donald davidson essays actions events
Davidson, Essays on actions and events
One important disanalogy, as noted by Davidson himself, is that in the cases of measurement of temperature or weight "our linguistic interactions with others allows us to agree on the properties of the numbers and the sort of structures in nature that allow us to represent those structures in the numbers. We cannot in the same way agree on the structure of sentences or thoughts we use to chart the thoughts and meanings of others, for the attempt to reach such an agreement simply sends us back to the very process of interpretation on which all agreement depends." To put it slightly differently, in case of measurements of temperature there are certain pre-existing conventions which allows us to correlate the two structures. Such conventions are not present for the totality of a language.
–––, 1980, Essays on Actions and Events, Oxford ..
Davidson reduces the scope of indeterminacy about truth and attempts to overcome the above disanalogies through the use of the principle of charity. In its original formulation the principle of charity emphasised consistency and agreement on truth. Davidson had argued that "To the extent that we fail to discover a coherent and plausible pattern in the attitudes and actions of others we simply forgo the chance of treating them as persons." In our need to make sense of other speakers "we will try for a theory that finds him consistent, a believer of truth, and a lover of the good (all by our own lights, it goes without saying)". In recent years he has argued that in attributing beliefs and hence meaning to users of language, at least in some basic cases, the object of a belief should be identified with the cause of that belief . He now clearly distinguishes between two elements in the principle of charity: the "Principle of Coherence" and the "Principle of Correspondence". The Principle of Coherence "prompts the interpreter to discover a degree of logical consistency in the thought of the speaker; the Principle of Correspondence prompts the interpreter to take the speaker to be responding to the same feature of the world that he (the interpreter) would be responding to under similar circumstance". The Principle of Coherence endows the speaker with a modicum of logical truth, the principle of correspondence endows him with a degree of true belief about the world. The principle of correspondence, thus, ensures that there is a "fact of the matter" in common to different but empirically equivalent languages. In other words, Davidson thinks that we are able to interpret a speaker and hence assign a specific language to her, because we share a world with her. The principle of coherence provides us with the means for correlating the two languages. Thus, the two interpretative principles reduce the differences between the Quinean and the more common or garden, Davidsonian, interpretations of the thesis of indeterminacy of translation.