• Banno
    9.6k
    Let us again consider A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs, in which Davidson considers the suggestion that meaning is governed by learned conventions and regularities, only to reject it.

    Have a little read and tell us what you think. The argument seems at first blush to be that malapropisms cannot, by their very nature, be subsumed and accounted for by such conventions of language. Is that the whole of Davidson's argument, and is it cogent?
  • JerseyFlight
    782
    This is a highly unpleasant paper to read. I am not an analytical philosopher for good reasons.

    I think this is a terrible way to approach the topic of comprehension or communication.

    "Here is a highly simplified and idealised proposal about what goes on. An interpreter has, at any moment of a speech transaction, what I persist in calling a theory... To put this differently: the theory we actually use to interpret an utterance is geared to the occasion. We may decide later we could have done better by the occasion, but this does not mean (necessarily) that we now have a better theory for the next occasion." Ibid. pg. 260

    It seems to me this entire approach is shattered and eclipsed by cultural psychology. Further, Davidson is here speaking of actions divorced from their historical contexts, as if the premises he is arriving at have some kind of meaning apart from their cultural history.

    "The speaker wants to be understood, so he intends to speak in such a way that he will be interpreted in a certain way." Ibid.

    Does he now?

    I find it exceedingly hard to subject myself to this:

    "I have distinguished what I have been calling the prior theory from what I shall henceforth call the passing theory. For the hearer, the prior theory expresses how he is prepared in advance to interpret an utterance of the speaker, while the passing theory is how he does interpret the utterance. For the speaker, the prior theory is what he believes the interpreter’s prior theory to be, while his passing theory is the theory he intends the interpreter to use. I am now in a position to state a problem that arises if we accept the distinction between the prior and the passing theory and also accept the account of linguistic competence given by principles (1)–(2)." Ibid. pg.261

    Maybe have a little fun to redeem the time it took to read it:

    "The asymptote
    of agreement and
    understanding
    is when passing theories coincide.

    But the passing theory
    cannot in general
    correspond to an interpreter’s
    linguistic competence.

    Not only does it have its changing list
    of proper names and
    gerrymandered
    vocabulary,
    but it includes every successful--
    correctly interpreted—
    use of any other word or phrase,
    no matter how far out of the ordinary."

    How to know this?
    Perhaps one just creates it?

    "Every deviation from ordinary usage, as long as it is agreed on for the moment..."

    Agreed on it? Agree on it? What's this, the hidden axiom of the interpreter?

    "A passing theory is not a theory of what anyone (except perhaps a philosopher) would call an actual natural language." Ibid. pg.261

    No one but a philosopher? Yes, indeed, this tells us a great deal about [analytical] philosophers!

    But Mr. Davidson, at least the paper has some kind of value?

    "Mastery’ of such a language would be useless, since knowing a passing theory is only knowing how to interpret a particular utterance on a particular occasion." Ibid.

    What's this then we are discussing? Strange particulars?

    "The answer is that when a word or phrase temporarily or locally takes over the role of some other word or phrase (as treated in a prior theory, perhaps), the entire burden of that role, with all its implications for logical relations to other words, phrases, and sentences, must be carried along by the passing theory." Ibid.

    But "A passing theory is not a theory of what anyone (except perhaps a philosopher) would call an actual natural language." Ibid.

    "In fact we always have the interpreter in mind; there is no such thing as how we expect, in the abstract, to be interpreted. We inhibit our higher vocabulary, or encourage it, depending on the most general considerations, and we cannot fail to have premonitions as to which of the proper names we know are apt to be correctly understood." Ibid. pg.261

    I like this, language is not so logical after all.

    "In any case, my point is this: most of the time prior theories will not be shared,and there is no reason why they should be. Certainly it is not a condition of successful communication that prior theories be shared..." Ibid.

    "Neither the prior theory nor the passing theory describes what we would call the language a person knows..." Ibid.

    Mr. Davidson, I am struggling to see why you even wrote this paper?

    "Perhaps it will be said that what is essential to the mastery of a language is not knowledge of any particular vocabulary, or even detailed grammar, much less knowledge of what any speaker is apt to succeed in making his words and sentences mean. What is essential is a basic framework of categories and rules, a sense of the way English (or any) grammars may be constructed, plus a skeleton list of interpreted words for fitting into the basic framework." Ibid.

    I can move in this direction. I see mastery as an important topic.

