Truth theories, competence, and semantic computation

Peter Pagin

in Donald Davidson on Truth, Meaning, and the Mental

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199697519
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191742316 | DOI:
Truth theories, competence, and semantic computation

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This chapter discusses the question of whether T-theories explain how it is possible to understand new sentences, or learn an infinite language, as Davidson claimed. It argues against some commentators who claim that for explanatory power we need not require that T-theories are implicitly known or mirror cognitive structures. It is noted, contra Davidson, that the recursive nature of T-theories is not sufficient for explanatory power, since humans can work out only what is computationally tractable, and recursiveness by itself allows for intractable computational complexity. Finally, it considers the complexity of T-theories, transformed into term rewriting systems, and finds that the complexity of such systems is indeed tractable. Therefore, Davidson’s claim stands, even though a further condition had to be met.

Keywords: Davidson; T-theories; competence; compositionality; recursiveness; computability; complexity; term rewriting; learnability; tractability

Chapter.  13369 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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