•  9
    Replies to Kirk Ludwig and Alexander Miller
    Dialogue 59 (2): 235-253. 2020.
    ABSTRACTThis paper is a reply to Kirk Ludwig's and Alexander Miller's comments on the first part of Donald Davidson's Triangulation Argument: A Philosophical Inquiry. It addresses concerns Ludwig expresses about the triangulation argument's success in establishing the social character of language and thought. It answers Miller's invitation to compare Davidson's non-reductionism with that of Crispin Wright, as well as the social aspect of Davidson's view with the social aspect of Saul Kripke's. A…Read more
  •  1
    A New Kind of Normativity
    Proceedings of the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy 53 165-169. 2018.
    Hannah Ginsborg has recently introduced a new kind of nor-mativity which is supposed to avoid the pitfalls of both non-reductionist and dispositionalist theories of meaning. Ginsborg calls her kind of normativity ‘primitive’, for, though it is not to be conceived of in purely naturalistic terms, it is nonetheless to be applied to states or facts that are not purely intentional or contentful in that they are ‘below the level’ of meaning facts. Primitive normativity provides an explanation of how …Read more
  •  70
    Davidson’s Answer to Kripke’s Sceptic
    Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy 7 (2): 8-28. 2019.
    According to the sceptic Saul Kripke envisages in his celebrated book on Wittgenstein on rules and private language, there are no facts about an individual that determine what she means by any given expression. If there are no such facts, the question then is, what justifies the claim that she does use expressions meaningfully? Kripke’s answer, in a nutshell, is that she by and large uses her expressions in conformity with the linguistic standards of the community she belongs to. While Kripke’s …Read more
  •  57
    Donald Davidson: Looking Back, Looking Forward
    Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy 7 (2). 2019.
    The papers collected in this issue were solicited to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Donald Davidson’s birth. Four of them discuss the implications of Davidson’s views—in particular, his later views on triangulation—for questions that are still very much at the centre of current debates. These are, first, the question whether Saul Kripke’s doubts about meaning and rule-following can be answered without making concessions to the sceptic or to the quietist; second, the question whether a wa…Read more
  • Wittgenstein and Davidson on Thought, Language and Action (edited book)
    Cambridge University Press. 2017.
  •  125
    The meaningfulness of meaning questions
    Synthese 123 (2): 195-216. 2000.
    Contra an expanding number of deflationary commentators onWittgenstein, I argue that philosophical questions about meaningare meaningful and that Wittgenstein gave us ample reason tobelieve so. Deflationists are right in claiming that Wittgensteinrejected the sceptical problem about meaning allegedly to befound in his later writings and also right in stressing Wittgenstein''s anti-reductionism. But they are wrong in taking these dismissals to entail the end of all constructive philosophizing abo…Read more
  •  61
    The community view revisited
    Metaphilosophy 38 (5): 612-631. 2007.
    Joining a vast Wittgensteinian anti-theoretical movement, John Canfield has argued that it is possible to read the claims that (1) “language is essentially communal” and (2) “it is conceptually possible that a Crusoe isolated from birth should speak or follow rules” in such a way that they are perfectly compatible, and, indeed, that Wittgenstein held them both at once. The key to doing this is to drain them of any theoretical content or implications that would put each claim at odds with the oth…Read more
  •  132
    Wittgenstein's rule-following paradox and the objectivity of meaning
    Philosophical Investigations 26 (4). 2003.
    Two readings of Wittgenstein's rule-following paradox dominate the literature: either his arguments lead to skepticism, and thus to the view that only a deflated account of meaning is available, or they lead to quietism, and thus to the view that no philosophical account of meaning is called for. I argue, against both these positions, that a proper diagnosis of the paradox points the way towards a constructive, non-sceptical account of meaning.
  •  2
    Semantic Normativity and Naturalism
    Logique Et Analyse 54 (216): 553-567. 2011.
