Article

Donald Davidson

Kirk Ludwig

in Philosophy

ISBN: 9780195396577
Published online August 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0027
Donald Davidson

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Donald Herbert Davidson (b. 1917–d. 2003) was one of the most influential analytic philosophers of the second half of the 20th century. His work spanned almost the entire range of philosophy, but his most important contributions lie in the theory of meaning, action theory, ontology, the philosophy of mind, and epistemology. In the theory of meaning, he is best known for his suggestion that a compositional-meaning theory for a language can exploit a Tarski-style axiomatic truth theory and that this can be integrated into a more general study of meaning by considering how such a theory could be confirmed by a radical interpreter—an interpreter who has available only behavioral evidence and no prior knowledge of what the speaker’s words mean or any detailed knowledge of his or her propositional attitudes. In addition, Davidson championed an influential conception of logical form and made contributions to the study of the logical form of action sentences, sentences of indirect discourse, sentential mood, and quotation. In action theory, he is known best for his defense of the view that reasons (beliefs and desires we cite to explain actions) are causes of actions and that ordinary action explanation is a species of causal explanation. He has also contributed to the theory of intention, practical deliberation, and irrationality, especially in the case of weakness of the will. In ontology he is best known for his defense of an ontology of events as datable particulars, his rejection of the utility of meanings construed as entities in the theory of meaning, his rejection of the ontology of facts and the correspondence theory of truth, and his thesis of the indeterminacy of meaning and the inscrutability of reference. In the philosophy of mind, he is best known for his defense of anomalous monism (which holds that there are no strict psychophysical laws, although every token mental event is identical with some token physical event), his rejection of the possibility of radically different conceptual schemes, and his defense of the view that thought contents are relationally individuated on the basis of the requirement of “charity” in interpretation (the need to find a speaker largely right about his or her environment and general beliefs). In epistemology, he is best known for his closely related transcendental argument for knowledge of the external world, the minds of others, and our own minds being simultaneously a condition on the possibility of thought.

Article.  11825 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Law ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Religion ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

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