Donald Davidson: Meaning, Truth, Language, and Reality

Donald Davidson: Meaning, Truth, Language, and Reality

Donald Davidson: Meaning, Truth, Language, and Reality

Donald Davidson: Meaning, Truth, Language, and Reality

Synopsis

Donald Davidson (1917-2003) was one of the most important philosophers of the late twentieth century. His work on language and the theory of meaning has been particularly influential. Ernie Lepore and Kirk Ludwig, two of the world's leading authorities on Davidson's philosophy, provide a systematic exposition of his work in this field and of his contributions to the philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and epistemology which spring from it. In addition, they offer a critical assessment of Davidson's program, marking its successes but also identifying where its accomplishments fall short of its ambitions, and, since it is an on-going research program, assessing its prospects for the future, and contributing to the expansion of that program.

Excerpt

Since the publication of “Actions, Reasons and Causes” in 1963, when he was 46 years old, Donald Davidson's work in the philosophy of action, mind, and language has been at the center of the stage of analytic philosophy. His work has also been influential in linguistics and cognitive science, and in the last decade and a half has begun to be discussed widely both in the continental tradition, through his work on larger themes in the philosophical tradition, and in literary criticism, through his work on language. There has been a steady stream of seminal articles over the years, making fundamental and influential contributions to action theory, philosophical psychology, metaphysics, the philosophy of language, the theory of meaning, and even ethics. Each field to which Davidson has contributed has been fundamentally altered by his writings. Not all analytic philosophers have agreed with his conclusions, but it is a measure of the depth and importance of his work that nearly all who deal with topics Davidson has treated feel compelled to address what he has had to say about them. Davidson's influence is all the more remarkable because his corpus of work consists mainly of short, extremely condensed, sometimes programmatic articles, difficult even by the standards of analytic philosophy. in addition, most of these articles were widely scattered and hard to obtain prior to the collection of the bulk of those written in the 1960s and 1970s into Essays on Actions and Events and Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation, published in 1980 and 1984 respectively by Oxford University Press. Since then, two further volumes of essays have been published by Oxford University Press, Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective (2001) and Problems of Rationality (2004). a final collection of essays from Oxford, Truth, Language and History, and a book, Truth and Predication, are in press. Despite the obstacles raised by the difficulty of the work and its relative inaccessibility, Davidson ranks among the most influential writers in analytic philosophy in the twentieth century, writers who have transformed the way we think about the subject.

It is characteristic of Davidson's work that what apparently began as two relatively distinct projects, one with the aim of understanding the nature of rational action, the other with the aim of understanding what it is to speak a language, became significantly interrelated, each drawing on results of the

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