    I distinguish among three senses in which meaning may be said to be normative, one trivial, the other two more robust. According to the trivial sense, meaningful expressions have conditions of correct application. According to the first robust sense, these conditions are determined by norms. According to the second robust sense, statements about these conditions have normative implications. Normativity in one or the other of the robust senses, but not in the trivial sense, is commonly thought to…Read more
  •  104
    Triangulating with Davidson
    Philosophical Quarterly 57 (226): 96-103. 2007.
    According to Davidson, 'triangulation' is necessary both to fix the meanings of one's thoughts and utterances and to have the concept of objectivity, both of which are necessary for thinking and talking at all. Against these claims, it has been objected that neither meaning-determination nor possession of the concept of objectivity requires triangulation; nor does the ability to think and talk require possession of the concept of objectivity. But this overlooks the important connection between t…Read more
  •  2
    According to many commentators, Davidson’s earlier work on philosophy of action and truth-theoretic semantics is the basis for his reputation, and his later forays into broader metaphysical and epistemological issues, and eventually into what became known as the triangulation argument, are much less successful. This book by two of his former students aims to change that perception. In Part One, Verheggen begins by providing an explanation and defense of the triangulation argument, then explores …Read more
  •  63
    Stroud on Wittgenstein, meaning, and community
    Dialogue 44 (1): 67-85. 2005.
    According to Barry Stroud, Wittgenstein thought that language is social only in this minimal way: we cannot make sense of the idea of someone having a language unless we can describe her as using signs in conformity with the linguistic practices of some community. Since a solitary person could meet this condition, Stroud concludes that, for Wittgenstein, solitary languages are possible. I argue that Wittgenstein in fact thought that language is social in a much more robust way. Solitary language…Read more
  •  1
    In Ernie Lepore & Kirk Ludwig (eds.), A Companion to Donald Davidson (Blackwell Companions to Philosophy), Wiley-blackwell. pp. 456-471. 2013.
    The chapter first provides a detailed exposition of Davidson's triangulation argument to the effect that only someone who has interacted simultaneously with another person and the world they share could have a language and thoughts. It then examines the core objections that have been made to the argument, namely, that triangulation is not needed either to fix the propositional contents of one's thoughts and utterances or to have the concept of objective truth; that one need not have the concept …Read more
  •  1
    Wittgenstein and Davidson on Language, Thought, and Action (edited book)
    Cambridge University Press. 2017.
    Wittgenstein and Davidson are two of the most influential and controversial figures of twentieth-century philosophy. However, whereas Wittgenstein is often regarded as a deflationary philosopher, Davidson is considered to be a theory builder and systematic philosopher par excellence. Consequently, little work has been devoted to comparing their philosophies with each other. In this volume of new essays, leading scholars show that in fact there is much that the two share. By focusing on the simil…Read more
  •  106
    Davidson's second person
    Philosophical Quarterly 47 (188): 361-369. 1997.
    According to Donald Davidson, language is social in that only a person who has interacted linguistically with another could have a language. This paper is a discussion of Davidson’s argument in defence of that claim. I argue that he has not succeeded in establishing it, but that he has provided many of the materials out of which a successful argument could be built. Chief among these are the claims that some version of externalism about meaning is true, that possession of a language requires pos…Read more
  •  78
    Towards a New Kind of Semantic Normativity
    International Journal of Philosophical Studies 23 (3): 410-424. 2015.
    Hannah Ginsborg has recently offered a new account of normativity, according to which normative attitudes are essential to the meaningful use of language. The kind of normativity she has in mind –– not semantic but ‘primitive’ — is supposed to help us to avoid the pitfalls of both non-reductionist and reductive dispositionalist theories of meaning. For, according to her, it enables us both to account for meaning in non-semantic terms, which non-reductionism cannot do, and to make room for the no…Read more
  •  103
    How social must language be?
    Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 36 (2): 203-219. 2006.
    According to the communitarian view, often attributed to the later Wittgenstein, language is social in the sense that having a (first) language essentially depends on meaning by one's words what members of some community mean by them. According to the interpersonal view, defended by Davidson, language is social only in the sense that having a (first) language essentially depends on having used (at least some of) one's words, whatever one means by them, to communicate with others. Even though the…Read more