The Essential Davidson compiles the most celebrated papers of one of the twentieth century's greatest philosophers. It distills Donald Davidson's seminal contributions to our understanding of ourselves, from three decades of essays, into one thematically organized collection. A new, specially written introduction by Ernie Lepore and Kirk Ludwig, two of the world's leading authorities on his work, offers a guide through the ideas and arguments, shows how they interconnect, and reveals the systematic coherence of Davidson's worldview. (...) class='Hi'>Davidson's philosophical program is organized around two connected projects. The first is that of understanding the nature of human agency. The second is that of understanding the nature and function of language, and its relation to the world. Accordingly, the first part of the book presents Davidson's investigation of reasons, causes, and intentions, which revolutionized the philosophy of action. This leads to his notable doctrine of anomalous monism, the view that all mental events are physical events, but that the mental cannot be reduced to the physical. The second part of the book presents the famous essays in which Davidson set out his highly original and influential philosophy of language, which founds the theory of meaning on the theory of truth. These fifteen classic essays will be invaluable for anyone interested in the study of mind and language. Fascinating though they are individually, it is only when drawn together that there emerges a compelling picture of man as a rational linguistic animal whose thoughts, though not reducible to the material, are part of the fabric of the world, and whose knowledge of his own mind, the minds of others, and the world around him is as fundamental to his nature as the power of thought and speech itself. (shrink)
Dr. Davidson is a William James and Vilas Research Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in Psychology and has been at Wisconsin since 1984.
Where Averroes' commentaries on Aristotle can be dated, the Middle Commentary on a given work can be seen to predate the Long Commentary. As an accompaniment to his fine edition of Averroes' Middle Commentary onthe De anima, A. Ivry has maintained that in this instance matters are reversed and the Middle Commentary on the De anima is “an abridged and revised version” of the Long Commentary on the same work. Ivry develops his thesis most fully in Arabic Sciences and Philosophy (...) 5. There he argues that two passages in the Middle Commentary on the De anima refer to the Long Commentary by name, that a third passage alludes to the Long Commentary, and that in other passages the Middle and Long Commentaries use similar phraseology and the former can be seen to have abridged the latter. The present article replies as follows: The pair of passages in the Middle Commentary which Ivry reads as referring explicitly to the Long Commentary can plausibly be read as cross-references within the Middle Commentary itself. The passage that he takes as alluding to the Long Commentary does not in fact allude to that work, but is an unambiguous reference to a later section of the Middle Commentary. And there is no justification for regarding the passages in the Middle Commentary cited by Ivry which use phraseology similar to that of the Long Commentary as borrowings from the latter. In the course of his arguments, Ivry refers to Averroes' position on the nature of the human material intellect, the issue that gave Averroes the most trouble in his commentaries on Aristotle's De anima and that has most intrigued students of Averroes ever since. The present article points out that on the subject of the human material intellect, neither the Middle nor the Long Commentary on the De anima borrows from the other, for the conceptions of the material intellect which they espouse are different and incompatible. Là où on peut dater les commentaires d'Averroès sur Aristote, le Commentaire Moyen d'une œuvre donnée peut être considéré comme antérieur au Commentaire Long. En accompagnement de sa belle édition du Commentaire Moyen d'Averroès sur le De anima, A. Ivry a soutenu que dans ce cas-ci les