Quine versus Davidson on Reference

Gary Kemp

in Quine versus Davidson

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199695621
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738524 | DOI:
Quine versus Davidson on Reference

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A central pillar of Quine’s naturalistic view of language is known as the inscrutability of reference. On the face of it, the idea seems flatly incompatible with Davidson’s programme of theories of meaning. Indeed Davidson accepts it, but argues that inscrutability can be explained away. The chapter analyses the issue in detail, arguing that whereas Quine can give a fully naturalistic, scientific account of the phenomena that we commonsensically describe as referring to a thing, Davidson must rely on a certain unscientific judgements of reference to attach his theories of meaning to reality; this violates naturalism. The crux of the matter is Quine’s insistence on the ‘proximate’ in his account versus Davidson’s need for the ‘distal’ as genuine objects of reference; taking a page from Darwin, Quine argues for a pre‐established harmony of proximate response that accounts for the appearance that the distal theory is correct.

Keywords: reference; inscrutability; pre‐established harmony; proximate; distal; Davidson; Quine

Chapter.  10923 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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