The paper considers the Quinean heritage of the argument for the indeterminacy of translation. Beyond analyzing Quine�s notion of stimulus meaning, the paper discusses two Kripkean argument�s against the Quinean claim that dispositions can provide the basis for an account of meaning: the Normativity Argument and the Finiteness Argument. An analogy between Kripke's arguments and Hume's argument for epistemological skepticism about the external world will be drawn. The paper shows that the answer to Kripke's rule-following skepticism is analogous (...) to the answer to Humean skepticism: our use of concepts is more basic than, and presupposed by, the statement of the skeptical problem itself. (shrink)
Quine’s thesis of the indeterminacy of translation has puzzled the philosophical community for several decades. It is unquestionably among the best known and most disputed theses in contemporary philosophy. Quine’s classical argument for the indeterminacy thesis, in his seminal work Word and Object, has even been described by Putnam as “what may well be the most fascinating and the most discussed philosophical argument since Kant’s Transcendental Deduction of the Categories” (Putnam, 1975a: p. 159).
In this paper, I revisit W. V. Quine’s thesis of indeterminacy of translation. I think Quine’s arguments for the thesis are marred by his controversial assumptions about language that amount to a kind of linguistic behaviorism. I hope to cast a new light on the thesis by presenting a strong argument for the thesis that does not rest on those assumptions. The argument that I present in the paper results from adapting Benson Mates’s objection to Rudolph Carnap’s analysis (...) ofsynonymy as intensional isomorphism. (shrink)
In this paper it is argued that the concept of translation failure involved in Kuhn's thesis of incommensurability is distinct from that of translational indeterminacy in Quine's sense. At most, Kuhnian incommensurability constitutes a weak form of indeterminacy, quite distinct from Quine's. There remains, however, a convergence between the two views of translation, namely, that there is no single adequate translation between languages.
It is commonly believed that Quine's principal argument for the Indeterminacy of Translation requires an untenably strong account of the underdetermination of theories by evidence, namely that that two theories may be compatible with all possible evidence for them and yet incompatible with each other. In this article, I argue that Quine's conclusion that translation is indeterminate can be based upon the weaker, uncontroversial conception of theoretical underdetermination, in conjunction with a weak reading of the 'Gavagai' argument (...) which establishes the underdetermination of the sense and reference of subsentential terms. If underdetermination is considered to be a widespread phenomenon in science, or in inductive reasoning more generally, then the Indeterminacy of Translation will be widespread too. Finally, I briefly consider two issues concerning the scope of this conclusion about the Indeterminacy of Translation: first, whether the argument presupposes behaviourism; and second, whether indeterminacy is restricted to the case of radical translation. I argue that the answer to both these questions is negative, and thus that the thesis of semantic indeterminacy remains relevant to those who disagree with Quine about some issues concerning the nature of mind and language. (shrink)
Quine's arguments for the indeterminacy of translation demonstrate the existence and help to explain the rationale of restraints upon what we can say and understand. In particular they show that there are logical truths to which there are no intelligible alternatives. Thus the standard view that the truths of logic and mathematics differ from "synthetic" statements in being true solely by virtue of linguistic convention--Which requires for its plausibility the existence of intelligible alternatives to our present logical truth--Is (...) opposed directly, And not by the espousal of "a more thorough pragmatism". This raises problems about possibility and conceptual novelty. (shrink)
Quine's claim for the unavoidable indeterminacy of translation is partially supported by an argument based on the premise that the analytical hypotheses of the translator are underdetermined by the behavioural evidence on the strength of which they are asserted. I make three points about this argument. First, I show that quine's treatment of analytical hypotheses is inconsistent with his treatment of the hypotheses of physical science. Secondly, I argue that, Since no reason for this difference in treatment is (...) given, Quine's argument fails to show why translation should be regarded as indeterminate but not, For example, Physical science. Thirdly, I claim that quine's argument should be rejected in any case since it depends on a sharp distinction between theory and observation which cannot be substantiated. I conclude that the argument from underdetermination provides no support for translational indeterminacy. (shrink)
In this essay I present a statement of Quine's indeterminacy thesis in its general form. It is shown that the thesis is not about difficulties peculiar to so-called "radical translation." It is a general thesis about meaning and reference with important consequences for any theory of our theories and beliefs. It is claimed that the thesis is inconsistent with Quine's realism, his doctrine of the relativity of reference, and that the argument for the thesis has the consequence that (...) the concept of stimulus meaning is empty. The sense in which linguistic science, as a branch of behavioral science, is "part of physics" is discussed. An alternative to Quine's view of the nature and content of linguistic science is proposed. It is shown to be consistent with Quine's assumptions concerning the legitimate scope of behavioral science and not to involve the notions of analyticity, synonymy and "prevalent attitudes toward meaning, idea and proposition" (, p. 304) rejected by Quine. (shrink)
R kirk ("analysis", volume 33, 1973, pages 195-201) proposes an argument against quine's deduction of indeterminacy of translation from underdetermination of physical theory. the present paper is a reply to kirk, aimed primarily at showing that his argument is "ignoratio elenchi".