    "This characterization of linguistic ability is so nearly circular that it cannot be wrong: it comes to saying that the ability to communicate by speech consists in the ability to make oneself understood, and to understand. It is only when we look at the structure of this ability that we realize how far we have drifted from standard ideas of language mastery. For we have discovered no learnable common core of consistent behaviour, no shared grammar or rules, no portable interpreting machine set to grind out the meaning of an arbitrary utterance. We may say that linguistic ability is the ability to converge on a passing theory from time to time—this is what I have suggested, and I have no better proposal. But if we do say this, then we should realize that we have abandoned not only the ordinary notion of a language, but we have erased the boundary between knowing a language and knowing our way around in the world generally." Ibid. Pg.264-265

    I'm not sure why the assumption of knowing a language should specifically be contained in its rules, like with everything else, it's the psychology that makes the rules.

    "I conclude that there is no such thing as a language, not if a language is anything like what many philosophers and linguists have supposed. There is therefore no such thing to be learned, mastered, or born with. We must give up the idea of a clearly defined shared structure which language-users acquire and then apply to cases..." Ibid.

    Am I wrong or is this the conclusion of a loaded premise based on premises (1), (2) and (3)?

    "(1) First meaning is systematic. A competent speaker or interpreter is able to interpret utterances, his own or those of others, on the basis of the semantic properties of the parts, or words, in the utterance, and the structure of the utterance. For this to be possible, there must be systematic relations between the meanings of utterances.

    "(2) First meanings are shared. For speaker and interpreter to communicate successfully and regularly, they must share a method of interpretation of the sort described in (1).

    "(3) First meanings are governed by learned conventions or regularities. The systematic knowledge or competence of the speaker or interpreter is learned in advance of occasions of interpretation and is conventional in character." Ibid. pg.254

    There "is no such thing as a language" because we fail to quantify it with the analytical method? This is a bearing on analyticity as opposed to language.
  • Banno
    9.6k
    I found it quite an amusing read.

    I was reminded of this piece on thinking again about the following anecdote...

    Wittgenstein’s friend has had surgery. Wittgenstein asks him how he feels. “Like a dog that’s been hit by a truck”, the friend wearily groans. Wittgenstein replies angrily: “How would you know what a dog feels after being hit by a truck?"

    Wittgenstein had all too serious, literal perspective on language, a result of his austere attitude towards life generally. Despite this his admonition to look to use rather than to meaning out put us in a good position to deal with metaphor and malaprop.

    Less so for Davidson, who here is reneging on some of his earlier thought.

    Davidson posits three principles that might allow for a first meaning. They are that it be systematic, shared and governed by learned conventions. Malapropisms undermine this last principle. By its very nature it breaks those learned conventions.

    There's this interesting piece: "A speaker cannot, therefore, intend to mean something by what he says unless he believes his audience will interpret his words as he intends". And hence, "Humpty Dumpty is out of it. He cannot mean what he says he means because he knows that ‘There’s glory for you’ cannot be interpreted by Alice as meaning ‘There’s a nice knockdown argument for you’. " I like that.

    More anon.
  • Olivier5
    834
    There "is no such thing as a language" because we fail to quantify it with the analytical method? This is a bearing on analyticity as opposed to language.JerseyFlight

    :up:
  • tim wood
    5.5k
    Last paragraph from the paper:

    "The problem we have been grappling with depends on the assumption that
    communication by speech requires that speaker and interpreter have learned or
    somehow acquired a common method or theory of interpretation—as being able
    to operate on the basis of shared conventions, rules, or regularities. The problem
    arose when we realized that no method or theory fills this bill. The solution to the
    problem is clear. In linguistic communication nothing corresponds to a linguistic
    competence as often described: that is, as summarized by principles (1)–(3). The
    solution is to give up the principles. Principles (1) and (2) survive when
    understood in rather unusual ways, but principle (3) cannot stand, and it is
    unclear what can take its place. I conclude that there is no such thing as a
    language, not if a language is anything like what many philosophers and linguists
    have supposed. There is therefore no such thing to be learned, mastered, or born
    with. We must give up the idea of a clearly defined shared structure which
    language-users acquire and then apply to cases. And we should try again to say
    how convention in any important sense is involved in language; or, as I think, we
    should give up the attempt to illuminate how we communicate by appeal to
    conventions."