choses sont inversées et que le Commentaire Moyen du De anima est “une version abrégée et révisée” du Commentaire Long de la même œuvre. Ivry développe sa thèse avec le plus de détails dans Arabic Sciences and Philosophy, 5. Là, il soutient que deux passages dans le Commentaire Moyen du De anima se rapportent nominalement au Commentaire Long, qu'un troisième passage fait allusion au Commentaire Long, et que dans d'autres passages le Commentaire Moyen et le Commentaire Long utilisent une phraséologie semblable et qu'on peut considérer que le premier a été la version abrégée du second. Le présent article répond à cette thèse de la manière suivante: les deux passages dans le Commentaire Moyen qui semblent selon d'lvry se rapporter explicitement au Commentaire Long peuvent vraisemblablement être compris comme des references a l'intérieur du Commentaire Moyen lui-même. Le passage qu'il comprend comme faisant allusion au Commentaire Long ne fait pas réellement allusion à cette œuvre, mais constitue une référence non-equivoque à une section ultérieure du Commentaire Moyen. II n'y a rien qui justifie le fait de regarder les passages dans le Commentaire Moyen cités par Ivry et utilisent une phraséologie semblable à celle du Commentaire Long comme des emprunts faits à ce dernier. Au cours de son argumentation, Ivry mentionne la position d'Averroes sur la nature de l'intellect materiel de l'homme, question qui a donne a Averroes le plus de peine dans ses commentaires sur le De anima d'Aristote et qui, depuis lors, a le plus intrigue ceux qui etudient Averroes. Le présent article souligne que sur le sujet de l'intellect materiel de l'homme, ni le Commentaire Moyen, ni le Commentaire Long sur le De anima n'empruntent I'un a l'autre, car les conceptions de l'intellect matériel qu'ils embrassent sont différentes et incompatibles. (shrink)
This paper offers an interpretation of the later Wittgenstein's handling of the idea of an "essence of human language", and examines in particular his treatment of the 'Augustinean' vision of reference as constituting this "essence". A central theme of the interpretation is the perennial philosophical desire to impose upon linguistic meaning conceptual templates drawn from outside the forms of thought about meaning in which we engage when we exercise our capacity to speak and understand a language. The paper closes with (...) a consideration of ways in which Donald Davidson's generally congenial work on interpretation may diverge from Wittgenstein's thinking in this vicinity. (shrink)
Donald Davidson aims to illuminate the concept of meaning by asking: What knowledge would suffice to put one in a position to understand the speech of another, and what evidence sufficiently distant from the concepts to be illuminated could in principle ground such knowledge? Davidson answers: knowledge of an appropriate truth-theory for the speaker’s language, grounded in what sentences the speaker holds true, or prefers true, in what circumstances. In support of this answer, he both outlines such a (...) truth-theory for a substantial fragment of a natural language and sketches a procedure—radical interpretation—that, drawing on such evidence, could confirm such a theory. Bracketing refinements (e.g., those introduced to.. (shrink)
Ernest Lepore and Kirk Ludwig present the definitive critical exposition of the philosophical system of Donald Davidson. Davidson 's ideas had a deep and broad influence in the central areas of philosophy; he presented them in brilliant essays over four decades, but never set out explicitly the overarching scheme in which they all have their place. Lepore's and Ludwig's book will therefore be the key work, besides Davidson 's own, for understanding one of the greatest philosophers of (...) the twentieth century. (shrink)
The work of Donald Davidson (1917-2003) transformed the study of meaning. Ernie Lepore and Kirk Ludwig, two of the world's leading authorities on Davidson's work, present the definitive study of his widely admired and influential program of truth-theoretic semantics for natural languages, giving an exposition and critical examination of its foundations and applications.
