- Davidson, Donald Herbert
- (1917– )American philosopher. Born in Springfield, Massachusetts, and educated at Harvard, Davidson held posts at a number of universities before becoming professor at Berkeley in 1981. His writings have been a major influence on philosophy of mind and language in the latter half of the 20th century. Davidson introduced the position known as anomalous monism in the philosophy of mind, instigating a vigorous debate over the relation between mental and physical descriptions of persons, and the possibility of genuine explanation of events in terms of psychological properties. Following but enlarging upon the work of Quine on language, Davidson concentrated upon the figure of the radical interpreter, arguing that the method of interpreting a language could be thought of as constructing a truth definition in the style of Tarski, in which the systematic contribution of elements of sentences to their overall meaning is laid bare. The construction takes place within a generally holistic theory of knowledge and meaning. A radical interpreter can tell when a subject holds a sentence true, and using the principle of charity ends up making an assignment of truth-conditions to individual sentences. Although Davidson is a defender of the doctrines of the indeterminacy of radical translation and the inscrutability of reference, his approach has seemed to many to offer some hope of identifying meaning as a respectable notion, even within a broadly extensional approach to language. Davidson is also known for rejection of the idea of a conceptual scheme, thought of as something peculiar to one language or one way of looking at the world, arguing that where the possibility of translation stops so does the coherence of the idea that there is anything to translate. His papers are collected in Essays on Actions and Events (1980) and Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation (1983).
Philosophy dictionary. Academic. 2011.