Carlo Penco Inferential Responsibility Since Grice's work many scholars, even in the field of jurisprudence, have begun

to give more and more space to the understanding of the so-called "implicit" aspect of language and communication. It is worth noting that the origin of the discussion in Grice concerns the problem of giving an assessment of logical rules in everyday conversation. It is therefore reasonable to trace the main origin of the discussion in the debate about language and logic which opened the field of discussions in philosophy of language where Grice's remarks could grow. We need then to go back to the origin of contemporary mathematical logic, to Frege's main ideas. I will present two main Fregean tenets in philosophy of language and logic and indicate two main problems connected with these tenets. I will then describe how these two problems are re-stated and faced, respectively, by Grice and Brandom. Given this background I will then try to give a definition of a new concept, that is the concept of "inferential responsibility", which is the result of the discussion of the problems derived by the Fregean tenets discussed at the beginning of the paper. 1. Fregean tenets on inference and two problems In his early work on logic, often referred to as the principal work on logic since the Analytics of Aristotle, Frege delivers a terrible blow to all traditional logic by declaring that the relation between subject and predicate has no relevance in logic. Logic deals with judgements (that is assertions) and "the only thing that is relevant in a judgement is that which influences its possible consequences. Everything that is necessary for a valid inference is fully expressed; but what is not necessary is mostly not even indicated; nothing is left to guessing." [Frege, Begriffsschrift, §3] The example given by Frege to ground this conclusion derives from a comparison of the following two sentences: a) “At Platea the Greeks defeated the Persians” b) “At Platea the Persians were defeated by the Greeks” Frege notes that, even if they have different subjects, the conclusions that can be drawn from the first (when combined with certain others) also always follow from the second (when combined with the same judgements). Therefore the subject-predicate distinction is not relevant to what is fundamental for logic, that is logical consequence. This argument is considered as a possible definition of the sense of a sentence: the sense of a sentence is its "inferential potential" (a term which is not to be found in Frege's texts, but in the literature about Frege). In fact to speak of sentences with the same sense I need a criterion of identity of senses; and the criterion is identified with the ability to produce the same consequences in a chain of reasoning. Given collateral premises, from both a) and b) many consequences follow, such as the better prospect of success for the Greeks, the difficulties of the Persians, the end of a period of war, and so on. Here we have two problems: (i) there is apparently some difference between the two sentences; how could we explain that difference? (ii) apparently this

Here another example is given by Frege in his 1887 “Logic”1: a) “this dog barked the whole night” b) “this cur barked the whole night” Might we say that there is a small difference in sense? Certainly yes." If even a great mathematician cannot be said to master completely the sense of a theorem. in a later paper of 1914 (“Logic in Mathematics”) Frege remarks that "…Chains of inferences are formed connecting truths. there is something that is not explicitly asserted. We have therefore at least two levels of sense as inferential potential: what can be derived from what is explicitly asserted and what can be derived from what is not asserted. He does not say what it is. a complete mastery of the meaning of a sentences therefore seems impossible. but suggested by the term "cur". In communication we "have to make a distinction between the thoughts that are expressed and those which the speaker leads others to take as true although he does not express them". but he clarifies that the two sentences may have different effects on the audience. but suggested by the peculiar grammar and lexicon of the sentence. (i) a small difference in sense? Frege recognizes that there is a "small difference in sense" between the two sentences. that a dog barked and. and the further the science develops the longer and more numerous become the chains of inference and the greater the diversity of the theorems" and concludes that "there is no limit to the number of steps forward we can take. We can therefore attribute to Frege a clear distinction between what is said (what is asserted as true) and what is communicated. . however. Here Frege is not so clear. Let us see how Frege treats the two problems. that he had a bad effect on the sleep of people nearby.conception of sense makes the sense of a sentence something unattainable by a human (how could we follow all the possible inferences derivable from a sentence?). This happens everywhere. with collateral assumptions. This further claim is not asserted. but somehow suggested by the use of different lexical items or grammatical construction (as in the difference of active and passive construction given in the example before). What can be derived by the contents of the two assertions is the same. perhaps suggesting a different order in the derivation of the inferences. because what it is necessary for a valid inference must be "fully expressed". which is "pejorative" and suggests that the speaker has a poor opinion of the dog. even in the most abstract fields of thought. However. and inferred by pragmatic rules. in later works. and so on. Frege remarks that the clear cut difference between what is asserted and what is not asserted does not avoid the problem of individuating in communication what is not asserted. what can we say of a normal person's understanding of the sense of a sentence? We are bound to say that we understand the sense of what we say only partially and in a very 1 1887. (ii) limited understanding Chains of inferences which can derived from a sentence together with possible collateral assumptions are infinite. all references to Frege’s works are quoted from Frege 1997. but can be derived from the way in which sentence b) is constructed (or by the difference in tone in which the word "dog" is pronounced).

