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8 - Meaning and understanding

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2009

Hans-Johann Glock
Affiliation:
University of Reading
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Summary

Davidson's discussion of radical interpretation combines his own truth-conditional semantics with Quine's naturalist account of language. The idea already appears in ‘Truth and Meaning’, where it serves to illustrate how a theory of meaning can pass the requirement of empirical verifiability, that is, how it can be established whether a Tarskian truth-theory fits a given natural language. If we construct a truth-theory for a language other than our own, we cannot assume any insights into equivalences between object- and metalanguage and therefore operate under conditions of radical translation (ITI 27). In subsequent writings, radical interpretation comes to serve the additional function of defusing objections to truth-conditional semantics. There is also a gradual change from treating radical interpretation merely as a way of verifying claims about meaning to treating it as constitutive of meaning: only those features of a language accessible to a radical interpreter can be relevant to the meaning of its sentences. In the final instance, the thought experiment takes on a life of its own. It is supposed to yield interesting corollaries in epistemology, as well as a picture communication and understanding which is in some respects incompatible with the initial project.

The latter is the subject of this chapter. I start by arguing that radical interpretation cannot solve the extensionality problem and transform a theory of truth-conditions into a theory of sentence meaning (section 1).

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2003

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  • Meaning and understanding
  • Hans-Johann Glock, University of Reading
  • Book: Quine and Davidson on Language, Thought and Reality
  • Online publication: 22 September 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511487514.009
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  • Meaning and understanding
  • Hans-Johann Glock, University of Reading
  • Book: Quine and Davidson on Language, Thought and Reality
  • Online publication: 22 September 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511487514.009
Available formats
×

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To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • Meaning and understanding
  • Hans-Johann Glock, University of Reading
  • Book: Quine and Davidson on Language, Thought and Reality
  • Online publication: 22 September 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511487514.009
Available formats
×