Triangulation: Davidson, realism and natural kinds

Dialectica 55 (1):29–50 (2001)
Is there a plausible middle position in the debate between realists and constructivists about categories or kinds? Such a position may seem to be contained in the account of triangulation that Donald Davidson develops in recent writings. On this account, the kinds we pick out are determined by an interaction between our shared similarity responses and causal relations between us and things in our environment. So kinds and categories are neither imposed on us by the nature of the world, nor imposed by us on an intrinsically unstructured reality. But the picture derivable from Davidson's account of triangulation can be interpreted in either of two ways. On one interpretation, it collapses into constructivism. On the other, it turns out to be very close to the most plausible versions of realism. It is argued that Davidson's attempts to distinguish his view from Putnam's realism about natural kinds are unsuccessful. So Davidson's account of triangulation does indeed suggest a plausible view of kinds. But that view is a version of traditional realist views, not an alternative to them
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DOI 10.1111/j.1746-8361.2001.tb00205.x
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David Lewis (1984). Putnam's Paradox. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 62 (3):221 – 236.

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