Davidson's Epistemology

In Kirk Ludwig (ed.), Contemporary Philosophy in Focus: Donald Davidson. Cambridge University Press (2003)
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Davidson’s epistemology, like Kant’s, features a transcendental argument as its centerpiece. Both philosophers reject any priority, whether epistemological or conceptual, of the subjective over the objective, attempting thus to solve the problem of the external world. For Davidson, three varieties of knowledge are coordinate—knowledge of the self, of other minds, and of the external world. None has priority. Despite the epistemologically coordinate status of the mind and the world, however, the content of the mind can be shown to entail how it is out in the world. More exactly, Davidson argues, we could not possibly have the beliefs we have, with their contents, unless the world around us was pretty much the way we take it to be, at least in its general outline. We are thus offered a way to argue, to all appearances a priori, from how it is in our minds to how it is in the world. The argument is a priori at least in being free of premises or assumptions about contingent particularities concerning the world around us or our relation to it. From premises about the contents of our propositional attitudes, the argument wends its way to a conclusion about the general lines of how the world around us is structured and populated. Before presenting his own account, Davidson rejects received views of meaning and knowledge. What follows will combine themes from his critique of alternatives with his more positive account and how it deals with the skeptic.

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Ernest Sosa
Rutgers University - New Brunswick


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