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Ideas of Donald Davidson, by Text

[American, 1917 - 2003, Born at Springfield, Massachusetts. Pupil of Willard Quine. Professor at the University of Chicago.]

1963 Action, Reasons and Causes
p.127 Davidson claims that what causes an action is the reason for doing it
p.185 Varied descriptions of an event will explain varied behaviour relating to it
p.259 Reasons must be causes when agents act 'for' reasons
1967 Causal Relations
p.77 A singular causal statement is true if it is held to fall under a law
p.440 Either facts, or highly unspecific events, serve better as causes than concrete events
§3 p.157 Full descriptions can demonstrate sufficiency of cause, but not necessity
§4 p.161 Explanations typically relate statements, not events
§4 p.162 If we don't assume that events exist, we cannot make sense of our common talk
§4 p.162 The best way to do ontology is to make sense of our normal talk
1967 The Logical Form of Action Sentences
p.122 If the best theory of adverbs refers to events, then our ontology should include events
p.144 We need 'events' to explain adverbs, which are adjectival predicates of events
§8 p.208 Language-learning is not good enough evidence for the existence of events
1967 Truth and Meaning
p.82 Should we assume translation to define truth, or the other way around?
p.142 You can state truth-conditions for "I am sick now" by relativising it to a speaker at a time
p.146 Compositionality explains how long sentences work, and truth conditions are the main compositional feature
p.246 Davidson thinks Frege lacks an account of how words create sentence-meaning
p.35 p.35 There is a huge range of sentences of which we do not know the logical form
1969 The Individuation of Events
p.38 Davidson controversially proposed to quantify over events
p.113 You can't identify events by causes and effects, as the event needs to be known first
p.163 The claim that events are individuated by their causal relations to other events is circular
3 p.87 Events can only be individuated causally
Intro IIb p.7 We need events for action statements, causal statements, explanation, mind-and-body, and adverbs
1969 True to the Facts
p.2 Davidson takes truth to attach to individual sentences
1970 Mental Events
p.8 Mind is outside science, because it is humanistic and partly normative
p.33 Davidson sees identity as between events, not states, since they are related in causation
p.62 Anomalous monism says causes are events, so the mental and physical are identical, without identical properties
p.137 Davidson claims that mental must be physical, to make mental causation possible
p.138 If mental causation is lawless, it is only possible if mental events have physical properties
p.196 Causation is either between events, or between descriptions of events
p.198 Whether an event is a causal explanation depends on how it is described
I p.214 Supervenience of the mental means physical changes mental, and mental changes physical
p.217 p.217 There are no rules linking thought and behaviour, because endless other thoughts intervene
1970 Semantics for Natural Languages
p.45 Davidson rejected ordinary meaning, and just used truth and reference instead
2 p.229 Davidson aimed to show that language is structured by first-order logic
1973 In Defence of Convention T
p.276 A theory of meaning comes down to translating sentences into Fregean symbolic logic
1973 Freedom to Act
p.112 Deviant causal chain: a reason causes an action, but isn't the reason for which it was performed
1973 The Material Mind
p.259 p.259 In no important way can psychology be reduced to the physical sciences
1974 The Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme
p.11 p.39 Saying truths fit experience adds nothing to truth; nothing makes sentences true
p.184 p.184 Different points of view make sense, but they must be plotted on a common background
p.184 p.184 Criteria of translation give us the identity of conceptual schemes
p.189 p.189 Without the dualism of scheme and content, not much is left of empiricism
1975 Thought and Talk
p.14 p.14 The pattern of sentences held true gives sentences their meaning
p.17 p.17 An understood sentence can be used for almost anything; it isn't language if it has only one use
p.170 p.170 Concepts are only possible in a language community
p.170 p.170 Having a belief involves the possibility of being mistaken
p.20 p.20 A sentence is held true because of a combination of meaning and belief
p.22 p.22 The concept of belief can only derive from relationship to a speech community.
p.8 p.8 Thought depends on speech
p.9 p.9 A creature doesn't think unless it interprets another's speech
1977 The Method of Truth in Metaphysics
§II p.295 Sentences held true determine the meanings of the words they contain
§III p.303 Metaphysics requires the idea of people (speakers) located in space and time
1977 Reality without Reference
p.132 p.132 A minimum requirement for a theory of meaning is that it include an account of truth
p.134 p.134 Is reference the key place where language and the world meet?
p.135 p.135 To explain the reference of a name, you must explain its sentence-role, so reference can't be defined nonlinguistically
p.136 p.136 With a holistic approach, we can give up reference in empirical theories of language
p.137 p.137 A theory of truth tells us how communication by language is possible
1978 What Metaphors Mean
p.29 p.29 Understanding a metaphor is a creative act, with no rules
p.30 p.30 Metaphors just mean what their words literally mean
p.40 p.40 We accept a metaphor when we see the sentence is false
1980 Intro to 'Essays on Actions and Events'
p.xi p.-6 Cause unites our picture of the universe; without it, mental and physical will separate
p.xi p.-6 The notion of cause is essential to acting for reasons, intentions, agency, akrasia, and free will
p.xii p.-5 The causally strongest reason may not be the reason the actor judges to be best
1983 Coherence Theory of Truth and Knowledge
p.3 Coherence with a set of propositions suggests we can know the proposition corresponds
p.34 Davidson says the world influences us causally; I say it influences us rationally
16.6 p.171 Davidson's Cogito: 'I think, therefore I am generally right'
I.6 p.14 Davidson believes experience is non-conceptual, and outside the space of reasons
p.156 p.156 Coherent justification says only beliefs can be reasons for holding other beliefs
p.157 p.157 Sensations lack the content to be logical; they cause beliefs, but they cannot justify them
p.158 p.158 Reasons for beliefs are not the same as evidence
p.161 p.161 Skepticism is false because our utterances agree, because they are caused by the same objects
p.162 p.162 The concepts of belief and truth are linked, since beliefs are meant to fit reality
1987 Knowing One's Own Mind
p.144 External identification doesn't mean external location, as with sunburn
1990 Epistemology Externalized
p.197 p.197 It is widely supposed that externalism cannot be reconciled with first-person authority
p.198 p.198 The cause of a usage determines meaning, but why is the microstructure of water relevant?
