Truth and Meaning: In Perspective

Midwest Studies in Philosophy 32 (1):1-19 (2008)
Abstract
My topic is the attempt by Donald Davidson, and those inspired by him, to explain knowledge of meaning in terms of knowledge of truth conditions. For Davidsonians, these attempts take the form of rationales for treating theories of truth, constructed along Tarskian lines, as empirical theories of meaning. In earlier work1, I argued that Davidson’s two main rationales – one presented in “Truth and Meaning”2 and “Radical Interpretation,”3 and the other in his “Reply to Foster”4 – were unsuccessful. Here, I extend my critique to cover an ingenious recent attempt by James Higginbotham to establish Davidson’s desired result. I will argue that it, too, fails, and that the trajectory of Davidsonian failures indicates that linguistic understanding, and knowledge of meaning, require more than knowledge of that which a Davidsonian truth theory provides. I begin with a look at the historical record.
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