Conceptual Relativism and Linguistic Anthropology: How to comprehend the incomprehensible?

Dissertation, University of Amsterdam (2018)
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In this thesis, the philosophical debate on conceptual relativism between Quine and Davidson is examined, along with their respective theories of interpretation. A new perspective on the issues raised by these philosophers in their theoretical accounts of linguistic comprehension is introduced through an examination of two research projects conducted in the paradigm of linguistic anthropology. The philosophical standpoints are analyzed against the background of the data these empirical projects deliver, and the question of their validity in the face of these findings is explored. In the light of the presented research, Davidson’s account grounded in the principle of charity is deemed as more empirically plausible than Quine’s theory, which stands on the existence of alternative conceptual schemes. In addition, the current analysis itself is investigated as a case-study in the considerations regarding the relationship between empirical science and philosophy.

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Julia Turska
Wageningen University and Research


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