Triangulation Triangulated

In Maria Cristina Amoretti & Gerhard Preyer (eds.), Triangulation: From an Epistemological Point of View. de Gruyter. pp. 69-96 (2011)
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Appeal to triangulation occurs in two different contexts in Davidson’s work. In the first, triangulation—in the trigonometric sense—is used as an analogy to help explain the central idea of a transcendental argument designed to show that we can have the concept of objective truth only in the context of communication with another speaker. In the second, the triangulation of two speakers responding to each other and to a common cause of similar responses is invoked as a solution to the problem of underdetermination of thought and meaning by the patterns of causal relations we stand in to the environment. I examine both of these uses of the idea of triangulation. In section 2, I take up the use of triangulation as an analogy in connection with Davidson transcendental argument to establish that communication is essential for the concept of objectivity. I argue that it is unsuccessful because the case has not been made that scope for deploying the idea of contrasting perspectives, which is needed for the concept of objectivity, is available only in the context of communication. In section 3, I take up the idea that triangulation on a common cause of common responses of two creatures interacting with each other provides the additional constraint needed to assign objective content to our thoughts and words. I show that appeal to this sort of triangulation provides minimal help in responding to the problem it is intended to solve. Section 4 provides a brief summary and conclusion.

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Kirk Ludwig
Indiana University, Bloomington


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