This paper provides an exposition and defence of Lewis' theory of radical interpretation. The first part explains what Lewis' theory was; the second part explains what it wasn't, and in so doing addresses a number of common objections that arise as a result of widespread myths and misunderstandings about how Lewis' theory is supposed to work.
In this paper I sketch a novel interpretationist account of linguistic content that has important consequences for thinking about intentionality. I solve the challenge presented by a foundational indeterminacy of reference argument to the effect that the meaning of linguistic expressions is radically indeterminate. Happily, my solution doesn’t require positing natural properties as “reference magnets”. Non-deflationist rivals to interpretationist metasemantics include various kinds of causal theories such as Fodor-style asymmetric-dependence accounts and Millikan-style teleosemantics. These accounts face their own indeterminacy challenges (...) that have yet to be solved, as well as similar indeterminacy of reference challenges at the level of individual words. Moreover, they must contend with our apparent reference to things that we are not plausibly causally acquainted with. If indeterminacy of reference arguments can be answered and we can avoid dubious use of natural properties, an interpretationist account like my own will be the strongest contender.. (shrink)
David Lewis (1974, 1994/1999) proposed to reduce the facts about mental representation to facts about sensory evidence, dispositions to act, and rationality. Recently, Robert Williams (2020) and Adam Pautz (2021) have taken up and developed Lewis’s project in sophisticated and novel ways. In this paper, we aim to present, clarify, and ultimately object to the core thesis that they all build their own views around. The different sophisticated developments and defenses notwithstanding, we think the core thesis is vulnerable. We pose (...) a dilemma by considering the two sides of a current epistemological controversy over the relation between evidence and rational belief: permissivism vs. uniqueness. As we argue, the prospects for the Lewisian project look dim when either supposition is clearly made. (shrink)
This paper takes issue with an influential interpretationist argument for physicalism about intentionality based on the possibility of radical interpretation. The interpretationist defends the physicalist thesis that the intentional truths supervene on the physical truths by arguing that it is possible for a radical interpreter, who knows all of the physical truths, to work out the intentional truths about what an arbitrary agent believes, desires, and means without recourse to any further empirical information. One of the most compelling arguments for (...) the possibility of radical interpretation, associated most closely with David Lewis and Donald Davidson, gives a central role to decision theoretic representation theorems, which demonstrate that if an agent’s preferences satisfy certain constraints, it is possible to deduce probability and utility functions that represent her beliefs and desires. We argue that an interpretationist who wants to rely on existing representation theorems in defence of the possibility of radical interpretation faces a trilemma, each horn of which is incompatible with the possibility of radical interpretation. (shrink)
Davidson has attempted to offer his own solution to the problem of self-knowledge, but there has been no consensus between his commentators on what this solution is. Many have claimed that Davidson’s account stems from his remarks on disquotational specifications of self-ascriptions of meaning and mental content, the account which I will call the “Disquotational Explanation”. It has also been claimed that Davidson’s account rather rests on his version of content externalism, which I will call the “Externalist Explanation”. I will (...) argue that not only are these explanations of self-knowledge implausible, but Davidson himself has already rejected them. Thus, neither can be attributed to Davidson as his suggested account of self-knowledge. I will then introduce and support what I take to be Davidson’s official and independent account of self-knowledge, that is, his “Transcendental Explanation”. I will defend this view against certain potential objections and finally against the objections made by William Child. (shrink)
A type of argument occasionally made in metaethics, epistemology and philosophy of science notes that most ordinary uses of some expression fail to satisfy the strictest interpretation of the expression, and concludes that the ordinary assertions are false. This requires there to be a presumption in favour of a strict interpretation of expressions that admit of interpretations at different levels of strictness. We argue that this presumption is unmotivated, and thus the arguments fail.
