Indeterminacy and interpretation

Inquiry 37 (4):403 – 419 (1994)
This paper contains a discussion of Quine's thesis of indeterminacy of translation within the more general thesis that using and understanding a language are to be conceived of as a creative and interpretative-constructional activity. Indeterminacy is considered to be ineliminable. Three scenarios are distinguished concerning, first, the reasons for indeterminacy, second, the kinds of indeterminacy and, third, different levels of a general notion of recursive interpretation. Translational hypotheses are seen as interpretational constructs. The indeterminacy thesis turns out to be a consequence of the externalizing of language, meaning, and epistemology. By means of a three-leveled interpretation model one can substantiate the crucial aspects, first, that indeterminacy is not an indeterminacy of facts of the matter and, second, that there is a significant difference between indeterminacy and underdetermination. In addition, the relationship between indeterminacy, interpretation, and charity is elucidated. Indeterminacy is seen not as an obstacle to but as a condition for communication. Charity and empathy in dialogue are conditional upon indeterminacy. All three components reveal the interpretative-constructional character of the inseparable connection of meaning and experience.
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DOI 10.1080/00201749408602363
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