I argue that quine's thesis of the indeterminacy of radical translation is incorrect. the argument exploits the connections between quine's thesis and common sense notions regarding belief. a simple model of belief, taking beliefs to be sets of brain states, is used to give a rigorous restatement of quine's thesis. it is then argued that our need to project the actions of other people from their professions of belief would make the situation quine describes unstable, since persons in (...) that situation would make less accurate predictions of actions than would persons not so situated. (shrink)
Quine has attempted to support his indeterminacy thesis by invoking the assumption that two different physical theories could both be compatible with all possible data. His argument ought to work even if the translation of non-Theoretical sentences is determinate. But this enables us to see that the underdetermination of theory need not produce any indeterminacy in the translation of theory.
Translation theory and the philosophy of language have largely gone their separate ways (the former opting to rebrand itself as “translation studies” to emphasize its empirical and anti-theoretical underpinnings). Yet translation theory and the philosophy of language have predominately shared a common assumption that stands in the way of determinate translation. It is that languages, not texts, are the objects of translation and the subjects of semantics. The way to overcome the theoretical problems surrounding the (...) possibility and determinacy of translation is to marry the philosopher of language's concern for determinacy and semantic accuracy in translation with the notion of a “text-type” from the translation theory literature. The resulting text-type conception of semantics (TTS) is a novel alternative to the salient positions of Contextualism and Semantic Minimalism in the contemporary philosophy of language. (shrink)
The book contains twelve chapters, prefaced by acknowledgments, and followed by a short index. It derives from the author's doctoral dissertation in philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis, and thanks are offered to committee members Robert B. Barrett, Joseph Ullian and Roger Gibson. The reader who is not inclined to review the large related literature on Quine's view of cognitive meaning and translation may also be attracted to this book for concise summaries and treatment of the Quinean view (...) from St. Louis. -/- . (shrink)
Quine's argument for indeterminacy and inscrutability equivocates about what it is for one set of truths to determine another. In addition to being unsupported, these doctrines lead Quine to reject our ordinary notions of meaning, truth, and reference in favor of certain replacement notions, including stimulus meaning, and disquotational, or Tarski, truth and reference for one's own present language. This is self-defeating. To formulate the doctrines of physicalism, underdetermination, indeterminacy, and inscrutability, one must refer to the totality of (...) true propositions about the subject matter of physics, and it's relation to all other propositions--something precluded by Quine's semantic eliminativism. (shrink)
Gerald Massey has constructed translation manuals for the purposes ofillustrating Quine's Indeterminacy Thesis. Robert Kirk has argued that Massey's manuals do not live up to their billing. In this note,I will present Massey's manuals and defend them against Kirk's objections. The implications for Quine's Indeterminacy Thesis will then be briefly discussed.
The doctrine that meanings are entitieswith a determinate and independent reality is often believed tohave been undermined by Quine's thought experiment of radicaltranslation, which results in an argument for the indeterminacy oftranslation. This paper argues to the contrary. Starting fromQuine's assumption that the meanings of observation sentences arestimulus meanings, i.e., set-theoretical constructions of neuronalstates uniquely determined by inter-subjectively observable facts,the paper shows that this meaning assignment, up to isomorphism,is uniquely extendable to all expressions that occur inobservation sentences. To do (...) so, a theorem recently proven byHodges is used. To derive the conclusion, one only has to assumethat languages are compositional, abide by a generalized contextprinciple and by what I call the category principle. Theseassumptions originating in Frege and Husserl are coherent withQuine's overall position. It is concluded that Quine'snaturalistic approach does not justify scepticism with regard tomeaning, but should rather result in a view that affiliatessemantics with neuroscience. (shrink)
An argument given by kirk ("analysis" 33.6) against quine's 1970 defense of his indeterminacy thesis is discussed. It is shown that kirk's claim that quine's argument is self-Defeating is unacceptable.
This is a review of Peter Hylton's Quine (Routledge, 2007). The review highlights three aspects of the book that make are somewhat novel in the literature: (1) Hylton points out that Quine does not reject the analytic-synthetic distinction altogether, but merely its epistemological use by Carnap and others; (2) that the thesis of indeterminacy of translation is not a central doctrine in Quine's philosophy; and (3) that besides a naturalized epistemology, Quine's philosophy contains also a "naturalized metaphysics".
Ken Warmbrod thinks Quine agrees that translation is determinate if it is determinate what speakers would say in all possible circumstances; that what things would do in merely possible circumstances is determined by what their subvisible constituent mechanisms would dispose them to do on the evidence of what alike actual mechanisms make alike actual things do actually; and that what speakers say is determined by their neural mechanisms. Warmbrod infers that people's neural mechanisms make translation of what people (...) say determinate. I argue that the evidence of what alike actual mechanisms make alike actual things do actually, underdetermines what our neural mechanisms would make us say in merely possible circumstances. So translation is indeterminate. And so too are the dispositions of physical mechanisms. (shrink)
In this paper we compare the thesis of underdetermination of theories with the thesis of indeterminacy of translation. Drawing upon this comparison, we argue that, in the context of Quine’s philosophy, the thesis of indeterminacy of translation can only be maintained if it is taken as establishing an indeterminacy in the logical form of sentences. Consequently, we contend that Quine lacks a solid argument for indeterminacy of translation.