According to Wright’s Judgement-Dependent account of intention, facts about a subject’s intentions can be taken to be constituted by facts about the subject’s best opinions about them formed under certain optimal conditions. This paper aims to defend this account against three main objections which have been made to it by Boghossian, Miller and implicitly by Wright himself. It will be argued that Miller’s objection is implausible because it fails to take into account the partial-determination claim in this account. Boghossian’s objection (...) also fails because it is based on an unjustified reductionist reading of Wright’s account. However, Wright’s own attempt to resist Boghossian’s objection seems to display a shift from his Judgement-Dependent account to an Interpretationist account of self-knowledge, in which case Wright’s new account would face the same problem which he himself has previously put forward in the case of Davidson’s Interpretationist account of self-knowledge. Nonetheless, I will argue that Wright does not need to make such a move because Boghossian’s objection is not applicable to his account. (shrink)
Arrival offers a useful thought experiment in the philosophy of mind and language. Assessing human linguists' interpretive efforts to understand the alien heptapod form of life in both the movie and the novella from which it was adapted (Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life”) teach us how our understanding of selfhood shapes our conception of agency. Arrival’s reflexive commentary on the cinematic experience is also an argument for the value of learning to communicate in cinematic language.
The papers collected in this issue were solicited to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Donald Davidson’s birth. Four of them discuss the implications of Davidson’s views—in particular, his later views on triangulation—for questions that are still very much at the centre of current debates. These are, first, the question whether Saul Kripke’s doubts about meaning and rule-following can be answered without making concessions to the sceptic or to the quietist; second, the question whether a way can be found to answer (...) Davidson’s own doubts about the continuity of non-propositional thought and language; third, the question whether normative properties can be at once causal and prescriptive; fourth, the question whether folk psychological explanations can be at once illuminating and autonomous. The fifth paper reexamines Davidson’s take on the principle of compositionality, which always was at the centre of his theorizing about language. (shrink)
According to a classic position in analytic philosophy of mind, we must interpret agents as largely rational in order to be able to attribute intentional mental states to them. However, adopting this position requires clarifying in what way and by which criteria agents can still be irrational. In this paper I will offer one such criterion. More specifically, I argue that the kind of rationality methodologically required by intentional interpretation is to be specified in terms of psychological efficacy. Thereby, this (...) notion can be distinguished from a more commonly used notion of rationality and hence cannot be shown to be undermined by the potential prevalence of a corresponding kind of irrationality. (shrink)
This paper investigates the crucial notion of a "canonical ascription statement" in Bruno Mölder's /Mind Ascribed/, and argues that the reasons given for preferring the book's approach of canonicallity to a more common understanding of canonicallity in terms of the ascriptions we would "ideally" make are not only unpersuasive, but also leave the interpretivist position more open to skeptical worries than it should be. The paper further argues that the resources for a more compelling justification of Mölder's conception of canonicality (...) are already in Mölder's book itself. (shrink)
An influential view about the relationship between publicity and linguistic meaning is brought into question. It has been thought that since public languages are essentially public, linguistic meaning is subject to a kind of epistemic cap so that there can be nothing more to linguistic meaning than can be determinately known on the basis of publicly available evidence (Epistemic Thesis). Given the thinness of such evidence, a well-known thesis follows to the effect that linguistic meaning is substantially indeterminate. In this (...) paper, we consider the sort of reasons offered for the Epistemic Thesis and uncover an unexamined presupposition about the epistemic requirements of communication and the establishment of meaning conventions. We show this presupposition is undermined by independently motivated considerations about communication and convention, giving us good reason to reject the Epistemic Thesis and its corollary about indeterminacy. (shrink)
1. Hermeneutik und „theory of interpretation“ 2. Radikalisierungen des Verstehensproblems 3. Verstehensskepsis, Bedeutungsskepsis und Sinnkritik 4. Radikale Übersetzung 5. Das „principle of charity“ 6. Radikale Interpretation beginnt zu Hause 7. Die Rolle der Sprecherabsichten 8. Ausblick: Woran bemisst sich Verstehenserfolg?
