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Donald Davidson : Truth, Meaning, and Knowledge

Donald Davidson : Truth, Meaning, and Knowledge 
by Urszula M. Zeglen

Donald Davidson 1917 -

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The Philosophy of Donald Davidson by Lewis Edwin Hahn

Donald Davidson

From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Excerpt:

Donald Davidson is one of the most important philosophers of the latter half of the twentieth century. His ideas, presented in a series of essays from the 1960's onwards, have been influential across a range of areas from semantic theory through to epistemology and ethics. Davidson's work exhibits a breadth of approach, as well as a unitary and systematic character, which is unusual within twentieth century analytic philosophy. Thus, although he acknowledges an important debt to W. V. O. Quine, Davidson's thought amalgamates influences (though these are not always explicit) from a variety of sources, including Quine, C. I. Lewis, Frank Ramsey, Immanuel Kant and the later Wittgenstein....

Site Includes:

Biographical Sketch
Action and Mind
Meaning and Truth
Knowledge and Belief
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Donald Davidson

Article by Vladimir Kalugin from the The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Excerpt:

LIFE AND INFLUENCES. Donald Davidson, one of the most significant philosophers of the XX century, was born  6 March, 1917 in Springfield, Massachusetts.   He studied English, Comparative Literature and Classics in his undergraduate years at Harvard.  In his sophomore year at Harvard, Davidson attended two classes that made a lasting impression on him.  These two classes on philosophy were taught by Alfred North Whitehead in the last year of his career. Davidson was then accepted to graduate studies in philosophy at Harvard, where his teacher was Willard Van Orman Quine.  Quine set Davidson on a course in philosophy quite different from that of Whitehead.  Subsequently, Davidson did his dissertation on Plato's Philebus

According to Davidson, "The central thesis that emerged was that when Plato had reworked the theory of ideas as a consequence of the explorations and criticisms of the Parmenides, Sophist, Theaetetus, and Politicus, he realized that the theory could no longer be deployed as a main support of an ethical position, as it had been developed in the Republic and elsewhere."   Davidson's dissertation topic is mentioned only in passim in most encyclopedia entries.  This is unfortunate, for one can see the development of Davidson's philosophical method in his dissertation.  More important, one can trace Davidson's epistemological position back to Plato's.

Davidson's most profound influences on contemporary philosophy stem from his philosophy of mind and action....

 

Davidson's Sentences and Wittgenstein's Builders

Article by John Perry.

Excerpt:

Words stand for things of various kinds and for various kinds of things. Because words do this, the sentences made up of words mean what they do, and are capable of expressing our thoughts, our beliefs and conjectures, desires and wishes. This simple idea seems right to me, but it flies in the face of formidable authority. In a famous passage in ``Reality without Reference,'' Donald Davidson criticizes what he calls the ``building-block theory:''

 

[T]he essential question is whether [reference] is the, or at least one, place where there is direct contact between linguistic theory and events, actions, or objects described in nonlinguistic terms. If we could give the desired analysis or reduction of the concept of reference then all would, I suppose, be clear sailing. Having explained directly the semantic features of proper names and simple predicates, we could go on to explain the reference of complex singular terms and complex predicates, we could characterize satisfaction (as a derivative concept), and finally truth. This picture of how to do semantics is (aside from the details) and old and natural one. It is often called the building-block theory. It has often been tried. And it is hopeless...

 

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