Gricean Communication and Cognitive Development

Philosophical Quarterly 67 (267) (2017)
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On standard readings of Grice, Gricean communication requires (a) possession of a concept of belief, (b) the ability to make complex inferences about others’ goal-directed behaviour, and (c) the ability to entertain fourth order meta-representations. To the extent that these abilities are pre-requisites of Gricean communication they are inconsistent with the view that Gricean communication could play a role in their development. In this paper, I argue that a class of ‘minimally Gricean acts’ satisfy the intentional structure described by Grice, but require none of abilities (a)-(c). As a result, Gricean communicative abilities may indeed contribute to the development of (a)-(c) – in particular, by enabling language development. This conclusion has important implications for our theorising about cognitive development.
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