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Metaphor and Davidsonian Theories of Meaning

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2020

Frank B. Farrell*
Affiliation:
State University of New York, Purchase, NY 10577, U.S.A.

Extract

It was a bad day. First I presented my idea about a Central America protest to the faculty committee, but the committee played ping-pong with the idea until it was crushed. Then I met Robinson, who has somehow been able to present his theory of action in a serious journal. But the theory is a house of cards, and once his critics rattle the table a bit, the theory will come crashing down. And his book on the history of philosophy, just published, is a cheap TV dinner. He does not understand how to study the history of thought. It is necessary to dig into hidden layers of thought, to uncover earlier strata, to map the subterranean patterns, and then to explain why upheavals take place when they do.

The above paragraph contains a number of metaphorical sentences. Now all of the following are, I believe, facts about, or relevant to, those sentences. They can be true or false, and our behavior towards them shows that we take them as candidates for truth. I will be expected to offer evidence in support of their truth, and Robinson's supporters on the faculty, if they hear me state the sentences about him, will accuse me of having made false claims. It is generally clear, in regard to the metaphorical sentences under consideration, what would count as evidence for them and against them.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Authors 1987

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References

1 Davidson, DonaldWhat Metaphors Mean,’ in Davidson, Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1984) 245–64Google Scholar

2 My principal sources for the discussion of Davidson are: Davidson, DonaldIn Defense of Convention T,’ in Leblanc, H. ed., Truth, Syntax, and Modality (Dordrecht: D. Reidel 1973) 76–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Davidson, Radical Interpretation,’ Dialectica 27 (1973) 313–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Davidson, Belief and the Basis of Meaning,’ Synthese 27 (1974) 309–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

3 The differences between starting with an account of sentence meaning and, on the other hand, starting with an account of subsentential reference, and the reasons for choosing the former approach, are presented in Davidson, Reality Without Reference,’ in Davidson, Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation, 215–26.Google Scholar

4 Davidson, ‘Radical Interpretation,’ 318-19

5 Davidson, ‘Radical Interpretation,’ 323

6 Davidson, ‘What Metaphors Mean,’ 245. All page references in the text are to this article.

7 Some of these metaphors are from Lakoff, George and Johnson, Mark Metaphors We Live By (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1980)Google Scholar.

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