Davidson holds that thinkers cannot employ radically different conceptual schemes, but he does not deny the fact that small-scale conceptual divergences are possible. He defends the former claim against Quine by appealing to interpretivism, the idea that ascriptions of intensional states to a speaker do no more than systematically record facts about the speaker’s behavior. From interpretivism it follows that it is theoretically irrelevant which set of concepts an interpreter uses to state her theory of meaning. This is what allows (...) Davidson to avoid conceptual relativism while accepting Quine’s thesis that behavioral evidence necessarily underdetermines assignments of meaning to speakers. However, as Davidson seems not to have realized, interpretivism also rules out the possibility of uncontroversial, small-scale conceptual differences. This fact, I argue, should lead us to reject interpretivism. (shrink)
Dennett has long maintained that one of the keystones of Intentional Systems Theory is an assumption of rationality. To deploy the Intentional Stance is to presume from the outset that the target of interpretation is rational. This paper examines the history of rationality constraints on mental state ascription. I argue that the reasons that Dennett and his philosophical brethren present for positing rationality constraints are not convincing. If humans are found to be rational, this will not be because a presumption (...) of rationality must be built into the deployment of the Intentional Stance. It will be an empirical finding. Rationality will be an outcome of mental state ascription rather than a condition on ascription. (shrink)
This paper examines some of the interactions between holism, contextualism, and externalism, and will argue that an externalist metasemantics that grounds itself in certain plausible assumptions about self- knowledge will also be a contextualist metasemantics, and that such a contextualist metasemantics in turn resolves one of the best known problems externalist theories purportedly have with self-knowledge, namely the problem of how the possibility of various sorts of ‘switching’ cases can appear to undermine the ‘transparency’ of our thoughts (in particular, our (...) ability to tell, with respect to any two occurrent thoughts, whether they exercise the same or different concepts). (shrink)
Die Theorien der radikalen Übersetzung und der radikalen Interpretation gehören zu den einflussreichsten sprachphilosophischen Theorien der zweiten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts. Mit dem Gedankenexperiment der Erstübersetzung einer völlig fremden Sprache hat Quine einen originellen Weg gefunden, Grundfragen der Bedeutungstheorie vom Ballast traditioneller Annahmen befreit neu zu stellen: Was ist überhaupt sprachliche Bedeutung, wie hängt sie mit außersprachlichen Reizen zusammen, auf die menschliche Tiere reagieren, welche Rolle sollte der Bedeutungsbegriff in der Sprachphilosophie spielen? Radikal an Quines Übersetzungstheorie sind nicht zuletzt seine (...) Folgerungen. Sein Versuch, die Arbeit des Feldlinguisten im Dschungel möglichst voraussetzungsarm zu erklären, mündet in die These von der Übersetzungsunbestimmtheit und die Intensionsskepsis. Diese Doktrinen sind in der Sprachphilosophie hochumstritten geblieben. Sich mit Quine Rechenschaft darüber abzulegen, was ohne mentalistische Voraussetzungen erklärbar ist und was nicht, ist aber auch dann erkenntnisbefördernd, wenn man Quine in seiner empiristischen und behavioristischen Mittelbeschränkung nicht folgt. -/- Davidsons Theorie der radikalen Interpretation kommt das Verdienst zu, klassische hermeneutische Fragestellungen in eine allgemeine Bedeutungstheorie für natürliche Sprachen zu integrieren und mit Mitteln der analytischen Philosophie zu bearbeiten: Welches Wissen benötigt ein Interpret? Wie hängt sprachliche Bedeutung mit Absichten zusammen? Welchen Anteil am Verständigungserfolg hat der Sprecher, welchen der Interpret, welchen sprachliche Regeln? Überdies zeigt Davidson die engen Verbindungen zwischen der Sprachphilosophie und benachbarten philosophischen Disziplinen auf, insbesondere der Erkenntnistheorie, der Philosophie des Geistes und der Handlungstheorie. Er zeichnet im Spätwerk ein komplexes Bild davon, wie es Wesen wie uns gelingt, sich in ihrem verbalen und nichtverbalen Handeln miteinander zu verständigen, indem sie sich triangulierend auf eine gemeinsame, sprachlich erschlossene Welt beziehen. (shrink)
There are two main interpretive positions on Davidson’s project in the theory of meaning. The Replacement Theory holds that Davidson aimed to replace the theory of meaning with the theory of truth on the grounds that meaning is too unclear a notion for systematic theorizing. The Traditional Pursuit Theory, in contrast, holds that Davidson aimed to pursue the traditional project with a clever bit of indirection, exploiting the recursive structure of a truth theory to reveal compositional semantic structure and placing (...) constraints on it sufficient for its canonical assignments of truth conditions to be used for interpretation. This paper responds to a recent defense of a sophisticated version of the Replacement Theory by Gary Ebbs according to which Davidson was engaged in a Carnapian explication of meaning, intending to preserve only aspects of the usage of ‘means’ most important to us. I argue the Explication Interpretation cannot be sustained in the face of a detailed look at the passages that principally motivate it in “Truth and Meaning” when we take into account their local context, their context in the paper as a whole, and the context of that paper in Davidson’s contemporaneous work, and later work which tries to improve the formulations which he advanced in his early papers. (shrink)
