Ernest Lepore and Kirk Ludwig present the definitive critical exposition of the philosophical system of Donald Davidson. Davidson 's ideas had a deep and broad influence in the central areas of philosophy; he presented them in brilliant essays over four decades, but never set out explicitly the overarching scheme in which they all have their place. Lepore's and Ludwig's book will therefore be the key work, besides Davidson 's own, for understanding one of the greatest philosophers of the twentieth (...) century. (shrink)
The work of Donald Davidson (1917-2003) transformed the study of meaning. Ernie Lepore and Kirk Ludwig, two of the world's leading authorities on Davidson's work, present the definitive study of his widely admired and influential program of truth-theoretic semantics for natural languages, giving an exposition and critical examination of its foundations and applications.
This paper uses a social semiotic perspective to analyze Donald Trump’s domination of media coverage of the US presidential campaign from 16 June 2015, when he announced his candidacy for nomination as the Republican candidate until 8 November 2016, when he was elected as President of the United States. The paper argues that one of the keys to Donald Trump’s domination of media coverage was that, in presenting himself and his agenda, he foregrounded interpersonal meaning by making himself (...) the focus of attention of the campaign through strategies that invaded various semiotic spaces to form a “sub-semiosphere” of Trump dogma. The effects of this were that what he did and what he said captured the majority of media attention at the expense of his opponents, enabling him to win the election, despite his complete lack of background experience as a politician. (shrink)
Donald Davidson’s epistemology is predicated on, among other things, the rejection of Experiential Foundationalism, which he calls ‘unintelligible’. In this essay, I assess Davidson’s arguments for this conclusion. I conclude that each of them fails on the basis of reasons that foundationalists and antifoundationalists alike can, and should, accept.
J. E. Malpas discusses and develops the ideas of Donald Davidson, influential in contemporary thinking on the nature of understanding and meaning, and of truth and knowledge. He provides an account of Davidson's holistic and hermeneutical conception of linguistic interpretation, and, more generally, of the mind. Outlining its Quinean origins and the elements basic to Davidson's Radical Interpretation, J. E. Malpas' book goes on to elaborate this holism and to examine the indeterminacy of interpretation and the principle of charity. (...) The metaphysical and epistemological consequences of Davidson's approach are considered, particularly in relation to scepticism and relativism, the realist/anti-realist debate, and the problem of truth. Parallels are drawn between the Davidsonian emphasis on the centrality of the notion of truth and Heidegger's notion of truth as aletheia, as the book looks to structuralist, hermeneutical and phenomenological sources to illuminate Davidson's position. (shrink)
In his recent paper, “Lottery Puzzles and Jesus’ Return,” Donald Smith says that Christians should accept a very robust skepticism about the future because a Christian ought to think that the probability of Jesus’ return happening at any future moment is inscrutable to her. But I think that Smith’s argument lacks the power to rationally persuade Christians who are antecedently uncommitted as to whether or not we can or do have any substantive knowledge about the future. Moreover, I think (...) that Christians who are so antecedently uncommitted have available objections they can reasonably press against Smith’s arguments. In the paper, I attempt to bring out these objections. (shrink)
Donald Davidson's work has been of seminal importance in the development of analytic philosophy and his views on the nature of language, mind and action remain the starting point for many of the central debates in the analytic tradition. His ideas, however, are complex, often technical, and interconnected in ways that can make them difficult to understand. This introduction to Davidson's philosophy examines the full range of his writings to provide a clear succinct overview of his ideas. This book (...) begins with an account of the assumptions and structure of Davidson's philosophy of language, introducing his compositionalism, extensionalism and commitment to a Tarski-style theory of truth as the model for theories of meaning. It goes on to show how that philosophical framework is to be applied and how it challenges the traditional picture. Marc Joseph examines Davidson's influential work on action theory and events and discusses the commonly made charge that his theory of action and mind leaves the mental as a mere 'epiphenomenon' of the physical. The final section explores Davidson's philosophy of mind, some of its consequences for traditional views of subjectivity and objectivity and, more generally, the relation between minded beings and the physical and mental world they occupy. (shrink)
Donald Trump has been a godsend for those of us who teach critical thinking. For he is a fount of manipulative rhetoric, glaring fallacies, conspiracy theories, fake news, and bullshit. In this paper I draw on my own recent teaching experience in order to discuss both the usefulness and the limits of using Trump examples in teaching critical thinking. In Section One I give the framework of the course; in Section Two I indicate Trump’s relevance to many important concepts (...) in the course; and in Section Three I argue that critical thinking instructors should restrain themselves from overreliance on Trump-examples. (shrink)