Putnam and Davidson both defended coherence theories of justification from the early 1980s onward. There are interesting similarities between these theories, and Putnam’s philosophical development lead to further convergence in the 1990s. The most conspicuous difference between Putnam’s and Davidson’s theories is that they appear to fundamentally disagree on the role and nature of conceptual schemes, but a closer look reveals that they are not as far apart on this issue as usually assumed. The veridicality of perceptual beliefs (...) is a cornerstone of both Davidson’s and Putnam’s later (but not earlier) coherentism. However, this thesis introduces a form of weak foundationalism into their theories, and consequently, those are strictly speaking not pure coherence theories, but hybrids between coherentism and foundationalism. (shrink)
According to many commentators, Davidson’s earlier work on philosophy of action and truth-theoretic semantics is the basis for his reputation, and his later forays into broader metaphysical and epistemological issues, and eventually into what became known as the triangulation argument, are much less successful. This book by two of his former students aims to change that perception. In Part One, Verheggen begins by providing an explanation and defense of the triangulation argument, then explores its implications for questions concerning semantic (...) normativity and reductionism, the social character of language and thought, and skepticism about the external world. In Part Two, Myers considers what the argument can tell us about reasons for action, and whether it can overcome skeptical worries based on claims about the nature of motivation, the sources of normativity and the demands of morality. The book reveals Davidson’s later writings to be full of innovative and important ideas that deserve much more attention than they are currently receiving. (shrink)
Donald Davidson once suggested that a liar ?must intend to represent himself as believing what he does not?. In this paper I argue that, while Davidson was mistaken about lying in a few important respects, his main insight yields a very attractive definition of lying. Namely, you lie if and only if you say something that you do not believe and you intend to represent yourself as believing what you say. Moreover, I show that this Davidsonian definition can (...) handle counter-examples that undercut four prominent definitions of lying: viz., the traditional intend-to-deceive definition, Thomas Carson's definition, Don Fallis's definition, and Andreas Stokke's definition. (shrink)
En este breve comentario discuto algunos aspectos de la interpretación de la epistemología de Davidson que sugiere Willian Duica en su reciente libro. Luego de una presentación somera del libro me centro en tres asuntos centrales de la interpretación de Duica. En primer lugar, argumento que su lectura de la crítica de Davidson al dualismo esquema/contenido es muy restrictiva y deja abierta la posibilidad de un realismo directo empirista. En segundo lugar, argumento que en su lectura el propio (...) Duica se compromete inadvertidamente con un empirismo de este tipo y, de este modo, su interpretación entra en tensión con el coherentismo de Davidson. Finalmente, discuto algunos aspectos de la interpretación que hace Duica de la tesis davidsoniana de la triangulación. (shrink)
We revisit an important exchange on the problem of radical skepticism between Richard Rorty and Michael Williams. In his contribution to this exchange, Rorty defended the kind of transcendental approach to radical skepticism that is offered by Donald Davidson, in contrast to Williams’s Wittgenstein-inspired view. It is argued that the key to evaluating this debate is to understand the particular conception of the radical skeptical problem that is offered in influential work by Barry Stroud, a conception of the skeptical (...) problem which generates metaepistemological ramifications for anti-skeptical theories. In particular, we argue that, contra Williams, Rorty’s view that Davidson was offering a theoretical diagnosis of radical skepticism can be consistently maintained with his transcendental approach. (shrink)
Philosophers debate whether all, some or none of the represcntational content of our sensory experience is conccptual, but the technical term "concept" has different uses. It is commonly linked more or less closely with the notions of judgdment and reasoning, but that leaves open the possibility that these terms share a systematic ambiguity or indeterminacy. Donald Davidson, however, holds an unequivocal and consistent, if paradoxical view that there are strictly speaking no psychological states with representational or intentional content except (...) the propositional attitudes of language users, since thc source or fundamental bearer of intentionality is the employed sentence. Accordingly he claims that what has content in ordinary sense experience is not sensation, but propositional belief caused, but not justified, by sensation. John McDowell, sharing some ofDavidson's premises,holds a less paradoxical, but (l will argue) equivocal and incoherent view that post-infantile human sensory expcrience must have content in so far as it is what grounds perceptual belief but that this content is itself conceptual or propositional, dependent on language and culture. Reasons are givcn in the present article for rejecting both views, and their common premises. It is argued that perceptual or sensory states have intentional content which is no more conceptual or propositional than the world is. Recognition that perceptual content and conceptual content are, in a certain unsurprising way incommensurable allows for a more realistic understanding of the relationship between Language and the world as we experience it. (shrink)
Donald Davidson’s epistemology is predicated on, among other things, the rejection of Experiential Foundationalism, which he calls ‘unintelligible’. In this essay, I assess Davidson’s arguments for this conclusion. I conclude that each of them fails on the basis of reasons that foundationalists and antifoundationalists alike can, and should, accept.
Donald Davidson is, arguably, the most important philosopher of mind and language in recent decades. His articulation of the position he called "anomalous monism" and his ideas for unifying the general theory of linguistic meaning with semantics for natural language both set new agendas in the field. _Interpreting Davidson_ collects original essays on his work by some of his leading contemporaries, with Davidson himself contributing a reply to each and an original paper of his own.