    This reads to me like a man who has looked at something closely and been surprised to find that up close it is not what he thought it was, looking at it from afar, and become himself confused both at and by the matter. We do, however, communicate using language, and even bumblebees fly. Which shows that it's in many cases best to start with the facts, as best they can be determined.
  • Banno
    9.6k
    Davidson talks somewhat briefly about achieving understanding as an interactive process. Would that he had spent a bit more time relating this to the notion of triangulation that he articulated elsewhere - as it stands it is a sort of biangulation between speaker and interpreter. But in every instance, a new use must be re-interpreted without the benefit of precedent; or rather, despite precedent.

    Davidson draws our attention to the willingness of a speaker to undermine convention, or even to use it to undermine itself:
    There is no word or construction that cannot be converted to a new use by an ingenious or ignorant speaker.
  • Banno
    9.6k
    It seems that in a world were "research" consists in watching a ten-minute video by some dilettante on YouTube, it's considered too much to ask folk not just to read, but to contemplate, a considered article.

    Given that the topic, and the conclusion, the replies so far have not been without a certain irony. Yes, indeed, Davidson's article is an example of language undermining itself; of course, this is what he intended; That's his glory for you.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.6k


    I'll pitch in after I get a chance to re-read the paper, but it might be a few more days.
  • Banno
    9.6k
    Mrs Malaprop perhaps made mistakes in her use of language; Sheridan didn't. He put those words into her mouth with intent.

    As for replying to those posts above, we might reapply Dogberry's advice to the watchmen:
    If you meet a thief, you may suspect him, by virtue
    of your office, to be no true man; and, for such
    kind of men, the less you meddle or make with them,
    why the more is for your honesty.
  • JerseyFlight
    782
    Davidson's article is an example of language undermining itselfBanno

    So what? And? We suddenly can't use it because it fails to meet Davidson's analytical criteria? Such a conclusion is impossible given the vast world of knowledge that language has spawned. I consider these kind of considerations to be a waste of time. They are formal in a way that doesn't even matter, for God sake man, look at Davidson's ridiculous conclusion: there is no such thing as a language. These are idealistic problems, they are not real problems, the world is full of real problems caused by idealistic reasoning.
  • Banno
    9.6k
    I consider these kind of considerations to be a waste of time.JerseyFlight

    Then please, spend more time here telling of it...
  • JerseyFlight
    782
    Then please, spend more time here telling of it...Banno

    Contrary to the assumption behind your premise, there is a value to it. That value is in recovering quality minds from the irrelevance of this abstraction.
  • Banno
    9.6k
    Back to the topic...

    It's worth considering Wittgenstein's family resemblance here. No one thread runs through the length of the rope. Yet the rope is considered a whole, an individual.

    Davidson goes further in pointing out that in the case of language, if any rule be presented then immediately it may be undermined. There can, then, be no set of conventions or rules that can be relied on to set out what that language is.

    Edit: this bit:
    First, any general framework, whether conceived as a grammar for English, or a rule for accepting grammars, or a basic grammar plus rules for modifying or extending it—any such general framework, by virtue of the features that make it general, will by itself be insufficient for interpreting particular utterances. The general framework or theory, whatever it is, may be a key ingredient in what is needed for interpretation, but it can’t be all that is needed since it fails to provide the interpretation of particular words and sentences as uttered by a particular speaker. In this respect it is like a prior theory, only worse because it is less complete.
  • JerseyFlight
    782
    Then your time is not entirely wasted, but makes use of your capacity to recognise a quality mind.Banno

    We are already getting into analytical semantics, not my cup of tea friend. I never said my time here was a waste, I said 'I consider these kind of considerations a waste.' And you should as well. You have a superb mind, why spend it on stuff like this? Davidson will not carry into the warming future as providing some kind of vital knowledge or clarification to humans. His considerations are just intellectual hedonism void of responsibility. My thought is that we must get beyond this kind of stuff. Thought is an incredible power, but it can waste itself by deliberating on what is futile. Life is the agent that thrusts the spear of relevance, we do not create it, life dictates it. Further, life is already discriminating against abstraction... but I am not against abstraction, who could ever sustain such a thing, I am against its irrelevance.
  • Banno
    9.6k
    but it might be a few more days.Srap Tasmaner

    By then there is a good chance the thread will be overrun by piss-ants.
  • Banno
    9.6k
    ...for if one sets out such a general framework for language, then it will be incomplete.

