Grazer Philosophische Studien 36 (1):157-178 (1989)

Jeff Malpas
University of Tasmania
According to Quine the inscrutability of reference leads to ontological relativity, or, as Donald Davidson calls it, relativity of reference. Davidson accepts both inscrutability and the indeterminacy of translation which it grounds, but rejects any explicit relativity of reference or ontology. The reasons behind this rejection are set out and explained. Explicit relativization is shown to be at odds with indeterminacy. Some notion of the relativity of reference (or, more generally, interpretation) is nevertheless shown to be both possible and necessary. It is, however, a relativity which is compatible with commensurability — the idea of absolute incommeasurability is ruled out along with the realist ideal of universal commensuration — as well as with indeterminacy. The indeterminacy thesis itself undergoes some slight elaboration, particularly in respect of the notion of empirical equivalence. In general the resulting account is one which retains both the absolute character of truth and some sense of the relativity of ontology against the background of Davidsonian holism
Keywords Analytic Philosophy
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ISBN(s) 0165-9227
DOI 10.5840/gps19893625
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