A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs

In Ernest LePore (ed.), Truth and Interpretation: Perspectives on the Philosophy of Donald Davidson. Cambridge: Blackwell. pp. 433--446 (1986)
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Abstract

This essay argues that in linguistic communication, nothing corresponds to a linguistic competence as summarized by the three principles of first meaning in language: that first meaning is systematic, first meanings are shared, and first meanings are governed by learned conventions or regularities. There is no such a thing as a language, not if a language is anything like what many philosophers and linguists have supposed. We must give up the idea of a clearly defined shared structure which language users acquire and then apply to cases, as well as the attempt to illuminate how we communicate by appeal to conventions.

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