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THEORY: Are commands to believe infelicitous?

From:Tom Chappell <tomhchappell@...>
Date:Thursday, May 26, 2005, 0:52
Hi y'all.

Some of you might be familiar with Grice, with Speech Act Theory,
and/or with Pragmatics.

Some acts of speech may be felicitous, or infelicitous, depending on
whether or not, or which or how many of, certain "felicity
conditions" are satisfied.

For instance "I now pronounce you man and wife", in the current
United States of America, is not felicitous if said by a drunk to a
dead dog and a broken bicycle.  It is felicitous if said by a duly
licensed justice of the peace to a couple with a proper marriage
license who intend to marry each other and who are not married to
anyone else.

Imperatives are usually not felicitous if they cannot be obeyed.  If
one person commands another to turn green immediately, this is not
felicitous, because people cannot change color so fast or so
drastically, and green is not one of the colors people can change to.
Even commanding a chameleon to turn green may be considered
infelicitous, because a chameleon's chromatophores are under
unconscious, not conscious, control.

I propose that any imperative form of the verb "to believe" is
infelicitous unless spoken to a computer.  I propose that natural
humans cannot consciously choose whether or not to believe certain
propositions in the face of evidence to the contrary, nor in the
absence of evidence in favor.

Does anyone know of various ways various languages have handled
different versions of ideas similar to "to choose to believe"?
Perhaps by different voices (middle voice maybe), different moods,
or just different verbs?

How is the commandment to believe, and/or the choice to believe,
handled in various languages?  How SHOULD it be handled in a conlang?


Thanks for any ideas.
Tom H.C. in OK

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