Dissertation, University of Otago (2017)

Ali Hossein Khani
Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences
This thesis is an attempt to investigate the relation between the views of Wittgenstein as presented by Kripke and Donald Davidson on meaning and linguistic understanding. Kripke’s Wittgenstein, via his sceptical argument, argues that there is no fact about which rule a speaker is following in using a linguistic expression. Now, if one urges that meaning something by a word is essentially a matter of following one rule rather than another, the sceptical argument leads to the radical sceptical conclusion that there is no such thing as meaning anything by any word. According to the solution Kripke’s Wittgenstein proposes, we must instead concentrate on the ordinary practice of meaning-attribution, that is, on the conditions under which we can justifiably ascribe meaning to each other and the utility such a practice has in our life. Davidson has also argued that following rules is neither necessary nor sufficient for explaining success in the practice of meaning something by an utterance. According to his alternative view of meaning, a speaker’s success in this practice is fundamentally a matter of his utterance being successfully interpreted by an interpreter in the way the speaker intended. On the basis of these remarks, Davidson raises objections to Kripke’s Wittgenstein’s sceptical argument and solution. In this thesis, I will argue that Davidson has failed to fully grasp the essentially sceptical nature of the argument and solution proposed by Kripke’s Wittgenstein. I will argue that as a result of this Davidson’s objections and his alternative solution to Kripke’s Wittgenstein’s sceptical argument are mistaken. These criticisms are pursued via an investigation of Davidson’s problematic reading of Quine’s sceptical arguments for the thesis of the indeterminacy of translation. Having criticized Davidson’s actual response to Kripke’s Wittgenstein, I will claim that Davidson’s best option for resisting the sceptical problem is to adopt a form of non-reductionism about meaning. Claudine Verheggen’s recent claim that Davidson’s use of the notion of triangulation will help to establish non-reductionism will be argued to be a failure. I will urge that the main obstacle in defending a non-reductionist view is the problem of accounting for the nature of self-knowledge of meaning and understanding. After discussing Davidson’s account of self-knowledge and Crispin Wright’s objection to this account, I will argue that, although Wright’s objection is ultimately unsuccessful, Davidson’s account fails for other reasons. Finally, I tentatively suggest that the resources for an alternative response to the sceptical problem can possibly be extracted from Davidson’s account of intending, which has some features suggestive of a judgement-dependent account of meaning and intention.
Keywords Kripke's Wittgenstein  Donald Davidson  Crispin Wright  Claudine Verheggen  W. V. O. Quine  Indeterminacy of Translation  Triangulation  Non-Reductionism  Rule-Following  Sceptical Argument and Solution  Radical Interpretation
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