David Lewis

in Philosophical Papers Volume I

Published in print August 1983 | ISBN: 9780195032048
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833382 | DOI:

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In this paper, Lewis introduces a problem that he cannot solve. He begins by describing, in general outline, two idealized languages: one richly intensional, the other purely extensional. The problem arises when we imagine two field linguists – one an intensionalist (like Lewis), the other an extensionalist – faced with the task of interpreting a tribe that speaks a previously unknown language. When the intensionalist interprets the tribesmen as using an intensional language, the extensionalist disagrees, claiming it “gratuitous of [the intensionalist] to ascribe to them a language that requires the notoriously obscure apparatus of intensional semantics.” Lewis dismisses several unsatisfactory rejoinders to this challenge and concludes by drawing several morals from the unresolved dialectical situation.

Keywords: extensional semantics; intensional semantics; Terence Parsons; Quine; radical interpretation; semantics

Chapter.  5465 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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