Is not good communication about saying the right things and asking the right questions?

In Sperber and Wilson’s Relevance (ISBN9780631198789) they quote the following in discussing the idea of mutual knowledge:

On Wednesday morning Ann and Bob read the early edition of the newspaper, and they discuss the fact that its says that A Day at the Races is showing that night at the Roxy. When the late edition arrives, Bob reads the movie section, notes that the film has been corrected to Monkey Business, and circles it with his red pen. Later, Ann picks up the late edition, notes the correction, and recognises Bob’s circle around it. She also realises that Bob has no way of knowing that she has seen the late edition. Later that day Ann sees Bob and asks, ‘Have you seen the movie showing at the Roxy tonight?’ (Clark and Marshall 1981: 13)

Here are the facts in the order of action:

  1. they both saw the morning edition of the newspaper
  2. they have discussed the movie showing that night
  3. Bob knows the movie has changed and circled it in the late edition newspaper
  4. Ann saw the circled changed movie name in Bob’s absence
  5. Ann knows Bob does not know she saw the late edition newspaper in which Bob circled the changed title being screened
  6. She asks, ‘Have you seen the movie showing at the Roxy tonight?’

To be honest, if Ann had been a good communicator would she not just have added an extra statement, ‘I saw the movie showing now is Monkey Business. Have you seen it?’

Was there any reason not to say she knows the newspaper listing has been corrected? Is there a reason why Ann decided not to acknowledge her own knowledge of the change with a simple statement?

The idea that sparsity of language equates to efficiency of language is wrong. Perhaps in poetry economy is valued. But in normal everyday communication such checks can be done without much disturbance to efficiency. In fact adding the extra statement may help in avoiding any misunderstanding.

And why would not Bob confirm with her that they are talking about the same movie? Why not just reply, ‘You mean Monkey Business? No, I haven’t’. That would save Ann, Bob, the authors – Sperber and Wilson – and us readers a lot of grief and pain.

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8 responses to “Is not good communication about saying the right things and asking the right questions?”

  1. I disagree. Rather, only in a particular context do I agree. Because mind itself is just another phenomenal aspect.

    But then again, I suppose if we are talking about how we know in the context that the word “how“ already involves a reduction to some ground, then I suppose “mind“ is a pretty good start. But the problem then becomes all the stuff they’ve been talking about for 200 years which we already know the end result of that position: nothing. So to me, to begin with mind ends in nothing, and that I say are the defining parameters of the thing in itself that we called the human being. The object called the human being exists within the parameters of mind and nothing. In one sense this means that anything that starts with a centrality or a ground of mind is incorrect. Any method that begins with an assumption of mind will inherently lead to incorrect conclusions. Because ultimately it means that there is no ground. Kind a like what I was saying earlier: that the ground just becomes another speculation who’s basis is really just nothing. And I don’t think this is good for the human being.

    So when I speak of the object of the human being, or I refer to philosophy only referring to itself, Innoway I am referring to a dysfunction. I am referring to an object that functions incorrectly. But the thing that we see everywhere is that even people who are obviously dysfunctional still see themselves as operating functionally and properly.

    And again so I say that this space where objects interact, have relation and sense, is reality.

    And just the way in the same way that someone who is in sane cannot conceive nor perceive themselves as in sane, the phenomenally centralized thinking subject which begins at the mind simply will not re-admit that what it is coming across is incorrect or manifesting as dysfunction .

    and if I can get a little more poignant, I see this as the problem with philosophy is that first it is unable to be honest with itself because it understands itself in the context of an absolute knowledge. This is to say that it sees the reflection of itself as “divinely inspired”. Begin with mind and try to move to what is physical, then he’s really just relying upon a “divinely inspired“ apprehension of what is physical.

    So really I’m kind of more a non-philosopher because I take as the object of my analysis philosophy itself.

    And as I talk about in my book, generally speaking philosophers most philosophers will not admit that philosophy can be contained or described as an object to be analyzed. Because, as you say, most philosophers see philosophy as a universal process of the mind.

    I see philosophy as an object of analysis.

    So I don’t really know if that makes any sense. But maybe we can take a break and let that roll around a little bit and I’ll try to wrap my head around more of what your blog posts talk about.


  2. But since we are here on this point about relevance, whether a mind, self, soul or spirit is relevant to ontology. Certainly it is relevant to epistemology. But from a purely ontological position, life or no life has no bearing on what exists … that is until we posit a mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “If people communicated “rationally”. I don’t think humanity would still exist. 🙂”

    I agree.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Haha.

    I did literature. And I have yet to speak of my position on language, to which I am trying to get to after getting through these first principles.


  5. I mean have you read Hemingway ? I think what is so profound about his writing is that he communicates clear truths through not once have to describe or be explicit in a conventional sense about what is being communicated. His stories are filled with examples similar to yours here. If people communicated “rationally”. I don’t think humanity would still exist. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Perhaps there is a component of efficiency that is being missed: perhaps they were being very efficient in communicating their love and devotion for each other. And they were being exact and intensional about their use of language.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Everything counts. Usage will remove what is not necessary. Valuable is some redundancy, which really means it is not redundant. ;)


  8. Yes. And (valuable) redundancy is built into the grammar (especially syntax) of language itself.

    Liked by 1 person

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