On Davidson and interpretation

Synthese 80 (3):321 - 345 (1989)
Abstract
Davidson''s theory of interpretation, I argue, is vulnerable to a number of significant difficulties, difficulties which can be avoided or resolved by the more Quinean approach which I develop. In Section 1 I note difficulties which apply to T-theories but are avoided by translation manuals. In Section 2 I show how to construct what I call T-manuals, which are like T-theories in requiring Tarskian structure, but like translation manuals in avoiding the difficulties discussed in Section 1. In Section 3 I show that the approach using T-manuals does at least as well as Davidson''s with respect to a number of other concerns of his. In Section 4 I show that it does better than Davidson''s with respect to reporting interpretations, especially where demonstrative utterances are concerned. In Section 5 I argue for (somewhat modified) Quinean empirical constraints, which go with manuals, as superior to the empirical constraints Davidson imposes, which go with T-theories. In Section 6 I show that Davidson is unable to offer an adequate account of what an interpreter knows; and propose a more acceptable theory of language mastery which gives a central role to the requirement that the interpreter''s language usage satisfy the refined and amplified Quinean empirical constraints of Section 5.
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