Quine and Davidson on Language, Thought, and Reality, Chapter 7

Quine and Davidson on Language, Thought, and Reality, Chapter 7

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7 Indeterminacies According to Quine, the indeterminacy of translation shows that there ate no cntena o{ldenhty for meamngs, and hence our intuitive notion meaning is vacuous (PC 1-2, 67-8; OR 23; PT 37, 52-3). This - in turn spells ruin not just for analyticity, but for intensional noiloOs - (proposition, attribute, necessity, etc.) in general. It also undermines the 'traditional semantics' which revolved around these notions. Quine vari- ....... ---,=-:----- ously characterizes this semantics as 'mentalistic', on account its com- mltment to meaning as something beyond behaviour, as 'absolutist', on account of its presupposingseparate and distinct meanings, and as'intro- spective', on account of Its uncrltlcaI acceptance of llltuitlve notion .--r:neamng (RR 36; MVD86; RHS493; ITA 9). ---- Indeterminacy also threatens the idea propositional attitudes have a determinate content. What we believe and desire is expressed by sentences. If it is pointless to ask whether a sentence the native assents to means 'p' or 'q', it is also pointless to ask whether she believes p or q (RIT 180-1). Since beliefs and desires are individuated by their content, this will demolish what isknown as'intentional psychology', our pervasive practice explaining the behaviour human beings by refer- ence to their beliefs desires. Quine has welcomed this consequence. He accepts the 'Brentano thesis', according to which intentional and intensional statements cannot be reduced to the purely extensional state- ments the physical sciences. To him, however, this demonstrates not 'the indispensability intentional idioms the importance an autonomous science intention' rather the baselessness ofintentional idioms and the emptiness ofa science of intention ... wearelimning the true and ultimate structure of reality,the canonicalschemefor us isthe austere schemethat knows [200] ", (",""it. Jf li <lM< /4 u C-J I&- "::>>-<;/Ir.:.-c pj tH 0t~:c. k~) Ii rtivt"\ J J! t>., L F' \.-<4 It?&-'j ic. . .Itt fa. ~ .
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Indeterminacies 201 no propositionalattitudes but only the physical constitution and behavioroforganisms. (WO 221; see WP ch. 21; MVD) There are various ways in which these momentous conclusions might be resisted. In this chapter I argue that some of them fail, but that indetermi- nacycan nevertheless be avoided, partly by adopting the less austere and more realistic perspective on linguistic understanding recommended in the last chapter .In ~_\,;ftion }, I deny that radical translation and hence in- . .. etermina startsat home defend our first-person authori concern- 1\: in s eaker's meaning and re erence. ecnon 2 defendsrhe indeterminaCYJ thesis against tree 0 jection at it is self-refq1i\tg, ffi'at it confuses on- tological and epistemological questions, thun wrongly presupposes a third-person perspective on meaning. But although meaning cannot transcend observable behaviour. it transcends radical translation in- terpretation, since the latter needlessly restrict the semantically relevant~ "featuresoflinguisticbehaviour and impose YRwarraoted methodological -restrictions.
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This note was uploaded on 03/01/2008 for the course PHL 332 taught by Professor Dever during the Fall '07 term at University of Texas at Austin.

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Quine and Davidson on Language, Thought, and Reality, Chapter 7

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