Reply to Foster - 12 Reply to Foster I t There is much with...

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12 Reply to Foster I t There is much with which I agree, and more I admire, in Mr Foster's paper. I share his bias in favour of extensional first-order languages; I am glad to keep him company in the search for an explicitly semantical theory that recursively accounts for the meanings of sentences in terms of their structures; and I am happy he concurs in holding that a theory may be judged adequate on the basis of holistic constraints. I especially applaud Foster for what he passes over: just as Lear gains power through the absence of Cor delia, I think treatments oflanguage prosper when they avoid uncritical evocation of the concepts of convention, linguistic rule, linguistic practice, or language games. Still on the positive side, I think Foster is right in asking whether a proposed theory explicitly states something knowledge of which would suffice for interpreting utterances of speakers of the language to which it applies. (I avoid the word 'mastery', and the special competence of a speaker, if any, for reasons that will not, I believe, affect our discussion.) I was slow to appreciate the importance of this way of formulating a general aim of theories of meaning, though elements of the idea appear in several early papers of mine. 1 I am grateful to a number of Oxford friends for prompting me to try to clarify my views on this subject-and here I should especially mention Michael Dummett, Gareth Evans, John McDowell, and John Foster. In a paperfirst read in Biel,Switzerland, in May 1973,I criticized my own earlier attempts to say exactly what the relation is between a theoryoftruthanda theory of meaning, and I tried todo better. 2 I read this paper again in Windsor (November 1973),and it became the basis 1 For example, Essays 1 and 2. 2 The paper mentioned is Essay 9.
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172 Radical Interpretation for much discussion in a seminar Michael Dummett and I gave in Oxford in Trinity Term, 1974. The criticisms I there levelled against my earlier formulation are (I believe) essentially those elaborated by Foster in the second part of his present paper, and my attempt at something better is among the views he attacks in the third part of his paper. I am in general agreement with Foster that I have yet to give a completely satisfactory formulation of what it is, on my approach, that it suffices to know in order to be able to interpret a speaker's utterances. On the other hand, I hope I am not as far ofT target as he thinks,and I am not persuaded by hisarguments that my 'grand design isin ruins'. Indeed it still seems to me right, as far as it goes,to hold that someone is in a position to interpret the utterances of speakers of a language L if he has a certain body of knowledge entailed by a theory of truth for L-a theory that meets specified empirical and formal constraints-and he knows that this knowledge is entailed by such a theory.
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