David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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International Journal of Philosophical Studies 14 (3):337 – 359 (2006)
According to Donald Davidson, linguistic meaning is determined by the principle of charity. Because of Davidson's semantic behaviourism, charity's significance is both epistemic and metaphysical: charity not only provides the radical interpreter with a method for constructing a semantic theory on the basis of his data, but it does so because it is the principle metaphysically determining meaning. In this paper, I assume that charity does determine meaning. On this assumption, I investigate both its epistemic and metaphysical status: is charity a priori or a posteriori? And what kind of necessity does it have? According to Davidson himself, charity is an a priori truth and its necessity is conceptual: it is essential to, or constitutive of, our common concepts of meaning and belief. Not only does this generate tension within Davidson's own, Quine-inspired epistemology, but there is independent reason to think of charity as an empirical truth. Even so, charity might be essential to belief and meaning in the sense of being an a posteriori necessity. I conclude that our ordinary modal intuitions might well support charity's psychological-nomological necessity, but that they do not reach all the way to metaphysical necessity.
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References found in this work BETA
D. Davidson (1977). Reality Without Reference. Dialectica 31 (1):247--53.
Donald Davidson (1986). A Coherence Theory of Truth and Knowledge. In Ernest LePore (ed.), Truth and Interpretation. Perspectives on the Philosophy of Donald Davidson. Basil Blackwell. 307-319.
Donald Davidson (1985). A New Basis for Decision Theory. Theory and Decision 18 (1):87-98.
Donald Davidson (1974). Belief and the Basis of Meaning. Synthese 27 (July-August):309-323.
Donald Davidson (1980). Essays on Actions and Events. Oxford University Press.
Citations of this work BETA
Peter Pagin (2006). The Status of Charity II: Charity, Probability, and Simplicity. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 14 (3):361 – 383.
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