Religious naturalism is distinct from supernatural religion largely because of metaphysical minimalism. Certain varieties of religious naturalism are more minimalist than others, however, and some even eschew metaphysics altogether. But is anything lost in that process? To determine metaphysics’ degree of relevance to religious function, I compare the soteriology of the “ontologically reticent” Minimalist Vision of Jerome Stone to that of the ontologically rich Religion of Nature of Donald Crosby. I demonstrate that for these varieties of religious naturalism: (1) (...) metaphysics influences soteriology; (2) metaphysical minimalism limits soteriological potential; and (3) metaphysics enhances soteriological potential. These conclusions lead me to assert the relevance of metaphysics to religious function, specifically for these varieties of religious naturalism, as well as to urge investigation into religious experience and quality as they may relate to metaphysics. (shrink)
This article has two objectives. Firts, it is my aim to outline some medieval views concerning the acts that oppose one's better judgment. I will use Aristotle's term aktasia to denote the moral state of an agent behaving in this way. John Burdidan's (1285-1349) treatment of akrasia is especially relevant here. Second, it will be argued that some important philosophical ideas proposed receently by Donald Davidson, in his influential study 'How is Waekness of the Will Possible?', are anticipated in (...) the medieval discussion. (shrink)
Given W.V. Quine’s and Donald Davidson’s extensive agreement about much of the philosophy of language and mind, and the obvious methodological parallels between Quine’s radical translation and Davidson’s radical interpretation, many—including Quine and Davidson—are puzzled by their occasional disagreements. I argue for the importance of attending to these disagreements, not just because doing so deepens our understanding of these influential thinkers, but because they are in fact the shadows thrown from two distinct conceptions of philosophical inquiry: Quine’s “naturalism” and (...) what I call Davidson’s “humanism.” The clash between Quine and Davidson thus provides valuable insight into the history of analytic naturalism and its malcontents. (shrink)
This is a review of Kathrin Gluer's Donald Davidson: A Short Introduction. A dispute about the grounding of the Principle of Charity is discussed, and some resources Davidson has for responding to a criticism of his theory of action.
Over the last forty years, Donald Davidson has been one of the most influential, but least accessible voices in philosophy. There are several reasons why it is hard to come to grips with his work. First, his language is dense, even by the standards of analytic philosophy; while at the same time his thought is highly organic, so that it is difficult to make sense of one idea without an understanding of his whole program. Davidson never attempted to write (...) a book that would provide an easy entry into the interconnections between his many influential and controversial views. Nor did he attempt to record the evolution of his thought, keeping track of how reconsiderations on one point would affect the tenability of the others. It is perhaps a good thing too, for as the volume to be reviewed here makes clear, such a massive project would have left him with little time for his later contributions to philosophy. (shrink)
The English version of the first chapter of Erwin Rogler and Gerhard Preyer: Materialismus, anomaler Monismus und mentale Kausalität. Zur gegenwärtigen Philosophie des Mentalen bei Donald Davidson und David Lewis »Anomaler Monismus und Mentale Kausalität. Ein Beitrag zur Debatte über Donald Davidsons Philosophie des Mentalen« is a contribution to the current debates on the philosophy of the mental and mental causality initiated from Donald Davidson's philosophy with his article »Mental Events«. It is the intent of the English (...) version to give a response to the controversy among American, British and Australian philosophers in the context of a global exchange of ideas on problems understanding the mental. Contents 1. Preliminary Remarks 2. The Critique of Property-Epiphenomenalism and Counterarguments The Enlargement of Nomological Reasoning The Counterfactual Analysis Supervenient Causality 3. Are Mental Properties real or unreal?Things and events are fundamental entities in Davidson's ontology. Less distinct is the ontological status of properties, especially of mental types. Despite of some eliminative allusions there are weighty reasons to understand Davidson's philosophy of mind as including intentional realism. With it, the question of mental causality arises. There are two striking solutions to this problem: the epiphenomenalism of mental properties and the downward causation of mental events. Davidson cannot accept either. He claims to justify the mental as supervenient causality in order to thus integrate it into physicalism. But his argument at best proves the explanatory, not the causal relevance of mental properties. For this and for other reasons, Davidson fails the aspired synthesis of a sufficiently strong physicalism and the autonomy of the mental; a project whose realization is anyhow hard to achieve. (shrink)
This paper is focused on the analysis of the relationship between Davidson’s classical essays in Philosophy of Language and the thesis he developed with the article “A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs”. I shall argue that the idea of language defended by Davidson in the eighties doesn’t present similarities with Wittgenstein’s approach, as it is assumed by some scholars. In this respect, I reject the idea according to which we should assume the existence of an “early” and a “later” Donald (...) Davidson after the publication of “A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs”. By analyzing his works, I will show that the main elements of his theory of meaning remain unchanged and that there are no radical changes in Davidson’s philosophical perspective on language and meaning. (shrink)
The latest volume of the critically acclaimed Library of Living Philosophers series is devoted to the work of analytic philosopher Donald Davidson. Following the standard LLP format, Davidson discusses his life and philosophical development in an intellectual autobiography. This is followed by 31 critical essays by distinguished scholars; Davidson replies to each of these essays.
