Thought and Talk

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)

 Thought and Talk

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Starting from the evident dependence of speech on thought, Davidson wonders whether the inverse dependence holds too,i.e. whether we can explain thought and its attribution independently of that of speech. Treating belief as central to all kinds of thought, Davidson develops the thesis that to have one belief is to have several, all of which are interlocked to form a ‘web of belief’ which also determines the content of each individual belief. Further, the attribution of such beliefs to others interlocks with a theory of action, since interpreting others as having beliefs relies on rationalizing their actions (Davidson refers us here to his Essays 10 and 12 of Essays on Actions and Events); both actions and beliefs are answerable to the interpretative principles outlined in Essays 9 and 10, among them the constitutive ideal of rationality. By adding that only a creature who has the concept of belief (i.e. the distinction between being right and being wrong) can have beliefs at all, Davidson concludes that being interpretable as having thoughts, and being able to interpret the speech of others, is constitutive of having thoughts.

Keywords: belief; constitutive ideal of rationality; interpretation; speech; theory of action; thought; web of beliefs

Chapter.  7329 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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