical paradoxes, the analytic/synthetic distinction, the philosophy of perception, philosophical psychology, ethics, and he wrote on historical figures such as Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, and Kant. But his most significant contributions came in philosophy of language and mind, on meaning, intention, presupposition, conversation, and the theory of communication. Grice argued for an intention-based theory of meaning, and was the first to illustrate the distinction between what came to be called semantic and pragmatic meaning, that is, between what a speaker’s utterance (or its utterance ‘type’) means in the abstract, and what else a speaker can mean by uttering it in a particular context. Grice highlighted this by an appeal to his framework of the Cooperative Principle and its Conversational Maxims, which are plausibly assumed by conversational participants and provide mechanisms for the ways in which speakers can ‘conversationally implicate’ something beyond the literal meaning of what they say, and for how hearers can recover those ‘implicatures.’ Grice’s enduring influence on these topics helped found the burgeoning discipline in philosophy of language and linguistics now known as “pragmatics” (compare the article on “Pragmatics”).

General Overviews

While Chapman 2009 is the only book-length overview of Grice’s life and work, there are several articles and chapter-length treatments: Bach 2011 is succinct and accessible to students, as is Grandy 1989; Neale 1992 is a lengthy, in-depth treatment, particularly of some technical issues; Grandy and Warner 1986 provides an opening introduction of Grice’s work for a festschrift. Grandy and Warner 2013 is also an encyclopedia entry useful for students and nonspecialists. There are also two selective pieces written by Grice near the end of his life (Grice 1986 and Grice 1989).

  • Bach, Kent. “Paul Grice.” In Philosophy of Language: The Key Thinkers. Edited by Barry Lee, 179–198. London: Continuum, 2011.

    E-mail Citation »

    Introduces and explains Grice’s most influential contributions on speaker meaning and conversational implicature, including common misunderstandings of his views. Also offers recommendations for further reading related to Grice’s work.

  • Chapman, Siobhan. Paul Grice: Philosopher and Linguist. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

    E-mail Citation »

    Comprehensive and accessible monograph of Grice’s life and philosophy, the only one of its kind. Draws on Grice’s archives, and provides in-depth discussion of his ideas and their development, situated within the context of the alternative views and methods of his contemporaries. Closes with a chapter on Grice’s on-going influence in linguistics.

  • Grandy, Richard E. “On Grice on Language.” Journal of Philosophy 86 (1989): 514–525.

    E-mail Citation »

    Useful exposition of Grice’s fundamental contributions to philosophy of language. Available online.

  • Grandy, Richard E., and Richard Warner. “Paul Grice: A View of His Work.” In Philosophical Grounds of Rationality: Intentions, Categories, Ends. Edited by Richard E. Grandy and Richard Warner, 1–44. Oxford: Clarendon, 1986.

    E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the systematic nature of Grice’s work, much of which at the time was unpublished. Focuses on Grice’s accounts of meaning, reasoning, psychological explanation, metaphysics, and ethics, topics with which other essays in the volume are concerned.

  • Grandy, Richard E., and Richard Warner. “Paul Grice.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2013.

    E-mail Citation »

    Encyclopedia entry that treats every area of Grice’s work: offers succinct descriptions of Grice’s main ideas and their development, accessible to students and nonspecialists. Also contains a helpful bibliography of secondary sources. Available online.

  • Grice, Paul. “Reply to Richards.” In Philosophical Grounds of Rationality: Intentions, Categories, Ends. Edited by Richard E. Grandy and Richard Warner, 45–106. Oxford: Clarendon, 1986.

    E-mail Citation »

    Grice provides background from his personal life and the development of his philosophical views, and summarizes his opinions on a variety of topics. Also comments specifically on the themes discussed in Grandy and Warner’s overview earlier in the volume.

  • Grice, Paul. “Retrospective Epilogue.” In Studies in the Way of Words. By Paul Grice, 339–385. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989.

    E-mail Citation »

    Grice reflects on the aspects that unify his philosophical ideas and his methodological approach. Includes strands devoted to the philosophy of perception, the analytic/synthetic distinction, the distinctions between conventional and nonconventional meaning and between assertive and nonassertive meaning, parallels between linguistic communication and other rational activities, traditional vs. modern logic, and reference.

  • Neale, Stephen. “Paul Grice and the Philosophy of Language.” Linguistics and Philosophy 15 (1992): 509–559.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF00630629E-mail Citation »

    Provides a lengthy and detailed walk through Grice’s most important work in philosophy of language, using his Studies in the Way of Words (Grice 1989, cited under Works by Grice) as the guide. Along the way, Neale situates the discussion in the context of other views on meaning, reference, intention, implicature, and communication.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.

Purchase an Ebook Version of This Article

Ebooks of the Oxford Bibliographies Online subject articles are available in North America via a number of retailers including Amazon, vitalsource, and more. Simply search on their sites for Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guides and your desired subject article.

If you would like to purchase an eBook article and live outside North America please email onlinemarketing@oup.com to express your interest.

Article

Up

Down