The normative character of interpretation and mental explanation

Dissertation, Simon Fraser University (1998)
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This essay is devoted to the study of useful ways of thinking about the nature of interpretation, with particular attention being given to the so called normative character of mental explanation. My aim of illuminating the nature of interpretation will be accomplished by examining several views, some of which are common to both Donald Davidson and Daniel Dennett, concerning its unique characteristics as a method of prediction and explanation. Moreover, some of the views held by Davidson and Dennett will be adopted, elaborated, and defended. The conclusions of these philosophers do not, however, form an acceptable whole. Thus I will attempt to moderate some of their views. In particular, I will attempt to show up the deficits of Davidson's view of the mental by defending the possibility some sort of psycho-physical reduction. Despite such philosophical pretensions, major parts of this essay will be devoted to sketching the foundations of a method for the interpretation of intentional behaviour which I take to embody the key features of our ordinary practice of interpretation. In particular, I will attempt to sketch the bases for a method of interpretation which is sensitive to the methodological considerations associated with the seemingly unique normative character of mental explanation. To this end, I will also investigate the question of how certain formal measures of coherence can be made to yield models for understanding the actual and possible bases of interpretation.
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