and a set of rules of conversation .starting from what is said. at least given our computational capacity.Even if we have to distinguish between what is explicitly asserted and what is only suggested. Why.permits the derivation of what is implicitly communicated. Passionate platonist as he was. already discussed in Frege. We will have a look first at one and then the other. humans can only try to get the best they can. the idea of conversational implicature. but suggested implicitly. to what point are we committed to what we do not assert and only suggest? Once we realize the difference between what is explicitly asserted and what is derived implicitly by what is expressed we are led to consider the way others may interpret not only the content of our assertions. What is communicated is often not asserted explicitly. the context. (ii) PCC: PROBLEM OF THE COMMITMENT TO CONSEQUENCES . This analysis of the rules of conversation (following a general principle of cooperation in dialogue) permits a partial answer to the first problem Conversational implicatures . Gricean solution to the problem of the difference between saying and communicating Grice's stance is very well known in pragmatics: we have to distinguish what is said from what is communicated. following the distinction between semantic meaning and speaker's meaning.Given that we cannot follow all the consequences of our assertions. Frege realized before other scholars the idea of limited understanding. the first given by Grice and the second by Brandom. but infinitary power is not in the capacity of humans. perhaps. God might perhaps follow all the possible inferences from a sentence. Grice accepts a traditional distinction between explicit and implicit. This step goes beyond Frege's analysis. define a concept of sense so unattainable for humans? Frege is a very passionate "platonist" and does not appear to care about human limitations.with its conventional meaning accepted by the linguistic community . expressed but not asserted. Speaker's and semantic meaning do not always coincide. given their limitations. and develops a further idea. So far. The innovation of Grice 1975 lies in the elaboration of a system of rules which permit an understanding (or explanation) of the way in which what is communicated is derived from what is expressed. 2. this is no different from the Fregean stance.we mean something else. logic. that is a kind of calculable set of rules which . will deal with what we are unable to. what is relevant is truth and logical consequence. to what point are we bound to recognize or accept the consequences of what we say (and of what we implicitly communicate)? There are two standard answers to these problems in the philosophical literature.derivation from what is said plus rules of . but also the content of what is left to be derived. then.limited manner. which counts as something which is implicitly suggested. sometimes in saying one thing . (iii)Two problems It is time now to see how these tenets provoke two problems which contemporary philosophers are dealing with: (i) PCI: PROBLEM OF THE COMMITMENT TO THE IMPLICIT .

it is reasonable to assume that: (iv) there is a period of time beyond which what is implicated . and for the first time .conceals at least two questions: (v) when can a person be held responsible for unexpected implicatures of his assertions? (vi) when must what is implicated be explicitly rejected to avoid undesired implicatures? Questions (v) and (vi) concern a requirement of cancellation. I cannot be held responsible for any implicatures people may derive from what I say. even if the speaker is not .if not cancelled . On the one hand we have the intention to communicate some content of thought. Therefore. This general conclusion given as assertion actually . however. There is always a first time for a Pope.although she should be . Grice's implicature is just a specific instance of the more general problem of inferential responsibility. following the felicity conditions given above. when I am considered responsible for implicatures derived from what I say.through his secretary . a general implicature was that the Pope was against Muslim world. Discussions on implicatures in legal matters have been a promising field of common research between philosophers and lawyers. But there is also the side of the hearer. My point here is that "good" conversational implicatures are submitted to certain general principles or . Be it intentional or not. because they are not the consequences of what is explicitly asserted.are calculable and cancellable.at the moment . However. where politicians are often compelled to explicitly reject what is derived from the content implicitly suggested by their assertions. but are applied to what is asserted plus the context and the rules of conversation to infer what is implicitly suggested. common ground…) (ii) the speaker should take into account the point of view of the hearer (iii) the speaker should check which implicatures have been derived from her assertions Here. within a very short period of time (two-three days). their calculability and cancellability (check) has suggested a most elegant manner of framing the problem of inferential responsibility. we encounter our topic: inferential responsibility. then the cancellation should arrive quickly. Given (i)-(iii). A prototypical example in public affairs involves the implicatures derived from a speech given by the Catholic Pope quoting a sentence which was critical towards Mohammed. Implicatures are different from normal derivation. we have the problem of defining the responsibility people have concerning the implicatures derived by others from their assertions. One side of the problem concerns the . Grice's idea of implicatures. for the first time. Even if the Pope did not assert anything against Mohamed.conversation in context .the Pope explicitly cancelled the implicature. on the other we have general objective rules and a shared context which permit the hearer to derive implicatures. Grice insisted on the analysis of the "intention" of the speaker in communicating her intention through implicatures.to borrow a term from Austin "felicity conditions": (i) the speaker should be conscious of the inferential environment (shared presuppositions.always aware of their possibility. an implicature is objectively derivable from the context and the rules of conversation.is intended as accepted This topic is of real importance in public discourse.

