Chapter

Swampman, response-dependence, and meaning

Nathaniel Goldberg

in Donald Davidson on Truth, Meaning, and the Mental

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199697519
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191742316 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199697519.003.0007
Swampman, response-dependence, and meaning

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Lepore and Ludwig correctly observe that Davidson’s account of radical interpretation is in tension with his Swampman thought experiment. Nonetheless, the chapter argues, they fail to see the extent of Davidson’s tension—and so do not handle it adequately—because they fail to appreciate that the thought experiment pits two incompatible response-dependent accounts of meaning against one another. It is taken as an account of meaning to be response-dependent just in case it links the meaning of terms in an a priori manner to the responses that a suitable subject under suitable conditions could or did have to those terms. That Davidson proposes two such accounts is deeply problematic for his program. After explaining the sense in which Davidson endorses two incompatible response-dependent accounts of meaning, the article uses this explanation to resolve the tension.

Keywords: meaning; radical interpretation; response-dependence; Swampman

Chapter.  7694 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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