Knowledge and error: a new approach to radical interpretation

Olav Gjelsvik

in Donald Davidson on Truth, Meaning, and the Mental

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199697519
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191742316 | DOI:
Knowledge and error: a new approach to radical interpretation

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This chapter has as its point of departure the criticism of Davidson’s notion of radical interpretation in Ludwig and Lepore (2005), and thus of Davidson’s account of thought. The chapter agrees with them in their criticism of Davidson to this extent: as Davidson conceives of evidence available to the third-person point of view in radical interpretation, we are left with a massive and deeply problematic underdetermination of content. There are further questions, however, about how we ought to conceive of the evidence available to the third-person point of view. Davidson’s mistake, it is argued, lies in his quite standard conception of this evidence and not in his basic methodological assumptions, which really do change the philosophical landscape radically. The paper reaches this conclusion about which conception of evidence we ought to have by focusing on cases of error. It establishes a need to employ factive notions when ascribing mental/intentional states to a person if we are to deal properly with error both in thought and action. An account of thought or action not only needs to allow for the possibility of error, but must also give a correct account of error: that is, an account where the errors which speakers actually make arise as errors according to the account of thought and action. The claims of the paper are briefly these. We need a rich conception of evidence in order to account for error; this rich conception of evidence is here made available, it is not incompatible with Davidson’s basic methodological assumptions, and with this conception of evidence we are no longer vulnerable to the arguments levelled by Lepore and Ludwig against Davidson.

Keywords: Davidson; radical interpretation; evidence; factive notions; knowledge; error

Chapter.  14459 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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