This chapter reviews interpretations of Davidson's project in the theory of meaning and argues against a variety of views according to which Davidson intended to reduce meaning to some variety of truth conditions or replace the project of giving a theory of meaning with a theory of truth, and in support of interpreting him as offering an indirect way of achieving the goals of the traditional project by appeal to knowledge of facts about a semantic theory of truth for the (...) language, including that it was confirmable from the standpoint of the radical interpreter. (shrink)
Fictional and non-fictional texts rely on the same language to express their meaning; yet many philosophers in the analytic tradition would say, with reason, that fictional texts literally make no truth claims, or more modestly that the rhetorical and literary devices to which fiction and non-fiction writers alike have recourse are unconnected to truth or have no propositional content. These related views are associated with a doctrine in the philosophy of language, most notably advanced by the late Donald Davidson, which (...) holds that we understand the semantic structure of a language by applying to it a theory of truth, which involves discovering the truth conditions of its sentences. This approach to semantic theory raises several seemingly intractable problems, such as the problem of stating the meaning of non-declarative sentences, e.g. questions and imperatives. The chief aim of this paper will be to try to dispel these problems by suggesting an adjustment in Davidson’s account of the relation of truth to meaning, one which will also allow us to picture such troublesome linguistic items as metaphor within a semantic theory, and to expand the range of objects which can be brought into a general theory of meaning. (shrink)
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. He reveals unexplored tensions between the views of Quine and Davidson, and presents a powerful argument in favour of Quine and methodological naturalism.
In Davidson's philosophy, one finds a wide variety of rich, provocative, and influential arguments concerning the nature of the mind—that mental states emerge only in the context of interpretation, that belief is "in its nature" veridical, that mental events are physical events, and so on. Most, if not all, of Davidson's conclusions about the mind have their source in discussions about the project of "radical interpretation." They rely upon arguments concerning the conditions on the successful interpretation of a speaker by (...) an interpreter who knows nothing initially about the speaker's language or mental states. But what is the relevance of this activity of radical interpretation? Why should the conditions on succeeding at it illuminate anything about the nature of the mind in general? In this paper, I explore these issues. In particular, I will argue that Davidson's confidence in the relevance of radical interpretation for understanding the mind ultimately depends upon a prior and quite substantive view of the mind. Moreover, it is a view of the mind for which Davidson provides little support. Indeed, the little support Davidson does provide appears to depend itself on the very relevance of radical interpretation. (shrink)
In this paper, we defend Davidson's program in truth-theoretical semantics against recent criticisms by Scott Soames. We argue that Soames has misunderstood Davidson's project, that in consequence his criticisms miss the mark, that appeal to meanings as entities in the alternative approach that Soames favors does no work, and that the approach is no advance over truth-theoretic semantics.
Appeal to triangulation occurs in two different contexts in Davidson’s work. In the first, triangulation—in the trigonometric sense—is used as an analogy to help explain the central idea of a transcendental argument designed to show that we can have the concept of objective truth only in the context of communication with another speaker. In the second, the triangulation of two speakers responding to each other and to a common cause of similar responses is invoked as a solution to the problem (...) of underdetermination of thought and meaning by the patterns of causal relations we stand in to the environment. I examine both of these uses of the idea of triangulation. In section 2, I take up the use of triangulation as an analogy in connection with Davidson transcendental argument to establish that communication is essential for the concept of objectivity. I argue that it is unsuccessful because the case has not been made that scope for deploying the idea of contrasting perspectives, which is needed for the concept of objectivity, is available only in the context of communication. In section 3, I take up the idea that triangulation on a common cause of common responses of two creatures interacting with each other provides the additional constraint needed to assign objective content to our thoughts and words. I show that appeal to this sort of triangulation provides minimal help in responding to the problem it is intended to solve. Section 4 provides a brief summary and conclusion. (shrink)
This paper reviews some of the arguments put forward by some psychologists in which they come to the conclusion that autistic individuals suffer from mindblindness, and also looks at one particular implication these sorts of individuals pose for Donald Davidson’s theory of radical interpretation. It has been claimed that a particular manifestation of mindblindness in autistic people serves as a counter example to claims Davidson has made about the relation between belief and intention in linguistic competence.
