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Saul, Jennifer M., , . What is said and psychological reality; Grice’s project and relevance theorists’ criticisms
2002, Linguistics and Philosophy 25 (3):347-372.
Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Thomas Hodgson

Abstract: One of the most important aspects of Grice’s theory of conversation is the drawing of a borderline between what is said and what is implicated. Grice’s views concerning this borderline have been strongly and influentially criticised by relevance theorists. In particular, it has become increasingly widely accepted that Grice’s notion of what is said is too limited, and that pragmatics has a far larger role to play in determining what is said than Grice would have allowed. (See for example Bezuidenhuit 1996; Blakemore 1987; Carston 1991; Recanati 1991, 1993, 2001; Sperber and Wilson 1986; Wilson and Sperber 1981.) In this paper, I argue that the rejection of Grice has moved too swiftly, as a key line of objection which has led to this rejection is flawed. The flaw, we will see, is that relevance theorists rely on a misunderstanding of Grice’s project in his theory of conversation. I am not arguing that Grice’s versions of saying and implicating are right in all details, but simply that certain widespread reasons for rejecting his theory are based on misconceptions.1Relevance theorists, I will suggest, systematically misunderstand Grice by taking him to be engaged in the same project that they are: making sense of the psychological processes by which we interpret utterances. Notions involved with this project will need to be ones that are relevant to the psychology of utterance interpretation. Thus, it is only reasonable that relevance theorists will require that what is said and what is implicated should be psychologically real to the audience. (We will see that this requirement plays a crucial role in their arguments against Grice.) Grice, I will argue, was not pursuing this project. Rather, I will suggest that he was trying to make sense of quite a different notion of what is said: one on which both speaker and audience may be wrong about what is said. On this sort of notion, psychological reality is not a requirement. So objections to Grice based on a requirement of psychological reality will fail. Once Grice’s project and that of relevance theorists are seen as distinct, it will be clear that they can happily coexist.2They are simply discussing different subject matters. One may start to wonder, however, about who is really discussing what is said, a topic that both camps claim. I will not attempt a conclusive answer to this question. But I will suggest that Grice’s view, despite certain shortcomings, has advantages which seem all too often to have gone unnoticed.

Comment: It would make sense to read Grice before engaging with modern reception of his work
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