limitation of information regarding presuppositions shared in the context in which we perform our speech acts. as a specification of PCI. while commitment is a normative status which is partially independent of our human capacity. Understanding is a human capacity bound to our resource and computational capability. even if aspects of nonmonotonicity can be accounted for in peculiar situations). and to answer questions on the consequences of the assertion. no assertion or other speech act appears in a void. Commitment is a normative attitude. even if we are not always conscious of those consequences.Undestanding as human capacity is bound under different human limitations: in general. Even though some cognitive results may come from the great amount of work done in Relevance Theory (Sperber and Wilson 19XX). but is socially presupposed. and speech acts are always understood in local contexts together with collateral assumptions. Summarizing: . an assertion is a well formed speech act if the person performing the assertion satisfies the following two conditions: (i) the speaker must be entitled to make the assertion. commitment is not necessarily "conscious".indirect inferences derived through conversational implicatures. In fact. we are committed to what our assertion objectively implies. in fact. . I think we may find more help in clarifying our problem in Brandom's inferential semantics and pragmatics and in its normative character. there is a contrast between Brandom's notion of commitment and his notion of understanding. limitation of computational capacities and. We cannot grasp all the consequences of our assertions because we cannot be aware of all the possible consequences (both explicit consequences and conversational implicatures) accessible to our listeners. expecially given collateral assumptions. with both of them falling under the general problem of inferential responsibility. that is she has to possess some justification for it. the other side concerns the second problem devised above (PCC). There is however a peculiar version of the PCC problem above. From this point of view understanding the sense of a sentence amounts to the capacity to answer questions on what justifies an assertion of the sentence. 3. is always a potential collateral agreement which should be taken into account. Therefore there is a split between the notion of objective commitment and the notion of understanding. Brandom's suggestion on the boundaries of inferential commitment Brandom's view of assertion can be considered as a specification of the felicity conditions for the utterance of an assertion.Commitment as a normative status binds people to (a) hold as true the theoretical consequences of their assertions and (b) recognize the practical consequences to be performed . If understanding implies awareness of the consequences. together with collateral assumptions. (ii) the speaker must be committed to accepting the consequences which logically follow from her utterance (assuming then that the consequences are closed under the relation of logical consequence. But no one is able to follow all the consequences of her assertions. The main problem derives from the fact that what is not said. more simply. there is always a context of presupposition.

Certainly. the problem we have called PCC is the most general problem which prompts the question about inferential responsibility. and of the definition of entitlement and commitment as felicity conditions of our speech acts. Brandom's intuition is that we are responsible for what can be derived from our assertions and other speech acts given collateral assumptions2. PCI. the inferential potential of an utterance (an assertion. But we might also think that we are not only normatively compelled to accept the consequences of our assertions. but we should provide some restrictions regarding what can be reasonably foreseen. Task responsibility is the ability to answer3 about (demonstrate? Justify? Authorize?)entitlements. but also to foresee them. Ultimately.If we adhere to a strict holistic view of language and meaning as in Brandom 1994. but also to the commitments. is just a peculiar case of a general vision of meaning as inferential potential. We obviously cannot ask for a future reading. given that "respondere" in latin means "to answer" . Inferential responsibility: attempted definition There is a specific contribution given by Brandom on the concept of responsibility: his peculiar definition of "task responsibility". which can be reframed in the following way: given limited knowledge of the inferential surroundings of our assertions and probable collateral shared commitments: when and how can we be considered responsible for the theoretical and practical consequences of what we say? 4. entitlement. as Brandom says. or Grices' problem of accepting implicatures derived by listeners. [explain or give quotation in footnote] Strangely enough. consequently. We might say that a person is inferentially responsible if she foresees what may be 2 Following what is called Bentham's intuition: we are responsible for what we obliquely intend (for more than appears) 3 Responsibility is even etimologically "ability to answer". But we are bound to answer not only to the entitlements of our speech act. in the following situation: unexpressed collateral assumptions belong to the context of utterance. We may then give a first definition of inferential responsibility as follows: (i) task responsibility: ability to answer about(demonstrate?) entitlements or justifications of assertions (ii) foresight responsibility: ability to foresee the possible consequences of assertions What interests us is the second form of responsibility. But collateral assumptions are a short way of including both inferences from explicit contents of assertions and inferences from implicit content (conversational implicatures). Brandom speaks about only one of the two kinds of his "normative" aspects. we find ourselves. for instance) is given by the set of all possible inferences derivable from that assertion together with collateral assumptions. we are bound to accept the consequences of our assertions.