    That strikes me as parallel to the incompleteness theorem. Malapropisms as diagonalisation...
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.6k


    Here's something I posted years ago:

    There's a touching passage in Tarski's little Introduction to Logic that I'll quote in full here:

    I shall be very happy if this book contributes to the wider diffusion of logical knowledge. The course of historical events has assembled in this country the most eminent representatives of contemporary logic, and has thus created here especially favorable conditions for the development of logical thought. These favorable conditions can, of course, be easily overbalanced by other and more powerful factors. It is obvious that the future of logic, as well as of all theoretical science, depends essentially upon normalizing the political and social relations of mankind, and thus upon a factor which is beyond the control of professional scholars. I have no illusions that the development of logical thought, in particular, will have a very essential effect upon the process of the normalization of human relationships; but I do believe that the wider diffusion of the knowledge of logic may contribute positively to the acceleration of this process. For, on the one hand, by making the meaning of concepts precise and uniform in its own field and by stressing the necessity of such a precision and uniformization in any other domain, logic leads to the possibility of better understanding between those who have the will to do so. And, on the other hand, by perfecting and sharpening the tools of thought, it makes men more critical--and thus makes less likely their being misled by all the pseudo-reasonings to which they are in various parts of the world incessantly exposed today.

    That's Tarski writing from Harvard in 1940, having fled Poland before the German invasion.


    Now will you please stop cluttering the forum with this drivel about what "true thinkers" should or shouldn't do. It is beyond tiresome. Do some philosophy or shut up.
  • JerseyFlight
    782
    I have no illusions that the development of logical thought, in particular, will have a very essential effect upon the process of the normalization of human relationships; but I do believe that the wider diffusion of the knowledge of logic may contribute positively to the acceleration of this process. For, on the one hand, by making the meaning of concepts precise and uniform in its own field and by stressing the necessity of such a precision and uniformization in any other domain, logic leads to the possibility of better understanding between those who have the will to do so.

    People are already doing this and have been doing it for quite some time, that is, having "better understanding." There are people who work with blind children, deaf children, abused children, they make use of language and they actually get somewhere with it!

    What you are doing by citing Tarski is trying to validate your abstract program without actually having to engage your burden of proof. Because you like to play these kind of words games, of course you want to presume they have maximum value, but they don't. Bryan Magee in his book "Confessions of a Philosopher," speaks against exactly the kind of thing you are doing. He explains that he became disgusted with philosophy because of it.

    This is a vitally important conversation, one where you do not get a free pass on your presumption of value. However, this is not the thread to hash it out on. I tried to contact you privately, I was not rude, I did not attack you, I merely called out your presumption of value, but you never got back to me.

    Now will you please stop cluttering the forum with this drivel about what "true thinkers" should or shouldn't do.Srap Tasmaner

    Aside from being a poisoning of the well fallacy, the questions of relevance and intellectual responsibility do not fall into the category of "clutter" or "drivel," I expect something better than name calling or ad hominem from analytical philosophers. No one needs to take my word for it, Peter Unger, who is far more intelligent than you, has already said that analytical philosophy is "nonsense," just a bunch of "empty ideas."
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.6k
    However, this is not the thread to hash it out onJerseyFlight

    No shit.

    No one on this forum wants a lecture from you about how they should be spending their time instead; no one wants you to intrude in their thread to tell them you think it's pointless.

    Please stop doing that.
  • JerseyFlight
    782
    No one on this forum wants a lecture from you about how they should be spending their time instead; no one wants you to intrude in their thread to tell them you think it's pointless. Please stop doing that.Srap Tasmaner

    Pardon me, but Banno posted this thread asking every single member on this Forum what they thought about Davidson's paper. Reading the paper, does in fact, entitle me to comment on it, which I did. It's nonsense: "there is no such thing as a language."

    There is a philosophical way to settle disputes and it is not the way you are going about it here. Your reply is authoritarian and emotive, it is not logical. A thread is not a place where all your friends get together and agree with your conclusions.
  • JerseyFlight
    782


    Let's get back to the point shall we, unless you want to carry on with your authoritarian emotivism?

    Banno said:

    Davidson's article is an example of language undermining itselfBanno

    And my reply was, so what? 'We suddenly can't use it because it fails to meet Davidson's analytical criteria? Such a conclusion is impossible given the vast world of knowledge that language has spawned.'

    My refutation bypasses the skepticism of Davidson's position because it notes that language is already doing things in the world. My point is that the arguments in this paper don't matter, it's just a bunch of abstract formalism. How do you refute my position? Please note: authoritarianism is not a refutation, and neither is calling me names because you're frustrated that I poked a hole in your program.
  • Banno
    9.6k
    While your intent was to keep the ants away, you may have inadvertently lain down a sugar trail...
  • JerseyFlight
    782
    While your intent was to keep the ants away, you may have inadvertently lain down a sugar trail...Banno

    This is not philosophy, but it is a form of derogation. Elitist discrimination? I don't get it, not sure what calling me an ant has to do with Davidson? The Nazis used to call Jews rats and many other derogatory terms. What is it called when people do this kind of thing, I can't quite remember? Why do people do this?