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. (shrink)
According to many commentators, Davidson’s earlier work on philosophy of action and truth-theoretic semantics is the basis for his reputation, and his later forays into broader metaphysical and epistemological issues, and eventually into what became known as the triangulation argument, are much less successful. This book by two of his former students aims to change that perception. In Part One, Verheggen begins by providing an explanation and defense of the triangulation argument, then explores its implications for questions concerning semantic normativity (...) and reductionism, the social character of language and thought, and skepticism about the external world. In Part Two, Myers considers what the argument can tell us about reasons for action, and whether it can overcome skeptical worries based on claims about the nature of motivation, the sources of normativity and the demands of morality. The book reveals Davidson’s later writings to be full of innovative and important ideas that deserve much more attention than they are currently receiving. (shrink)
En este breve comentario discuto algunos aspectos de la interpretación de la epistemología de Davidson que sugiere Willian Duica en su reciente libro. Luego de una presentación somera del libro me centro en tres asuntos centrales de la interpretación de Duica. En primer lugar, argumento que su lectura de la crítica de Davidson al dualismo esquema/contenido es muy restrictiva y deja abierta la posibilidad de un realismo directo empirista. En segundo lugar, argumento que en su lectura el propio Duica se (...) compromete inadvertidamente con un empirismo de este tipo y, de este modo, su interpretación entra en tensión con el coherentismo de Davidson. Finalmente, discuto algunos aspectos de la interpretación que hace Duica de la tesis davidsoniana de la triangulación. (shrink)
The book is an “introductory” reconstruction of Davidson on interpretation —a claim to be taken with a grain of salt. Writing introductory books has become an idol of the tribe. This is a concise book and reflects much study. It has many virtues along with some flaws. Ramberg assembles themes and puzzles from Davidson into a more or less coherent viewpoint. A special virtue is the innovative treatment of incommensurability and of the relation of Davidson’s work to hermeneutic themes. The (...) weakness comes in a certain unevenness. While generally convincing and well written, the book has low points which may leave the reader confused or unconvinced. Davidson is the hero in this book, and our hero is sometimes over idealized. (shrink)
Problems of Rationality is divided into three parts. The first four essays defend the claim that judgments of value are objectively true. The next six expound what Davidson called "a unified theory of thought, meaning, and action". The last four discuss the problems that weakness of will and self-deception raise for Davidson's claim that ascription of intention and belief is possible only if we assume the agent's rationality. I shall discuss the three parts in sequence.