Our aim is to propose a non-referential semantics for the principle of logical charity: neither logical universalism (one logic, one way of thinking), nor logical relativism (several logics, several ways of thinking) afford an adequate conceptual framework to interpret the meaning of any speech act. But neither of them is totally wrong, either. The point is to know to which extent each of these views is partly right, thus leading to a more consensual but paradoxical-sounding "relative principle of charity". After (...) recalling the theoretical background of logical charity, we suggest a four-valued logic of acceptance and rejection (hereafter: AR4); then we explain how such a non-referential semantics does justice both to the champions of logical charity and its opponents. While endorsing coherence as a precondition for rationality, we argue that such a criterion does not entail that classical logic is a necessary conceptual scheme to interpret the others' beliefs. A better application of charity should take account of the questions implicitly asked by a statement, and we bring these questions out in replacing Quine's truth-functions by Quine’s verdict functions while emphasizing upon their varying degrees of strength. (shrink)
This essay reconsiders the place of meaning within Quine’s naturalism. It takes as its point of departure Davidson’s claim that Quine’s linguistic behaviorism entails a form of semantic externalism. It then further locates this claim within the Davidson-Quine debate concerning whether the proximal or distal stimulus is the relevant determinant of semantic content. An interpretation of Quine’s developing views on translation and epistemology is defended that rejects Davidson’s view that Quine be read as a proto-externalist. Quine’s empirical evaluation of translation (...) entails no positive theoretical doctrine concerning how meaning is determined, but concludes that communication is a theoretically unquantifiable practical art or skill. Moreover, his ongoing epistemological development highlights theoretical concerns that diverge in fundamental ways from Davidson’s interest in semantics. Quine then hasreasons for resisting the entailment to semantic externalism that Davidson finds in his work. These reasons should have also ledhim to question the scientific legitimacy of Davidson’s concern with content determination. (shrink)
Thanks to their heterogeneity, the nine essays in this volume offer a clear testimony of Donald Davidson's authority, and they undoubtedly show how much his work - even if it has raised many doubts and criticisms - has been, and still is, highly influential and significant in contemporary analytical philosophy for a wide range of subjects. Moreover, the various articles not only critically and carefully analyse Davidson's theses and arguments (in particular those concerning language and knowledge), but they also illustrate (...) how such theories and ideas, despite their unavoidable difficulties, are still alive and potentially fruitful. Davidson's work is indeed an important and provocative starting point for discussing the future progress of philosophy. (shrink)
Theories of linguistic meaning have been a major influence in twentieth century philosophy. This is due, in part, to the assumption that meaning is the crucial and interesting thing about language. To know the meaning of an expression is to understand it, and since understanding is central to philosophy in many different ways, it should be no surprise that the notion of meaning has often taken center stage. The aim of this paper is to briefly explore some influential views concerning (...) linguistic meaning. The final objective will be to demonstrate some alternatives which are open to theory with respect to this notion,for there are those who have wanted to ban talk of meaning from serious scientific discourse. The point is that many of the disadvantages of traditional notions of meaning are avoidable¾in particular, they are avoidable along a path which starts from Frege and moves on via Tarski and Davidson. (shrink)
Since Davidson's proposal to use a Tarskian theory of truth in order to develop a theory of meaning has been criticised extensively, it is decisive to ask whether Davidson needs such a theory as an assumption and premise in other parts of his work. Especially, many authors have claimed that Davidson's argument in his paper 'On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme' depends on his approach in the theory of meaning. It is argued that this interpretation is wrong and (...) Davidson's attack on conceptual relativism does not depend in any way on his defense of truth-conditional semantics. Rather Davidson's thoroughgoing holism and the principle of charity are the basic rationale for his denial of conceptual relativism. (shrink)
This paper responds to a critical review of our 2005 book Donald Davidson: Meaning, Truth, Language and Reality, by Frederick Stoutland. It identifies a number of serious misreadings of both Davidson and the book.