This is the second part of a paper dealing with truth and translation. In Part A a revised version of Tarski's Convention T has been presented, which explicitly refers to a translation mapping from the object language to the metalanguage; the vague notion of a translation has been replaced by a precise definition. At the end of Part A it has been shown that interpreted languages exist, which allow for vicious self-reference but which nevertheless contain their own (...) truth predicate - this is possible if truth is based on a nonstandard translation mapping. However, this result has only been proved for languages without quantifiers. In Part B we now extend the result to first-order languages, and we show that this can be done in three different ways. In each case, the addition of a truth predicate to an interpreted language with a high degree of expressiveness leads to changes in the ontology of the language. (shrink)
Summary This paper tries to show how the irreducible indeterminacy of textual meanings can be reconciled with epistemological realism which normally presupposes independently existing but determinate objects of knowledge. E.D. Hirsch's project of objective interpretation, including his most recent attempts to show that meanings, in spite of their openness to future modifications, are historically determined objects of knowledge, is being criticized. The paper argues that his use of the semantics and the reference theories of Kripke, Putnam, and others forces (...) him to give up, against his own intention, his methodologically important distinction between meaning and significance. Within such theories a strict separation of linguistic knowledge of meaning and world knowledge can no longer be upheld. Since the application of individually and historically variable world knowledge is unavoidable in the process of understanding texts, the textual meanings reconstructed by readers will always remain indeterminate. (shrink)
In this contribution I address the type of emergency that threatens a stateâs monopoly of violence, meaning that the stateâs competence to provide citizens with elementary security is challenged. The question is, whether actions taken by the state to ward off these threats (should) fall within the ambit of the criminal law. A central problem is the indeterminacy that is inherent in the state of emergency, implicating that adequate measures as well as constitutional constraints to be imposed on such (...) measures cannot easily be determined in advance. This indeterminacy raises two interrelated issues. Firstly, the issue of whether it makes sense to speak of criminal jurisdiction when the existing jurisdiction is challenged as such. To what extent does the indeterminacy call for inherently unlimited powers of the state, implying there can be no such thing as criminal jurisdiction during a state of emergency? Secondâif criminal jurisdiction is not in contradiction with the state of emergencyâthe issue of what criminal liability could mean in such a state needs to be confronted. To what extent does the indeterminacy inherent in the state of emergency jeopardise criminal liability because such indeterminacy engenders severe legal uncertainty regarding the standards against which the relevant actions are to be judged? Both issues will be discussed from the perspective of constitutional democracy, assuming that what is at stake in times of emergency is both the competence to sustain the monopoly of violence and the possibility to constrain the powers of the state. (shrink)
For Sengzhao 僧肇 (374−414 CE), a leading Sanlun 三論 philosopher of Chinese Buddhism, things in the world are ontologically indeterminate in that they are devoid of any determinate form or nature. In his view, we should understand and use words provisionally, so that they are not taken to connote the determinacy of their referents. To echo the notion of ontic indeterminacy and indicate the provisionality of language, his main work, the Zhaolun 肇論, abounds in paradoxical expressions. In this essay, (...) I offer a philosophical analysis and rational reconstruction of Sengzhao’s linguistic thought, with a view to exploring the rationale for and purpose of his use of paradoxical language. (shrink)
Law as one sign system can be recorded and interpreted by another sign system—media. If each transaction in court is taken as a sign, it can be interpreted or transferred by different signs of media for the same purpose, though with different effects. This study focuses on the transformative effects of the semiotic revolution in media on law. The present research revealed that the evolution of media has driven the administration of justice to pay more attention to the process of (...) court proceedings. This research also discusses the semiotic conflict and compatibility between the sign subsystems within media upon interpreting the administration of justice. In addition, disequilibrium between different sign systems highlights the consequent need for intersemiotic translation, consciousness and evaluation as part of decision making on court domains. (shrink)
According to the orthodox account of meaning and translation in the literature, meaning is a property of expressions of a language, and translation is a matching of synonymous expressions across languages. This linguistic account of translation gives rise to well-known skeptical conclusions about translation, objectivity, meaning and truth, but it does not conform to our best translational practices. In contrast, I argue for a textual account of meaning based on the concept of a TEXT-TYPE that does (...) conform to our best translational practices. With their semantic function in view, text-types are Archimedean points for their respective disciplines. The text-type of philosophy is no exception. Culture-transcendent conceptual analysis can proceed on firm footing without having to deny the reality of radical cultural and linguistic difference by treating components of text-types as the concepts to be analyzed. Analyses of central philosophical concepts are provided as a means of adjudicating philosophical controversy. (shrink)
Werning applies a theorem by Hodges in order to put forward an argument against Quine’s thesis of the indeterminacy of translation (understood as a thesis on meaning, not on reference) and in favour of what Werning calls ‘semantic realism’. We show that the argument rests on two critical premises both of which are false. The reasons for these failures are explained and the actual place of this application of Hodges’ theorem within Quine’s philosophy of language is outlined.