Davidson’s explication of meaning

Gary Ebbs

in Donald Davidson on Truth, Meaning, and the Mental

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199697519
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191742316 | DOI:
Davidson’s explication of meaning

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Lepore and Ludwig argue that according to Davidson the evidence to which a theory of meaning for a language L must be faithful includes theory-independent observations that we express by using sentences of the form [M] For any speaker S, time t, s for S at t means in L that p. The chapter argues, on the contrary, that for Davidson the phrase “means in L that” is too obscure to figure in sentences that express evidence to which a theory of meaning for L must be faithful. The aim of a Davidsonian theory of meaning for a language L is to replace the obscure phrase “means in L that” by a different, clearer phrase that plays some but not all of the same roles for us. The replacement that Davidson proposes is implicitly defined by an empirical testable truth theory for L. There is no guarantee that the interpretations of sentences of L that such a theory provides will be faithful to our pre-theoretical judgments about whether or not a given sentence means in L that p.

Keywords: Carnap; Convention T; Foster; holds-true; holistic constraints; interpretation; meaning; means that; natural language; pure semantics; Quine; Tarski; T-sentence

Chapter.  15667 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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