Going Dennettian about Gricean communication

Publication Name

Philosophical Psychology


Grice’s analysis of human communication has proven to be highly influential among many philosophers and cognitive scientists, both past and present. At the same time, it has long been recognized that his analysis faces some difficult objections. In particular, a number of theorists have objected to the account Grice provides of the mental states and processes of those engaged in communication. For these theorists, communication as conceived of by Grice has seemed too mentally demanding and complex to be a good general model of human communication. In this article, I consider this challenge afresh from the perspective of Dan Dennett’s intentional stance theory. More specifically, I consider some recent remarks Dennett has made in this area, seeking to pin down and clarify his view. I then argue that while Dennett’s thinking is on the right track, his view stands in need of both a substantive adjustment and more positive detail. I seek to provide such improvements here. Finally, I consider some of the implications of this improved Dennettian account of Gricean communication for how great ape and human communication are related.

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