Davidson, Donald Herbert

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Davidson, Donald Herbert

Donald Herbert Davidson, 1917–2003, American philosopher, b. Springfield, Mass., grad. Harvard (B.A., 1939; Ph.D., 1949). A student of W. V. Quine, Davidson emerged as one of the major figures in post–World War II analytic philosophy. His early work in the theory of decision-making was followed by that in which he argued that reasons can be the causes of human actions. Davidson subsequently developed a philosophy of language, a central tenet of which is that knowing the meaning of a sentence is a matter of knowing the conditions under which it is true. Davidson's views on language and mind led him to reject both scepticism and conceptual relativism, i.e., the idea that human beings can possess radically divergent conceptual schemes such that some cannot, in principle, be translated into others. Davidson taught at a number of universities, including Stanford, Princeton, Chicago, and Berkeley. His works include Essays on Actions and Events (1980), Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation (1984), and Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective (2001).

See studies by E. Lepore, ed. (1986); S. Evnine (1991); G. Preyer et al., ed., (1994).

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