The principle of charity (“Charity”), in one form or other, is held by many and for various reasons. After cataloging discernible kinds of Charity, I focus on the most familiar versions as found in Davidson, Dennett, Devitt, Lewis, Putnam, Quine, Stich, and others. To begin with, I argue that such versions of Charity are untenable because beliefs cannot be counted, and even if they could be counted there is reason to believe that true beliefs need not outnumber false beliefs. Next (...) I rebut one of the arguments behind Charity, the intelligibility argument. If indeed beliefs are postulated simply as a way to make some system intelligible (predictable and explicable) then a number of theses ensue. First, it would be perfectly intelligible to ascribe mostly false beliefs to an intentional system, or even entirely false beliefs. Second, lower animals would have beliefs. Third, it would sometimes make sense to ascribe beliefs even to inanimate beings. And fourth, the resulting indeterminacy of belief-ascription would suggest a kind of irrealism about belief which may in turn be expressed by the slogan that rejects the container metaphor of the mind. (shrink)
We clarify some points previously made by Andrews, and defend the claim that Davidson's account of belief can be and is challenged by the existence of some people with autism. We argue that both Bouma and Andrews (Philosophical Psychology, 15) blurred the subtle distinctions between the psychological concepts of theory of mind and joint attention and the Davidsonian concepts of interpretation and triangulation. And we accept that appeal to control group studies is not the appropriate place to look for an (...) individual who can speak but who has significant problems with interpretation. In this paper we argue that by turning to the clinical literature we can more readily find such a challenge to Davidson's account. (shrink)
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. 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)
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. (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.
Ludwig deals with the relations between language, thought, and rationality, and, especially, the role and status of assumptions about rationality in interpreting another’s speech and assigning contents to her psychological attitudes—her beliefs, desires, intentions, and so on. The chapter is organized around three questions: What is the relation between rationality and thought? What is the relation between rationality and language? What is the relation between thought and language? Ludwig argues that some large degree of rationality is required for thought and (...) consequently that same degree of rationality at least is required for language since language requires thought. Thought, however, does not require language. In answering questions and, Ludwig gives particular attention to Davidson’s arguments for the Principle of Charity, according to which it is constitutive of speakers that they are largely rational and largely right about the world, and to Davidson’s arguments for the thesis that without the power of speech we lack the power of thought. (shrink)
In this essay I argue for a constructivist account of the entities composing the object languages of Davidsonian truth theories and a quotational account of the reference from metalinguistic expressions to interpreted utterances. I claim that ‘radical quotation’ requires an ontology of repeatable events with strong similarities to Derrida's account of iterable events. In part one I summarise Davidson's account of interpretation and Olav Gjelsivk's arguments to the effect that the syntactic individuation of linguistic objects is only workable if interpreters (...) make richer assumptions about semantic properties than Davidson can tolerate. In part two I show that the objectivist account of syntactic objects which Gjelsivk's arguments presuppose is incompatible with one corollary of Davidsonian semantic indeterminacy: namely, the relativity of language to interpretative scheme. In place of this an account of radical interpretation is presented in which a quotational theory of metalinguistic reference furnishes the requisite relativity. In part three I argue that this account requires that particular utterance events must be repeatable to be radically quotable and give reasons why particularity and repeatability are not incompatible. (shrink)
This is the Introduction to my translation of Quine's Kant Lectures. Part of my interpretation is that an "esoteric doctrine" in involved in Quine's distinctive semantic claims: his skepticism of the credulity of non-expert evaluation of discourse and theory.
This book is a translation of W.V. Quine's Kant Lectures, given as a series at Stanford University in 1980. It provide a short and useful summary of Quine's philosophy. There are four lectures altogether: I. Prolegomena: Mind and its Place in Nature; II. Endolegomena: From Ostension to Quantification; III. Endolegomena loipa: The forked animal; and IV. Epilegomena: What's It all About? The Kant Lectures have been published to date only in Italian and German translation. The present book is filled out (...) with the translator's critical Introduction, "The esoteric Quine?" a bibliography based on Quine's sources, and an Index for the volume. (shrink)
The publication of Davidson 2001, anthologizing articles from the 1980s and 1990s, encourages reconsidering arguments contained in them. One such argument is Davidson's omniscient-interpreter argument ('OIA') in Davidson 1983. The OIA allegedly establishes that it is necessary that most beliefs are true. Thus the omniscient interpreter, revived in 2001 and now 20 years old, was born to answer the skeptic. In Part I of this paper, I consider charges that the OIA establishes only that it is possible that most beliefs (...) are true; if correct, then it is also possibly the case that most beliefs are falseâthe skepticâs very position. Next, I consider two responses on Davidson's behalf, showing that each fails. In Part II, I show that the OIA establishes neither that it is necessarily merely possibly but actually the case that most beliefs are true. I then conclude that this is enough to answer the skeptic. (shrink)