    "Name-calling is a cognitive bias and a technique to promote propaganda. Propagandists use the name-calling technique to invoke fear in those exposed to the propaganda, resulting in the formation of a negative opinion about a person, group, or set of beliefs or ideas. The method is intended to provoke conclusions and actions about a matter apart from an impartial examinations of the facts of the matter. When this tactic is used instead of an argument, name-calling is thus a substitute for rational, fact-based arguments against an idea or belief, based upon its own merits, and becomes an abusive argumentum ad hominem."

    That's just how analytical philosophers roll though, right?
  • Janus
    9.4k
    Reading the paper, does in fact, entitle me to comment on it, which I did. It's nonsense: "there is no such thing as a language."JerseyFlight

    Try exercising some nuanced thinking. Or would that be too "abstract" and/or "idealist" for you? To say there is no such thing as a language is not the same as to say there is no such thing as language. To make the latter claim would indeed be absurd.

    And stop accusing others of invoking authority, when that is virtually all you do. I have yet to see a cogent argument from you anywhere on this forum; all you seem to offer are bare assertions.
  • JerseyFlight
    782
    To say there is no such thing as a language is not the same as to say there is no such thing as language.Janus

    I am aware of what Davidson said, but here your distinction doesn't matter: "I conclude that there is no such thing as a language, not if a language is anything like what many philosophers and linguists have supposed. There is therefore no such thing to be learned, mastered, or born with."

    This is a mere formal conclusion in the sense that there is something to be learned. You would indeed teach your child a language. The sense in which there is no language doesn't matter! Like I already said, and my conclusion is accurate: This is a bearing on analyticity as opposed to language.
  • MSC
    207
    Try exercising some nuanced thinking. Or would that be too "abstract" and/or "idealist" for you? To say there is no such thing as a language is not the same as to say there is no such thing as language. To make the latter claim would indeed be absurd.

    And stop accusing others of invoking authority, when that is virtually all you do. I have yet to see a cogent argument from you anywhere on this forum; all you seem to offer are bare assertions.
    Janus

    No, you are offering up a base assertion right here.

    Both the former and latter claim are absurd. This is a word game where the word "Language" has been unreasonably too far removed from the common consensus for what it means in all meaningful practical settings. Including a philosophy class and abstract thought. If there is no such thing as a language, then if the replacement system is also not a language then using that word instead of using something more appropriate to what is really meant by this not-a-language-but-still-language thing. It's also not even a long game, it's a short one. Meaning neither I nor anyone else has to agree to the rules of it. We don't agree with a rule that states "language" means something else that hasn't even been clearly defined as an appropriate replacement for it.

    Cogent responses are an interesting thing to bring up. @Janus Yours isn't even substantive enough to be wrong or right. Just incomplete. You do seem to be getting emotional about this and you aren't being very charitable at all.

    I'm assuming this is because you and others are trying to be smug elsewhere even though you've done practically nothing to be smug about. Just being disrespectful and condescending for no good reason.
  • Banno
    9.6k
    the ability to communicate by speech consists in the ability to make oneself understood,

    ...and so to the nearly circular conclusion.

    For we have discovered no learnable com- mon core of consistent behaviour, no shared grammar or rules, no portable interpreting machine set to grind out the meaning of an arbitrary utterance.

    ...and...

    that it is derived by wit, luck, and wisdom from a private vocabulary and grammar, knowledge of the ways people get their point across, and rules of thumb for figuring out what deviations from the dictionary are most likely. There is no more chance of regularizing, or teaching, this process than there is of regularizing or teaching the process of creating new theories to cope with new data in any field—for that is what this process involves.

    Wonderful stuff. A language isn't algorithmic; it does not conform; there are no fixed rules. The rules of any language game are subject to change, on the whim of the participants. Linguistics can never be complete - and in a way not too dissimilar to that described by Gödel for Mathematics.

