TruthAndMeaningRedux7-20-09.pdf - Philos Stud DOI...

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Truth and meaning redux Ernie Lepore Kirk Ludwig Ó Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010 Abstract In this paper, we defend Davidson’s program in truth-theoretical semantics against recent criticisms by Scott Soames. We argue that Soames has misunderstood Davidson’s project, that in consequence his criticisms miss the mark, that appeal to meanings as entities in the alternative approach that Soames favors does no work, and that the approach is no advance over truth-theoretic semantics. Keywords Donald Davidson ± Truth-theoretic semantics ± Meaning ± Scott Soames 1 Introduction Forty-three years ago, Donald Davidson, in ‘‘Truth and Meaning’’ ( 1967 ), suggested that insight into meaning might be gained by reflection on how to construct and to confirm a Tarski-style truth theory for a natural language. The suggestion has been influential, but it has not been well understood. In a recent paper, Scott Soames argues that this project has now run its course ( 2008 ). He argues that Davidson’s two rationales for his project were unsuccessful and that what he sees as the most promising recent attempt along the same lines, by Affiliation of K. Ludwig after July 1, 2010: Department of Philosophy, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405-7005, USA. E. Lepore ( & ) Center for Cognitive Science, Rutgers University-New Brunswick, Piscataway, NJ 08854-8020, USA e-mail: [email protected] K. Ludwig Philosophy Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-8545, USA e-mail: [email protected] 123 Philos Stud DOI 10.1007/s11098-010-9536-x
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Jim Higginbotham, is likewise unsuccessful. It should be replaced, he argues, with an older style theory that assigns entities to expressions, and which aims to explain the meaning of complex expressions by showing how to recursively construct appropriate entities to assign to them on the basis of assignments to their significant parts. Davidson’s own animadversions against such theories, he argues, while not without force, can be avoided by appeal to some ideas from Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico - Philosophicus ( 1961 ). This paper argues (a) that Soames has misunderstood Davidson’s project, (b) that once we clarify the project, we can see it escapes his objections unscathed, and (c) that the appeal to meanings as entities does no work in Soames’s alternative approach to semantics and is no advance over truth-theoretic semantics. The program of the paper is as follows: we begin with Soames’s characterization of Davidson’s project, and a brief indication of how he mischaracterizes it. We then turn to Soames’s evidence for his interpretation. This involves both an account of the historical context, and a reading of a key passage in ‘‘Truth and Meaning.’’ We show that his reading of the historical context does not fit Davidson’s project and that placing the key passage in its proper context in ‘‘Truth and Meaning’’ as well as the rest of Davidson’s corpus shows Soames’s interpretation to be incorrect. To this end,
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  • Fall '14
  • Arindram Chakrabarti
  • Philosophy, Donald Davidson

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