Article

Indeterminacy of Translation

Alan Weir

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780199552238
Published online September 2009 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199552238.003.0011

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Indeterminacy of Translation

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W.V. Quine's thesis of the indeterminacy of translation is the theory which launched a thousand doctorates. During the 1970s it sometimes seemed to be as firmly entrenched a dogma among North American philosophers as the existence of God was among medieval theologians. So what is the indeterminacy thesis? It is very tempting, of course, to apply a little reflexivity and deny that there is any determinate thesis of indeterminacy of translation; to charge Quine with championing a doctrine which has no clear meaning, or which is hopelessly ambiguous. Such a charge is, it is argued in this article, false. His meaning is fairly clear and there is widespread agreement on what the thesis amounts to. The second section of the article looks at Quine's ‘argument from below’ for indeterminacy, then the ‘argument from above’, with concluding remarks in the last section.

Keywords: W.V. Quine; indeterminacy; epistemological thesis; skeptical doubts; indeterminacy of translation; verbal behaviour

Article.  8330 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language

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