Tracing the background of Davidson’s work in the positivists’ philosophical emigration of the 30’s and in Quine, Evnine’s “Introduction” offers a “map of the terrain to be covered” which stresses the “rationalistic” character of Davidson’s views on holism and rationality. Thus, “his main philosophical concerns ... language, the mental and action...are the ingredients of a philosophical anthropology.” In spite of Quinean roots, the view is that “Davidson has now wholly removed himself, philosophically speaking, from the empiricist tradition.” The result: a (...) “rationalism,...a genuine, non-empiricist philosophical vision.” Though appealing to those of a “rationalist” leaning, this theme seems to generalize Davidson’s criticisms of Quine’s behaviorism as a lapse from empiricism. Often, it arises from interpretive gloss just where the tough-minded reader seeks quotation. (shrink)
William James described his system as “too much like an arch built only on one side.” Donald Crosby’s project is to chart the dimensions of the arch, repair it in certain places, and continue its construction. He endorses a Jamesian empiricism according to which “pure experience” is the ultimate context within which we come to judgments about reality, but he resists James’s allusions to pure experience as the stuff from which the world is made. The metaphysical question is answered (...) by “radical materialism,” Crosby’s label for his revision of James’s pluralism.James insisted that experience is prior to the discriminations that we find within in it. Most people, for example, must be taught to listen for... (shrink)
The thesis evaluates a contemporary debate concerning the very possibility of thinking about the world. In the first chapter, McDowell's critique of Davidson is presented, focusing on the coherentism defended by the latter. The critique of the myth of the given (as it appears in Sellars and Wittgenstein), as well as the necessity of a minimal empiricism (which McDowell finds in Quine and Kant), lead to an oscillation in contemporary thinking between two equally unsatisfactory ways of understanding the empirical content (...) of thought. In the second chapter, I defend Davidson's approach, focusing on his theory of interpretation and semantic externalism, as well as on the relation between causes and reasons. In the third chapter, the debate is analyzed in more detail. I criticize the anomalous monism, the way in which the boundaries between the conceptual and the non-conceptual are understood by Davidson, as well as the naturalized Platonism defended by McDowell. This thesis is mainly negative, and it concludes by revealing problems in both positions under evaluation. (shrink)
Benefit/cost analysis is a technique for evaluating programs, procedures, and actions; it is not a moral theory. There is significant controversy over the moral justification of benefit/cost analysis. When a procedure for evaluating social policy is challenged on moral grounds, defenders frequently seek a justification by construing the procedure as the practical embodiment of a correct moral theory. This has the apparent advantage of avoiding difficult empirical questions concerning such matters as the consequences of using the procedure. So, for example, (...) defenders of benefit/cost analysis are frequently tempted to argue that this procedure just is the calculation of moral Tightness – perhaps that what it means for an action to be morally right is just for it to have the best benefit-to-cost ratio given the accounts of “benefit” and “cost” that BCA employs. They suggest, in defense of BCA, that they have found the moral calculus – Bentham's “unabashed arithmetic of morals.” To defend BCA in this manner is to commit oneself to one member of a family of moral theories and, also, to the view that if a procedure is the direct implementation of a correct moral theory, then it is a justified procedure. Neither of these commitments is desirable, and so the temptation to justify BCA by direct appeal to a B/C moral theory should be resisted; it constitutes an unwarranted short cut to moral foundations – in this case, an unsound foundation. Critics of BCA are quick to point out the flaws of B/C moral theories, and to conclude that these undermine the justification of BCA. But the failure to justify BCA by a direct appeal to B/C moral theory does not show that the technique is unjustified. There is hope for BCA, even if it does not lie with B/C moral theory. (shrink)
The revival of analytic metaphysics in the latter half of the twentieth century is typically understood as a consequence of the critiques of logical positivism, Quine’s naturalization of ontology, Kripke’s Naming and Necessity, clarifications of modal notions in logic, and the theoretical exploitation of possible worlds. However, this explanation overlooks the work of metaphysicians at the height of positivism and linguisticism that affected metaphysics of the late twentieth century. Donald C. Williams is one such philosopher. In this paper I (...) explain how Williams’s fundamental ontology and philosophy of time influenced in part the early formation of David Lewis’s metaphysics. Thus, Williams played an important role in the revival of analytic metaphysics. (shrink)
The rise to power of Donald Trump has been shocking in many ways. One of these was that it disrupted the preexisting consensus that overt racism would be death to a national political campaign. In this paper, I argue that Trump made use of what I call “racial figleaves”—additional utterances that provide just enough cover to give reassurance to voters who are racially resentful but don’t wish to see themselves as racist. These figleaves also, I argue, play a key (...) role in shifting our norms about what counts as racist: they bring it about that something which would previously have been seen as revealing obvious racism is now seen as the sort of thing that a nonracist might say. This gives them tremendous power to corrupt not just our political discourse but our culture more broadly. (shrink)
