Friday, June 19, 2009

Em Dash to the Rescue

Huffington Posts's transcription of G.W.'s June 17 swipe at Obama:

I told you I'm not going to criticize my successor . . . . I'll just tell you that there are people at Gitmo that will kill American people at a drop of a hat and I don't believe that persuasion isn't going to work. Therapy isn't going to cause terrorists to change their mind.

The Washintgon Times's transcription of G. W.'s June 17 swipe at Obama:

I told you I'm not going to criticize my successor . . . . I'll just tell you that there are people at Gitmo that will kill American people at a drop of a hat and I don't believe that-- persuasion isn't going to work. Therapy isn't going to cause terrorists to change their mind.

Principle of Charity?

10 comments:

PA said...

Am I wrong or does the Washington Times "transcription" commit GWB to a version of Moore's Paradox? A strange kind charity.

Anonymous said...

PA,
No. GWB is not asserting "P" and "I don't believe that P," He is asserting "I will tell you P" and "I don't believe that P."

Clayton said...

I'll tell you that dogs bark but I don't believe they do.

Sounds like a version of Moore's Paradox to me.

Spiros said...

Not a MP. I also think the transcript should be rendered:

"I'll just tell you that there are people at Gitmo that will kill American people at a drop of a hat and I don't believe that.... Persuasion isn't going to work."

The "that" does not refer to the content in the preceding clause; it's rather an introduction of a new clause which was abandoned.

PA said...

What about a Davidsonian rendering as in,

"... I don't believe that. Persuasion isn't going to work,"

with samesaying replaced by an analogous relation between beliefs and utterances?

Of course, this still leaves GWB saying the opposite of what he intended, but it does have a certain niftiness.

English Jerk said...

The initial transcription is also ambiguous in a way that the actual utterance can't have been, since the utterance would surely have been phonologically disambiguated. Normally the demonstrative pronoun "that" would receive contrastive stress in this context, whereas the complementizer "that" would have been unstressed (its ash vowel would have reduced to schwa). In other words, it's the difference between "I didn't mean that!" and "I didn't mean that the sky is blue": the vowel in the former sounds like the vowel in "fat" whereas the vowel in the latter sounds like the first vowel in "about."

Of course, this doesn't make GWB less of a moron, any more than it makes BO less of a reactionary mass-murderer.

Anonymous said...

If only that were all! What about "Therapy isn't going to cause terrorists to change their mind"? Innocent grammatical mistake, or does G.W. believe terrorism has one overarching consciousness?

PA said...

Anon 5:17

Couldn't (or shouldn't) the "I will tell you" in "I will tell you P" be understood along the lines of "I promise" in "I promise P", that is, as a force indicating device rather than part of the content of an assertion?

Neil said...

Can we all uphold the Philosopher's Anonymous tradition and take the post as an occasion to abuse each other and Spiros? I'll start: English Jerk, you have atrocious taste in hats.

English Jerk said...

Neil:

Wouldn't we need to have that Anonymous around to play that game? Sounds tiresome to me.

One thing I like about philosophers is that usually they make arguments and don't take counter-arguments personally (both rare in my field, alas). And that seems to me like a tradition worth upholding.

Also, my hat's staying put, whether you like it or not: I need it to guard my pate against the the lumen naturale.