According to the sceptic Saul Kripke envisages in his celebrated book on Wittgenstein on rules and private language, there are no facts about an individual that determine what she means by any given expression. If there are no such facts, the question then is, what justifies the claim that she does use expressions meaningfully? Kripke’s answer, in a nutshell, is that she by and large uses her expressions in conformity with the linguistic standards of the community she belongs to. While (...) Kripke’s sceptical problem has gripped philosophers for over three decades, few, if any, have been satisfied by his proposed solution, and many have struggled to come up with one of their own. The purpose of this paper is to show that a more satisfactory answer to Kripke’s challenge can be developed on the basis of Donald Davidson’s writings on triangulation, the idea of two individuals interacting simultaneously with each other and the world they share. It follows from the triangulation argument that the facts that can be regarded as determining meaning are irreducible. Yet, contra Kripke, they are not mysterious, for the argument does spell out what is needed for an individual’s expressions to be meaningful. (shrink)
Despite Donald Davidson's influential criticism of the very notion of conceptual schemes, the notion continues enjoying its popularity in contemporary philosophy and, accordingly, conceptual relativism is still very much alive. There is one major reason responsible for Davidson's failure which has not been widely recognized: What Davidson attacks fiercely is not the very notion, but a notion of conceptual schemes, namely, the Quinean notion of conceptual schemes and its underlying Kantian scheme-content dualism. However, such a notion simply (...) cannot carry the weight of conceptual relativism for it does not catch the essences of conceptual relativism. Consequently, I argue that the very notion of conceptual schemes and conceptual relativism have survived Davidson's attack. Therefore, the failure of the Quinean notion of conceptual schemes and Kantian scheme-content dualism, even if Davidson can claim victory, does not mark the end of the very notion of conceptual schemes.[ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]. (shrink)
Donald Davidson is unquestionably one of America's greatest living philosophers. His influence on Anglo-American philosophy over the last twenty years has been enormous, and his work is an unavoidable reference point in current debates in the philosophy of language and the philosophy of mind. This book offers a systematic and accessible introduction to Davidson's work. Evnine begins by discussing Davidson's contribution to the philosophy of mind, including his views on action, events and causation. He then examines (...) class='Hi'>Davidson's work in the philosophy of language. The link between meaning and truth, radical interpretation, and semantic holism are considered in detail. The final chapters deal with the metaphysical aspects of Davidson's work and seek to assess his philosophical project as a whole. (shrink)
Turing does not provide an explanation for substituting the original question of his test – i.e., “Can machines think?” with “Can a machine pass the imitation game?” – resulting in an argumentative gap in his main thesis. In this article, I argue that a positive answer to the second question would mean attributing the ability of linguistic interactions to machines; while a positive answer to the original question would mean attributing the ability of thinking to machines. In such a situation, (...) defending the Turing Test requires establishing a relationship between thought and language. In this regard, Davidson's no-priority theory is presented as an approach for defending the test. (shrink)
Donald Davidson's account of interpretation purports to be a priori , though I argue that the empirical facts about interpretation, theory of mind, and autism must be considered when examining the merits of Davidson's view. Developmental psychologists have made plausible claims about the existence of some people with autism who use language but who are unable to interpret the minds of others. This empirical claim undermines Davidson's theoretical claims that all speakers must be interpreters of other speakers (...) and that one need not be a speaker in order to be a thinker. The falsity of these theses has consequences for other parts of Davidson's world-view; for example, it undermines his argument against animal thought. (shrink)
This paper argues that Davidson's argument against conceptual schemes fail against so-called "Applied Relativisms", i.e. theories of conceptual relativism found outside philosophy such as Whorf's. These theories make no metaphysical claims, which Davidson seems to assume. Ultimately, the misunderstanding (and resulting strawman argument) illustrates (the effect of) differences in conceptual schemes more than that it undermines it.
