Interpretation and Skill: On the Passing Theory

ProtoSociology 11:93-109 (1998)
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Abstract
In this paper I argue, that Donald Davidson's rejection of the notion of language, as commonly understood in philosophy and linguistics, is justified. However, I argue that his position needs to be supplemented by an account of the development and nurture of pre-linguistic communicative skills. Davidson argues that knowledge of a language is neither sufficient nor necessary for 'linguistic' communication. The strongest argument against the initial formulation is that while Davidson may have shown that knowledge of a language is not sufficient, he failed to show that it is not necessary. Subsequently, Davidson has invoked his 'triangulation' thesis, to show that understanding can rest on the apprehension of mutuality in a shared objective world, and does not presuppose the sharing of rules or practices. I argue that the starting position arrived at from the triangulation thesis itself presupposes the possibility of communication. The triangulation thesis needs, therefore, to be supplemented by a naturalistic account of non-linguistic communcative skills. In such an account we must posit shared practices , but not an account of practices conceived on the model of rules or conventions. I note, finally, that by adopting such an approach we offer a way of explicating the formulation of passing theories, which in Davidson's account are the point at which communicative understanding occurs
ISBN(s)
1434-4319
PhilPapers/Archive ID
SIMIAS-2
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