    Davidson's reputation was built on an attempt at just such an (semi-)algorithmic method, using t-sentences. So is this a great reversal for Davidson? To some extent, yes, but then Davidson's program was always moderated by interpretation.
  • Olivier5
    834
    This is a bearing on analyticity as opposed to language.JerseyFlight

    Yes. It also speaks of the blindness of some philosophers to linguistics as a science. Witgenstein should have read Saussure, it would have avoided him much embarrassment. And Davidson should have read Chomsky.
  • JerseyFlight
    782
    -
    Wonderful stuff. A language isn't algorithmic; it does not conform; there are no fixed rules. The rules of any language game are subject to change, on the whim of the participants. Linguistics can never be complete - and in a way not too dissimilar to that described by Gödel for Mathematics.Banno

    Perfect, you've managed to squeeze Davidson down to a paragraph. Language isn't exactly like mathematics and it doesn't try to be, so I don't see why this matters so much? As for "wonderful stuff," that doesn't belong to Davidson, that belongs to all the social workers and developmental psychologists who are using language to try to help wounded humans. You can throw out the algorithm discovery all day long, but what does it do? You will still be using language just like we are still using mathematics after Gödel. And what matters most of all, is not papers like Davidson's, but those who figure how to use words to make the world a better place. Should we get a million people to read this paper by Davidson, or should we get a million people to read, "The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog," by Perry and Szalavitz? There is no contest. What these authors are doing in terms of relevance blows Davidson out of the water. And remember, life is short, so this is a decision we must make over and over again, and this is what I know: analytical philosophy loses.
  • creativesoul
    9k
    Hammers and nails...

    For fuck's sake. Someone against the paper:Make your case. Someone against analytic philosophy, go elsewhere or again:make your case.

    I'll read the paper and decide what I want to do after . I've a bit of time on my hands, due to quarantine from travel... covid regs and all.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.6k
    The argument seems at first blush to be that malapropisms cannot, by their very nature, be subsumed and accounted for by such conventions of language. Is that the whole of Davidson's argument, and is it cogent?Banno

    Hmmm. I had a quick read and a half, and will reread tomorrow.

    We have options here.

    (A) Is Davidson's argument valid? Is he right that his principles (1)-(3) cannot account for what I guess we'll call successful use of language?

    (B) Are principles (1)-(3) actually descriptive of anyone's views? Davidson himself is certainly a candidate, but is anyone else? (Not attempting a survey, but we might want some of an answer for (C), coming up.)

    (C) If his argument is valid, and we reject views well-described by his three principles, are there other approaches out there that handle malapropisms better?

    (D) If we fail to find an existing theory that handles malapropisms happily, does that tell us anything general about the prospects for a grand theory of language, or only that an important dataset has been overlooked? (It's now been decades since ANDOE, so there is essentially zero chance that this dataset is still being overlooked in academic circles. I shudder to think how many papers this paper is directly responsible for.)

    I will try to look carefully at the argument tomorrow. On the one hand, it wouldn't surprise me if Davidson's overall view of language use could be shown to be untenable, because it is a fanatically impoverished approach. On the other hand, Davidson has a way of constructing arguments that I can only describe as "untrustworthy", so I will tend to be a little skeptical of even Davidson's own views being refuted by Davidson.

    When I first read this paper many years ago, I had not read Grice yet, so all of the nods to Grice went right by me. Now that I have read and thought about Grice a fair amount, the invocation of Grice here and there is just puzzling. I'll think about that too.

    What is really shocking though is that he doesn't even mention David Lewis, who at the conclusion of Convention (published 1969) suggested that, while there are two general approaches to language, an idealized model like Tarski's or a more sociological approach like Wittgenstein or Grice
    *
    (not that far really from langue and parole or competence and performance)
    , and he finds value in both, it is entirely possible that no one ever really speaks a language in the idealized model sense. (And then we get a little bonus mini-theory of what they might be doing.)

    So this is a little bizarre right? Convention was not a nothing book. (And certainly by the mid-80s Lewis was well-known.) It carries a preface from Quine about how Lewis took up Quine's challenge
    *
    (it's Lewis's Ph.D. thesis and Quine was his supervisor)
    to make some sense of the idea of convention and show its relevance to language -- he doesn't quite change his mind, as I recall, but he does admit that Lewis has made one hell of a case.

    And then Davidson's argument turns overwhelmingly, he says, not on (1) and (2) -- closer to his own heart -- but on (3), and the very last line has a swipe at convention that could have come from a Quine paper some 30 or 40 years earlier!

    So is the whole thing actually a veiled attack on Lewis? (I had a quick browse and for provocation there's at least a paper by Lewis from the mid-70s on "radical interpretation" and a quick scan of that suggests that Lewis was not exactly supportive of the program.)

    That's a big pile of chitchat. I'll try to have something substantive to say tomorrow.
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