One of the chief aims of Donald Davidson's later work was to show that participation in a certain causal nexus involving two creatures and a shared environment–Davidson calls this nexus “triangulation”–is a metaphysically necessary condition for the acquisition of thought. This doctrine, I suggest, is aptly regarded as a form of what I call transcendental externalism. I extract two arguments for the transcendental-externalist doctrine from Davidson's writings, and argue that neither succeeds. A central interpretive claim is that (...) the arguments are primarily funded by a particular conception of the nature of non-human animal life. This conception turns out to be insupportable. The failure of Davidson's arguments presses the question of whether we could ever hope to arrive at far-reaching claims about the conditions for thought if we deny, as does Davidson, the legitimacy of the naturalistic project in the philosophy of mind. (shrink)
This paper is an examination of Donald Davidson's writings on the idea of a conceptual scheme--and idea which he famously rejects. O relevance in this is the notion of linguistic relativity and the famous Whorf-Sapir thesis.
J. E. Malpas discusses and develops the ideas of Donald Davidson, influential in contemporary thinking on the nature of understanding and meaning, and of truth and knowledge. He provides an account of Davidson's holistic and hermeneutical conception of linguistic interpretation, and, more generally, of the mind. Outlining its Quinean origins and the elements basic to Davidson's Radical Interpretation, J. E. Malpas' book goes on to elaborate this holism and to examine the indeterminacy of interpretation and the principle (...) of charity. The metaphysical and epistemological consequences of Davidson's approach are considered, particularly in relation to scepticism and relativism, the realist/anti-realist debate, and the problem of truth. Parallels are drawn between the Davidsonian emphasis on the centrality of the notion of truth and Heidegger's notion of truth as aletheia, as the book looks to structuralist, hermeneutical and phenomenological sources to illuminate Davidson's position. (shrink)
Davidson’s later philosophy of language has been inspired by Wittgenstein’s Investigations, but Davidson by no means sympathizes with the sceptical problem and solution Kripke attributes to Wittgenstein. Davidson criticizes the sceptical argument for relying on the rule-following conception of meaning, which is, for him, a highly problematic view. He also casts doubt on the plausibility of the sceptical solution as unjustifiably bringing in shared practices of a speech community. According to Davidson, it is rather success in (...) mutual interpretation that explains success in the practice of meaning something by an utterance. I will argue that Davidson’s objections to the sceptical problem and solution are misplaced as they rely on a misconstrual of Kripke’s Wittgenstein’s view. I will also argue that Davidson’s alternative solution to the sceptical problem is implausible, since it fails to block the route to the sceptical problem. I will then offer a problematic trilemma for Davidson. (shrink)
In 1905 William James wrote an essay in McClure's Magazine recalling the importance to his own work of the Scottish-born philosopher Thomas Davidson. In the essay, James states that Davidson was "essentially a teacher." What is interesting when one looks at Davidson's life and work is that, for Davidson, teaching does seem to be an essential feature of what it means to be a philosopher. Here, I develop how Davidson construes this linking of philosophy and (...) teaching with a concluding emphasis on the two schools he established: Glenmore, a summer philosophy program in the Adirondacks and the "Breadwinners' College," an open school he began for working persons in New York City. I offer this as a discussion paper so that James's recollection of Davidson's importance to his own work may provoke us to consider how we presently understand the linking of teaching and philosophy. This seems especially appropriate for an academic culture such as ours in which much of our time is spent teaching and in which we are often primarily evaluated by a separate category of professional "research." The American tradition has "lost" any number of its important.. (shrink)
Donald Davidson's theory of mind is widely regarded as a normative theory. This is a something of a confusion. Once a distinction has been made between the categorisation scheme of a norm and the norm's force-maker, it becomes clear that a Davidsonian theory of mind is not a normative theory after all. Making clear the distinction, applying it to Davidson's theory of mind, and showing its significance are the main purposes of this paper. In the concluding paragraphs, a (...) sketch is given of how a truly normative Davidsonian theory of mind might be formulated. (shrink)
In the article of Bueno titled “Davidson and Skepticism: How Not to Respond to the Skeptic,” he intends to demonstrate that although Davidson’s theory of Coherence holds many attractions, it does not entail a response to any kinds of skepticism including Global, Lottery, and Pyrrhonian. In this study, the goal is to criticize the work of Prof. Bueno in connection with two criticisms raised by him over Davidson’s anti-skeptical strategy. Further, by giving some reasons in favor of (...)Davidson’s anti-skepticism argument, it will be shown that neither the above stated criticisms nor the global skepticism response could undermine the validity of anti-skepticism argument. (shrink)
