Joint attention, triangulation and radical interpretation: A problem and its solution

Dialectica 58 (2):179–206 (2004)
Abstract
By describing the aim of triangulation as locating the object of thoughts and utterances, Davidson has given it the double role of accounting for both the individuation of content and the sense in which content necessarily is public. The focus of this article is on how triangulation may contribute to the individuation of content. I maintain that triangulation may serve to break into the intentional circle of meaning and belief, yet without forcing us to renounce the claims concerning the interdependence of belief and meaning and the irreducibility of meaning. In the first two sections the concept of triangulation is introduced and examined. In the following section, I present a problem for triangulation that takes the form of a dilemma. Triangulation, as Davidson describes it, is either pre-cognitive or propositional. In neither case can it in a satisfactory way determine content. In section 4, I suggest that reconceiving triangulation in terms of joint attention will solve the problem. Joint attention is not a purely causal process, nor does it involve propositional thought. The next section presents an analysis of joint attention, and explains how joint attention may contribute to determine content by paving the way for language entry. Finally, an account is given of how subjects during the process of joint attention may express and understand communicative intentions without engaging in higher-order thought.
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