Davidson (1917-2003) was a brilliant but egotistical writer. His writing is vigorous and concise, and enviably refined. On the other hand, it is probably too concise, and sometimes too clever, for readers not already well-versed in logic, the philosophy of language, and the sorts of argumentative moves made in the highest circles of philosophy. So here is some help.
These are all indexicals (or each has an indexical use, as will emerge). Take the word ’I’. It is a singular term, but it would be wrong to say that the word ’I’ has a referent; it is not like ‘Rotterdam’, always having the same referent on each occasion of use. Rather, each utterance of the word has a referent. Its referent is the speaker, the one saying it.
Glock’s book is about evenly divided between Quine and Davidson. The central claims are (i) that they are best studied in conjunction; (ii) that they ‘can profitably be seen as logical pragmatists’ (meaning primarily that they view language as action that can be understood or clarified by means of formal logic); (iii) that they ‘combine profound insights with serious distortions’; and (iv) that their respective attempts to ‘accommodate higher phenomena such as meaning and thought within a naturalistic framework’ are ‘misguided’ (...) (pp. – ). But the overriding aim is clearly to establish (iv) along with the negative.. (shrink)
Western philosophy since Descartes has been marked by certain seminal books whose concern is the nature and scope of human knowledge. After Descartes Meditations, works by Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant are perhaps the most familiar and enduringly influential examples. Quine’s Word and Object (1960) does not conspicuously announce itself as a successor to these, but that is very much what it is. And after Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, it is amongst the most likely of the philosophical fruits of the 20th (...) century to attain something like the prestige of those earlier works (setting aside the century’s great achievements in pure logic and immediately related areas). Yet unlike so many of those earlier works, Quine’s book has the rare virtue in philosophy that it is possible, for readers here and now, to entertain seriously the possibility that its principal claims are literally true. (shrink)
In this clear and carefully structured introduction to the subject Gary Kemp explains the following key topics: the basic nature of philosophy of language and its historical development early arguments concerning the role of meaning, ...
Gary Kemp presents a penetrating investigation of key issues in the philosophy of language, by means of a comparative study of two great figures of late twentieth-century philosophy. So far as language and meaning are concerned, Willard Van Orman Quine and Donald Davidson are usually regarded as birds of a feather. The two disagreed in print on various matters over the years, but fundamentally they seem to be in agreement; most strikingly, Davidson's thought experiment of Radical Interpretation looks to be (...) a more sophisticated, technically polished version of Quinean Radical Translation. Yet Quine's most basic and general philosophical commitment is to his methodological naturalism, which is ultimately incompatible with Davidson's main commitments. In particular, it is impossible to endorse, from Quine's perspective, the roles played by the concepts of truth and reference in Davidson's philosophy of language: Davidson's employment of the concept of truth is from Quine's point of view needlessly adventurous, and his use of the concept of reference cannot be divorced from unscientific 'intuition'. From Davidson's point of view, Quine's position looks needlessly scientistic, and seems blind to the genuine problems of language and meaning. Gary Kemp offers a powerful argument for Quine's position, and in favour of methodological naturalism and its corollary, naturalized epistemology. It is possible to give a consistent and explanatory account of language and meaning without problematic uses of the concepts truth and reference, which in turn makes a strident naturalism much more plausible. (shrink)
Landy’s book (OUP 2004; 255 pp.+ x) delivers what has gone long and scandalously missing: a philosophical analysis of Proust’s incomparable book that is muscular, concise, philosophically informed and sophisticated; logically rigorous, explanatorily fruitful, and meticulously answerable to its data, namely the text. The philosophy here is not, as often the case in writing about Proust, mere rhetoric or window-dressing, but substantive and literally believable. The book should for a long time be inescapable for anyone writing philosophically about Proust, and (...) perhaps for anyone writing philosophically about imaginative literature, full stop. It is that good, its themes that wide. (shrink)
Richard Heck has contested my argument that the equation of the meaning of a sentence with its truth-condition implies deflationism, on the ground that the argument does not go through if truth-conditions are understood, in Davidson's style, to be stated by T-sentences. My reply is that Davidsonian theories of meaning do not equate the meaning of a sentence with its truth-condition, and thus that Heck's point does not actually obstruct my argument.