Chapter

Radical Interpretation

Timothy McCarthy

in Radical Interpretation and Indeterminacy

Published in print November 2002 | ISBN: 9780195145069
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833436 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195145062.003.0002
 Radical Interpretation

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Lays out a general framework for radical interpretation, which the ensuing chapters apply, respectively, to the theory of reference and to the philosophy of logic. McCarthy's main claim is that a relatively modest set of constitutive principles of interpretation can serve to constrain the semantic description of the language and attitudes of an idealized agent or population in such a way as to resolve the indeterminacies of interpretation that naturally present themselves. The starting points of the discussion are the constraints on interpretation suggested by Davidson and Lewis, which are found to admit many incompatible semantic descriptions of a simple extensional language, if any at all. McCarthy then investigates some obstructions to extending this argument to languages involving certain modalities, resulting in a limited remedy for Quinean indeterminacies by a partial endorsement of the (modified) constraints on interpretation suggested by the aforementioned commentators. McCarthy finally proposes a further constraint on interpretation, satisfaction of what he calls the ‘Rigidity Condition’, which is argued to resolve all cases of referential indeterminacies that are distinctively Quinean (except for those that infect the interpretation of classical mathematics).

Keywords: Donald Davidson; indeterminacy; interpretation; David Lewis; philosophy of Logic; radical interpretation; Rigidity Condition; semantic description; theory of reference

Chapter.  34076 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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