Donald Davidson has been one of the most influential philosophers working in the analytic tradition in the last half of the twentieth century. He has made seminal contributions to a wide range of subjects: the philosophy of language and the theory of meaning, the philosophy of action, the philosophy of mind, epistemology, metaphysics, and the theory of rationality. His principal work, spread out in a series of articles stretching over nearly forty years, exhibits a unity rare among philosophers contributing to so many different topics. His essays are elegant, but they are also noted for their compact, sometimes cryptic style, and for their difficulty. Themes and arguments in different essays overlap, and later papers often presuppose familiarity with earlier work. Together, they form a mosaic that presents a systematic account of the nature of human thought, action, and speech, and their relation to the natural world, that is one of the most subtle and impressive systems to emerge in analytic philosophy in the last fifty years.
The unity of Davidson's work lies in the central role that reflection on how we are able to interpret the speech of another plays in understanding the nature of meaning, the propositional attitudes (beliefs, desires, intentions, and so on), and our epistemic position with respect to our own minds, the minds of others, and the world around us.