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Abstract: Donald Davidson's account of interpretation purports to be a priori , though I argue that the empirical facts about interpretation, theory of mind, and autism must be considered when examining the merits of Davidson's view. Developmental psychologists have made plausible claims about the existence of some people with autism who use language but who are unable to interpret the minds of others. This empirical claim undermines Davidson's theoretical claims that all speakers must be interpreters of other speakers and that one need not be a speaker in order to be a thinker. The falsity of these theses has consequences for other parts of Davidson's world-view; for example, it undermines his argument against animal thought
Abstract: In the writings of Daniel Dennett and Donald Davidson we find something like the following bold conjecture: it is an a priori truth that there is no gap between our best judgements of a subject's beliefs and desires and the truth about the subject's beliefs and desires. Under ideal conditions a subject's belief-box and desire-box become transparent
Abstract: In a series of interesting and influential papers on semantics, Hilary Putnam has developed what he calls a “post-verificationist” theory of meaning. As part of this work, and not I think the most important part, Putnam defends a limited version of the analytic-synthetic distinction. In this paper I will survey and evaluate Putnam’s defense of analyticity and explore its relationship to broader concerns in semantics. Putnam’s defense of analyticity ultimately fails, and I want to show here exactly why it fails. However, I will also argue that this very failure helps open the prospect of a new optimism concerning the theory of meaning, a theory of meaning finally liberated from the dead weight of the notions of analyticity and necessary truth. Putnam’s work, in fact, makes valuable contributions to such a theory.
Abstract: 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.
Abstract: In his recent collection of essays, Language, Truth and History (2005),
Donald Davidson appears to endorse a philosophy of language which gives primary importance to the notion of the speaker’s communicative intentions, a perspective on language not too dissimilar from that of Paul Grice. If that is right, then this would mark a major shift from the formal semanticist approach articulated and defended by Davidson in his Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation (1984). In this paper, I argue that although there are many similarities between these two thinkers, Davidson has not abandoned his earlier views on language
Abstract: Since the seventies, it has been customary to assume that intentionality is
independent of consciousness. Recently, a number of philosophers have rejected this
assumption, claiming intentionality is closely tied to consciousness, inasmuch as non-
conscious intentionality in some sense depends upon conscious intentionality. Within this
alternative framework, the question arises of how to account for unconscious
intentionality, and different authors have offered different accounts. In this paper, I
compare and contrast four possible accounts of unconscious intentionality, which I call
potentialism, inferentialism, eliminativism, and interpretivism. The first three are the
leading accounts in the existing literature, while the fourth is my own proposal, which I
argue to be superior. I then argue that an upshot of interpretivism is that all unconscious
intentionality is ultimately grounded is a specific kind of cognitive phenomenology.
Abstract: Inscrutability arguments threaten to reduce interpretationist metasemantic theories to absurdity. Can we find some way to block the arguments? A highly influential proposal in this regard is David Lewis’ ‘eligibility’ response: some theories are better than others, not because they fit the data better, but because they are framed in terms of more natural properties. The purposes of this paper are (1) to outline the nature of the eligibility proposal, making the case that it is not ad hoc, but instead flows naturally from three independently motivated elements; and (2) to show that severe limitations afflict the proposal. In conclusion, I pick out the element of the eligibility response that is responsible for the limitations: future work in this area should therefore concentrate on amending this aspect of the overall theory
Abstract: Quine (1960, Word and object. Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press, ch. 2) claims that there are a variety of equally good schemes for translating or interpreting ordinary talk. ‘Rabbit’ might be taken to divide its reference over rabbits, over temporal slices of rabbits, or undetached parts of rabbits, without significantly affecting which sentences get classified as true and which as false. This is the basis of his famous ‘argument from below’ to the conclusion that there can be no fact of the matter as to how reference is to be divided. Putative counterexamples to Quine’s claim have been put forward in the past (see especially Evans 1975; 1975, Journal of Philosophy, LXXII(13), 343–362. Reprinted in McDowell (Ed.), Gareth Evans: Collected papers. Oxford: Clarendon Press.), and various patches have been suggested (e.g. Wright (1997, The indeterminacy of translation. In C. Wright & B. Hale (Eds.), A companion to the philosophy of language (pp. 397–426). Oxford: Blackwell)). One lacuna in this literature is that one does not find any detailed presentation of what exactly these interpretations are supposed to be. Drawing on contemporary literature on persistence, the present paper sets out detailed semantic treatments for fragments of English, whereby predicates such as ‘rabbit’ divide their reference over four-dimensional continuants (Quine’s rabbits), instantaneous temporal slices of those continuants (Quine’s rabbit-slices) and the simple elements which compose those slices (undetached rabbit parts) respectively. Once we have the systematic interpretations on the table, we can get to work evaluating them
Abstract: How are permutation arguments for the inscrutability of reference to be formulated in the context of a Davidsonian truth-theoretic semantics? Davidson (1979) takes these arguments to establish that there are no grounds for favouring a reference scheme that assigns London to “Londres”, rather than one that assigns Sydney to that name. We shall see, however, that it is far from clear whether permutation arguments work when set out in the context of the kind of truth-theoretic semantics which Davidson favours. The principle required to make the argument work allows us to resurrect Foster problems against the Davidsonian position. The Foster problems and the permutation inscrutability problems stand or fall together: they are one puzzle, not two