With the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States, the discourse of an authoritarianism and the echoes of a fascist past have moved from the margins to the center of American politics. A culture of war buttressed by the forces of white supremacy and militarization has been unleashed in a series of policies designed to return the United States to a history in which the public sphere was largely white and Christian, and the economy and (...) the state were governed by a ruling corporate elite. Militarization and a war culture have become normalized in the United States and this article explores the ways in which a neo-fascism has emerged that furthers war not only abroad but also at home, especially with regards to the ongoing assaults waged by the state against Muslims, immigrants, women’s reproductive rights, and poor minorities of class and color. Against the rise of neo--fascism, this article advances the idea that education is central to any viable notion of politics, that progressives... (shrink)
Donald Davidson is unquestionably one of America's greatest living philosophers. His influence on Anglo-American philosophy over the last twenty years has been enormous, and his work is an unavoidable reference point in current debates in the philosophy of language and the philosophy of mind. This book offers a systematic and accessible introduction to Davidson's work. Evnine begins by discussing Davidson's contribution to the philosophy of mind, including his views on action, events and causation. He then examines Davidson's work in (...) the philosophy of language. The link between meaning and truth, radical interpretation, and semantic holism are considered in detail. The final chapters deal with the metaphysical aspects of Davidson's work and seek to assess his philosophical project as a whole. (shrink)
The papers collected in this issue were solicited to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Donald Davidson’s birth. Four of them discuss the implications of Davidson’s views—in particular, his later views on triangulation—for questions that are still very much at the centre of current debates. These are, first, the question whether Saul Kripke’s doubts about meaning and rule-following can be answered without making concessions to the sceptic or to the quietist; second, the question whether a way can be found to (...) answer Davidson’s own doubts about the continuity of non-propositional thought and language; third, the question whether normative properties can be at once causal and prescriptive; fourth, the question whether folk psychological explanations can be at once illuminating and autonomous. The fifth paper reexamines Davidson’s take on the principle of compositionality, which always was at the centre of his theorizing about language. (shrink)
This article explores an important metaphysical issue raised by Donald Crosby in his Nature as Sacred Ground1—namely, the reality and nature of teleology and the explanatory relevance of teleology for understanding human mentality. Crosby, in his endeavor to construct a metaphysical system on which to base religious naturalism, acknowledges the importance of positively accounting for teleology. Teleology is crucial for accounting for human freedom, and if teleology falls prey to reductionism, then a dangerous dissonance is created between naturalism and (...) the necessary presupposition regarding ourselves as experiencing and causally effective creatures. To leave such a dissonance... (shrink)
In the middle of last century metaphysics was widely criticized, ridiculed, and committed to the flames. During this period a handful of philosophers, against several anti-metaphysical trends, defended metaphysics and articulated novel metaphysical doctrines. Donald C. Williams was one of these philosophers. But while his contributions to metaphysics are well known his defence of metaphysics is not and yet it played a key part in the development and revival of metaphysics. In this paper I present his defence of metaphysics (...) in its historical context. I also show how his defence is relevant in response to recent attacks on metaphysics. (shrink)
Over the last three decades, non-adaptationism has developed as an alternative model to more traditional, adaptationist approaches within Evolutionary Epistemology. Despite its great explanatory strength, non-adaptationist EE finds a potential Achilles heel in its adherence to conceptual relativism, namely the idea that empirical content can be relative to many different and radically incommensurable conceptual schemes. In his seminal essay “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme”, Donald Davidson did in fact prove the unintelligibility of an analogous form of (...) conceptual relativism. Although Davidson’s original intent was to debunk a conceptual relativist position which he discerned in the works of authors such as Kuhn, Quine, and Whorf, given the apparent similarity between the conceptual relativism supported by non-adaptationist EE and the one criticised by Davidson, one might well wonder if Davidson’s objections would have the same debunking effect if applied to non-adaptationist EE. In this paper I propose to answer this question by directing Davidson’s critiques of conceptual relativism to non-adaptationist EE and by testing to what extent the latter is de facto undermined by Davidson’s attacks. I demonstrate that Davidson’s arguments do not detract from the reliability of non-adaptationist perspectives and, to some extent, they appear to substantiate the non-adaptationist evolutionary epistemological cause anew. (shrink)
In this book, Kathrin Gl¨uer carefully outlines Donald Davidson's principal claims and arguments, and discusses them in some detail, providing a concise, systematic introduction to all the main elements of Davidson's philosophy.