There’s A Nice Knockdown Argument For You: Donald Davidson And Modest Intentionalism

Postgraduate Journal of Aesthetics 3 (1):15-24 (2006)
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It might come as a surprise for someone who has only a superficial knowledge of Donald Davidson’s philosophy that he has claimed literary language to be ‘a prime test of the adequacy of any view on the nature of language’.1 The claim, however, captures well the transformation that has happened in Davidson’s thinking on language since he began in the 1960’s to develop a truth-conditional semantic theory for natural languages in the lines of Alfred Tarski’s semantic conception of truth. About twenty years afterwards, this project was replaced with a view that highlights the flexible nature of language and, in consequence, the importance of the speaker’s intentions for a theory of meaning, culminating in Davidson’s staggering claim that ‘there is no such thing as a language’.

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Kalle Puolakka
University of Helsinki


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