Taking back the excitement: construing “theoretical concepts” so as to avoid the threat of underdetermination

Manning N. Richard

in Donald Davidson on Truth, Meaning, and the Mental

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199697519
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191742316 | DOI:
Taking back the excitement: construing “theoretical concepts” so as to avoid the threat of underdetermination

Show Summary Details


Ludwig and Lepore have recently argued against a central presupposition of Davidson’s philosophy of language. This is the thesis that one can come to know something sufficient to interpret a speaker from the evidential position of the radical interpreter. One main argument they present against the presupposition claims that more than one mutually inconsistent interpretive truth theory can in principle account for all the evidence available to a radical interpreter. If this were right we would have genuine underdetermination rather than, as Davidson himself thought, mere indeterminacy. This chapter aims to undermine Ludwig and Lepore’s argument. In doing so, it offeres a construal of the sense in which linguistic and psychological concepts should be understood as theoretical—a construal that highlights the fundamentally practical rather than theoretical or explanatory aims of interpretive truth theorizing. Ludwig and Lepore also argue that the phenomenon of first-person authority is inconsistent with the presupposition. The paper concludes by presenting a brief sketch of how a refutation of their reasoning might proceed.

Keywords: Davidson; philosophy of language; philosophy of mind; epistemology; self-knowledge; interpretation; truth theory

Chapter.  10231 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.