The Inscrutability of Reference

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)

 The Inscrutability of Reference

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Davidson discusses two related claims of Quine: ontological relativity and the indeterminacy of reference. By comparing these claims to the related indeterminacies of truth and logical form, he suggests how we can minimize them by investigating them from within truth theories and radical interpretation. They can be minimized to a greater degree than Quine's own framework permits, but not to the high degree a causal theory of reference claims. Davidson objects to this theory, as he had in Essay 15, on the basis that reference assignments are tested at the sentential level, and that two interpretations which agree on that level may differ however much they like about subsentential assignments. Davidson then suggests a way of formulating Quine's insights without trace of relativism (cf Essay 13).

Keywords: causal theory reference; indeterminacy of reference; ontological relativity; Quine; truth theory

Chapter.  6328 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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