p.199 p.199 It is hard to interpret a speaker's actions if we take a broad view of the content
1990 The Structure and Content of Truth
p.304 p.23 Correspondence theories can't tell you what truths correspond to
1991 Three Varieties of Knowledge
p.124 Knowing other minds rests on knowing both one's own mind and the external world
p.127 Objectivity is intersubjectivity
p.207 p.207 If we know other minds through behaviour, but not our own, we should assume they aren't like me
p.209 p.209 A belief requires understanding the distinctions of true-and-false, and appearance-and-reality
p.209 p.209 Objective truth arises from interpersonal communication
p.211 p.211 The principle of charity attributes largely consistent logic and largely true beliefs to speakers
p.213 p.213 Content of thought is established through communication, so knowledge needs other minds
1994 Davidson on himself
p.231 p.231 The correct conclusion is ontological monism combined with conceptual dualism
p.231 p.231 If the mind is an anomaly, this makes reduction of the mental to the physical impossible
p.231 p.231 Mental entities do not add to the physical furniture of the world
p.231 p.231 Obviously all mental events are causally related to physical events
p.231 p.231 There are no strict psychophysical laws connecting mental and physical events
p.231 p.231 Cause and effect relations between events must follow strict laws
p.231 p.231 There are no such things as minds, but people have mental properties
p.232 p.232 There are no ultimate standards of rationality, since we only assess others by our own standard
p.232 p.232 Absence of all rationality would be absence of thought
p.232 p.232 Propositions explain nothing without an explanation of how sentences manage to name them
p.233 p.233 There is simply no alternative to the 'principle of charity' in interpreting what others do
p.233 p.233 Truth and objectivity depend on a community of speakers to interpret what they mean
p.233 p.233 Thought is only fully developed if we communicate with others
p.234 p.234 Without a teacher, the concept of 'getting things right or wrong' is meaningless
p.235 p.235 Our meanings are partly fixed by events of which we may be ignorant
1998 Replies to Critics
p.323 p.323 Names, descriptions and predicates refer to things; without that, language and thought are baffling
2005 Truth and Predication
Intro p.1 We recognise sentences at once as linguistic units; we then figure out their parts
Intro p.2 Top-down semantic analysis must begin with truth, as it is obvious, and explains linguistic usage
Intro p.4 If you assign semantics to sentence parts, the sentence fails to compose a whole
1 p.15 Tarski defined truth for particular languages, but didn't define it across languages
1 p.17 Many say that Tarski's definitions fail to connect truth to meaning
1 p.17 Tarski enumerates cases of truth, so it can't be applied to new words or languages
1 p.27 Tarski define truths by giving the extension of the predicate, rather than the meaning
1 p.27 Tarski does not tell us what his various truth predicates have in common
2 p.30 'Satisfaction' is a generalised form of reference
2 p.32 Probability can be constrained by axioms, but that leaves open its truth nature
2 p.33 'Epistemic' truth depends what rational creatures can verify
2 p.34 We can explain truth in terms of satisfaction - but also explain satisfaction in terms of truth
2 p.34 Satisfaction is a sort of reference, so maybe we can define truth in terms of reference?
2 p.35 Truth is the basic concept, because Convention-T is agreed to fix the truths of a language
2 p.39 There is nothng interesting or instructive for truths to correspond to
2 p.41 If we reject corresponding 'facts', we should also give up the linked idea of 'representations'
2 p.43 Coherence truth says a consistent set of sentences is true - which ties truth to belief
2 p.48 Antirealism about truth prevents its use as an intersubjective standard
3 p.50 Utterances have the truth conditions intended by the speaker
3 p.55 Truth is basic and clear, so don't try to replace it with something simpler
3 p.62 The principle of charity says an interpreter must assume the logical constants
4 p.96 Modern predicates have 'places', and are sentences with singular terms deleted from the places
5 p.102 'Humanity belongs to Socrates' is about humanity, so it's a different proposition from 'Socrates is human'
6 p.121 A comprehensive theory of truth probably includes a theory of predication
6 p.123 Meaning involves use, but a sentence has many uses, while meaning stays fixed
6 p.123 We indicate use of a metaphor by its obvious falseness, or trivial truth
6 p.124 You only understand an order if you know what it is to obey it
6 p.125 If propositions are facts, then false and true propositions are indistinguishable
6 p.128 Two sentences can be rephrased by equivalent substitutions to correspond to the same thing
6 p.128 The Slingshot assumes substitutions give logical equivalence, and thus identical correspondence
7 p.145 Predicates are a source of generality in sentences
7 p.150 Tarski is not a disquotationalist, because you can assign truth to a sentence you can't quote
7 p.153 To define a class of true sentences is to stipulate a possible language
7 p.158 Treating predicates as sets drops the predicate for a new predicate 'is a member of', which is no help
7 p.160 Tarski gave axioms for satisfaction, then derived its explicit definition, which led to defining truth
7 p.160 Axioms spell out sentence satisfaction. With no free variables, all sequences satisfy the truths
7 p.161 The concept of truth can explain predication