swamp-darwin.doc - Swamp Darwin CPA Commentary on Claudine Verheggen’s “Triangulating with Davidson” Mark Walker Verheggen in my view has done an

swamp-darwin.doc - Swamp Darwin CPA Commentary on Claudine...

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Swamp Darwin: CPA Commentary on Claudine Verheggen’s “Triangulating with Davidson” Mark Walker Verheggen, in my view, has done an excellent job providing clarification of Davidson’s ‘triangulation’ argument. Unlike Verheggen, I think there are some real problems for Davidson; at minimum, more needs to be said about how triangulation shows that language is necessarily social. Following Verheggen, it may be useful to think about how the various aspects of triangulation fit together. There is what we might refer to as the “what” stage of triangulation. Here, paradigm cases involve language individuating macroscopic objects in the immediate environment. Davidson’s semantic externalism says that meanings are partly determined by their typical causes. 1 Then there is what might be thought of as the “oops” stage: As Verheggen summarizes it: “for someone to mean anything by her words, she must also have the concept of objectivity— she must be able to think of those causes as existing independently of her speaking about them; in some cases at least, she must be able to draw an objective line between what are the same causes and what merely seem to her to be the same causes and so between correct and incorrect responses to the environment.” How are the two stages of triangulation related? Verheggen offers the useful suggestion that “the first stage of triangulation, is better seen, not as part of the solution to the problem of meaning determination, but as a diagnosis of the problem” (6). The problem of meaning determination is satisfied only when the oops stage is satisfied. As Verheggen suggests, “since the relation here between meaning-determination and possession of a concept of objectivity is not temporal but conceptual, expressions can have a determinate meaning only when they have been used by people who have the concept of objectivity”. (9) According to this interpretation, only when we understand what is involved in the what and the oops stages we will understand the social nature of language. There is certainly empirical support for the idea that language and socialness are related, e.g., we know that children who are cut-off from other language users—raised by wolves or kept in solitary confinement in closets by cruel parents—do not develop a language. Yet, it is difficult to see how this sort of evidence could support something stronger than a contingent generalization about language users. Davidson, it seems, is making a stronger claim: language is necessarily social, which has the implication that a solitary language user is logically impossible. To my mind, it is difficult to see how Davidson reaches this stronger conclusion. Verheggen offers a plausible reconstruction of Davidson’s argument. Here is her summary: Now, there is no avoiding the fact that whatever causes the solitary person takes to be of the same kind will be, for her, of the same kind, whatever responses she takes to be correct will be, for her, the correct one. The solitary person has no way of drawing
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