Actual R: we are actually responsible for any consequence actually taken from our assertions (or other speech acts) 2. supermarkets…). The problem obviously is what we can mean by "reasonably". but easy to devise at an intuitive level. Starting from here we might define context dependent inferential responsibility defining in such a way boundaries for possibile collateral assumptions. internet…). A certain amount of vagueness is unavoidable. before asserting something relevant in a context. When reasonability is at stake we have to deal with common agreement and experts. I suggest an attempted classification of different levels and kinds of inferential responsibility. 4 . This means that we can take into account the inferential environment.in few steps . friends. to begin with some elementary distinctions among Public spaces (television. without a basic knowledge of shared presupposition assertions undesired and unexpected consequences and implicatures may be provoked. Inferential responsibility is a requirement concerning the omission in detecting possible and reasonable consequences of assertions in context. The term responsibility remains too vague until some clarification of the levels of responsibility is provided. …). we cannot define a priori "how many steps?" of the exact list of presupposed sentences in a context. So far we have the indication of some requirements about the concept of inferential responsibility: Basic Requirements: Foresight requirement: an inferentially responsible person is committed to look for some level of understanding of the sense of what said (its inference potential). the common ground of shared presuppositions of the audience4. Moral R: we are morally responsible for any consequence we should foresee given location+time+audience 3.…). Educational spaces (school. following an intuitive division among actual. a responsible person should devise the main inference which can be reasonably derived from her assertion in context. training.from an assertion together with the presuppositions shared among the audience of the utterance in the given context. Reasonability requirement: an inferentially responsible person should be aware of her cognitive context.reasonably derived from her assertion and from collateral assumptions given in the context of reception. A basic understanding of the reasonable consequences of assertions implies a basic knowledge of the inferential environment of the assertion. Private spaces (home. Legal R: we are legally responsible for any consequence we actually foresee given location+time+audience 4. moral and legal responsibility concerning the consequences of our speech acts: 1. Legal R: we are legally responsible of any consequence we intend to provoke given location+time+audience As it is easy to note I have distinguished two levels of legal An assessment of kinds of context where an assertion (or other speech act) is performed is theoretically difficult. Local spaces (bar. A first approximation can be that a person is inferentially responsible if she can foresee what can be derived .

(4158). Harvard U. Blackwell. Academic Press. New York 1975. Our ignorance cannot be an excuse in case of unexpected consequences of our assertion. pp.P. Nebert.responsibility. the consequences of our assertion. in Cole Morgan (a cura di) Syntax and Semantics. Transl. inferential responsibility requires emendation. Communication and cognition. eine der arithmetischen nachgebildete Formelsprache des reinen Denkens. . Oxford. Engl. 1989 Studies in the Ways of Words.. Sperber D.3. 1986. 1998 "Intention and Foresight in the British Law of Murder" in Sorites. Irvin W. – Wilson D. 1975 "Logic and Conversation".. G. Bibliography Frege. Oxford. Begriffsschrift. 1879. Cambridge (Mass. reprinted in Grice H. Frege G. There is great debate concerning the relation between foresight and intention (see for instance Irvin 1998). 9. Relevance. Blackwell.P. distinguishing between foresight and intention. vol. 1997. Halle.P. The point of my paper is to point out an idea of responsibility for what we often do not foresee.) Grice H. edited by Michael Beaney. 1994 Making it Explicit.P.). In dubious cases.6-15. Harvard U. G. Brandom R. Cambridge (Mass. I just want to hint at the problem here. The Frege Reader. 1897 Frege.

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