Davidson suggests that metaphor is a pragmatic (not a semantic) phenomenon; on his view, metaphor is a perlocutionary effect prompts its audience to see one thing as another. Davidson rightly attacks speaker-intentionalism as the source of metaphorical meaning, but settles for an account that depends on audience intentions. A better approach would undermine intentionalism per se, replacing it with a social practice analysis based on patterns of extending the metaphor. This paper shows why Davidson’s perceptual model fails (...) to stave off semantic analysis, and argues that the professed virtues of Davidson's position are more readily found in an account that focuses on the nature of metaphorical interpretation. (shrink)
It might come as a surprise for someone who has only a superficial knowledge of Donald Davidson’s philosophy that he has claimed literary language to be ‘a prime test of the adequacy of any view on the nature of language’.1 The claim, however, captures well the transformation that has happened in Davidson’s thinking on language since he began in the 1960’s to develop a truth-conditional semantic theory for natural languages in the lines of Alfred Tarski’s semantic conception of (...) truth. About twenty years afterwards, this project was replaced with a view that highlights the flexible nature of language and, in consequence, the importance of the speaker’s intentions for a theory of meaning, culminating in Davidson’s staggering claim that ‘there is no such thing as a language’. (shrink)
Despite the fact that Davidson's theory of the causal relata is crucial to his response to the problem of mental causation - that of anomalous monism - it is commonly overlooked within discussions of his position. Anomalous monism is accused of entailing property epiphenomenalism, but given Davidson's understanding of the causal relata, such accusations are wholly misguided. There are, I suggest, two different forms of property epiphenomenalism. The first understands the term 'property' in an ontological sense, the second (...) in a linguistic sense. Anomalous monism cannot plausibly be accused of either. The first cannot legitimately be applied to anomalous monism as it is incompatible with Davidson's ontology. And accusations of predicate epiphenomenalism, although consistent with Davidson's ontology, are ungrounded regarding Davidson's anomalous monism. Philosophers of mind have mislocated the problem with Davidson's anomalous monism, which in fact lies with the implausible theory of the causal relata upon which it rests. (shrink)
Donald Davidson's work has been of seminal importance in the development of analytic philosophy and his views on the nature of language, mind and action remain the starting point for many of the central debates in the analytic tradition. His ideas, however, are complex, often technical, and interconnected in ways that can make them difficult to understand. This introduction to Davidson's philosophy examines the full range of his writings to provide a clear succinct overview of his ideas. This (...) book begins with an account of the assumptions and structure of Davidson's philosophy of language, introducing his compositionalism, extensionalism and commitment to a Tarski-style theory of truth as the model for theories of meaning. It goes on to show how that philosophical framework is to be applied and how it challenges the traditional picture. Marc Joseph examines Davidson's influential work on action theory and events and discusses the commonly made charge that his theory of action and mind leaves the mental as a mere 'epiphenomenon' of the physical. The final section explores Davidson's philosophy of mind, some of its consequences for traditional views of subjectivity and objectivity and, more generally, the relation between minded beings and the physical and mental world they occupy. (shrink)
Jerry Fodor and Ernest Lepore have recently criticized Davidson's methodology of radical interpretation because of its apparent failure to reflect how actual interpretation is achieved. Responding to such complaints, Davidson claims that he is not interested in the empirical issues surrounding actual interpretation but instead focuses on the question of what conditions make interpretation possible. It is argued that this exchange between Fodor and Lepore on one side, and Davidson on the other, cannot be viewed simply as (...) a naturalist reaction to non-naturalist philosophical inquiry. Through a careful excavation of the hidden assumptions and commitments underlying this debate, we recognize a more serious disagreement over the intellectual obligations of naturalism; a position with a firm hold on current philosophical imaginations. In the process, we gain a new appreciation for how such commitments shape these naturalist positions, and recognize that any resolution to this specific debate will require careful attention to the divergent commitments that are its real source. (shrink)