Convention and Assertion

Grazer Philosophische Studien 36 (1):109-119 (1989)

Abstract
Donald Davidson has shocked his readers by arguing that assertion is not a conventional activity, thus attacking what was taken to be a truism by most philosophers of language. The paper claims that Davidson's argument is seriously flawed by his failure to distinguish a number of questions which should be kept separate. Assertion is a matter of seriousness, not of sincerity; departures from seriousness are marked by techniques which are undeniably conventional. There are no parallel indicators of seriousness, i. e. there is no assertion-sign. But this necessary absence of a conventional marker of seriousness from our communicative repertoire does not imply that the activity of asserting is not conventional. Assertion differs in important ways from eating or walking; it is these differences which have led Searle, Lewis, EHimmett and countless others to conceive of language as essentially conventional'. The paper argues that Davidson'snaturalistic challenge illuminates the (non-existing) role of the assertion-sign, while failing to undermine the credentials of the 'truism'
Keywords Analytic Philosophy
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ISBN(s) 0165-9227
DOI 10.5840/gps19893620
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