Moods and Performances

Donald Davidson

in Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation

Published in print September 2001 | ISBN: 9780199246298
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191715181 | DOI:

Series: The Philosophical Essays of Donald Davidson (5 Volumes)

 Moods and Performances

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Davidson collapsed the theory of sense into the theory of reference in Essay 2; he now asks whether he can do likewise with a theory of force, i.e. whether a truth theory can accommodate what mood captures; if it cannot, ‘then truth theory is inadequate as a general theory of language.’ The mood of a sentence can be either indicated by its syntactic category (or related indications such as Frege's assertion sign) or individuated by which speech acts one can perform using the sentence. Davidson notes that these two alternative classifications are not straightforwardly congruent (such that assertions would simply be utterances of indicative sentences, and commands utterances of imperative ones): we can ask a question using an indicative or imperative sentence, and issue a command using an indicative one. After questioning the rationale of individuations of mood that exploit illocutionary force (Austin) or conventionally recognized use (Dummett; see also Essay 18), Davidson draws up a number of constraints on the valid individuation of mood. As these constraints demand that mood be indicated by a non‐truth functional sentential operator, Davidson transforms the operator into a distinct sentence by means of the paratactic (‘sentence‐splitting’) analysis developed in Essay 7.

Keywords: assertion sign; Austin; Dummett; force; Frege; moods; parataxis; reference; theory of truth

Chapter.  5595 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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