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Interpretation, Reasons, and Facts

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Donald Davidson argues that his interpretivist approach to meaning shows that accounting for the intentionality and objectivity of thought does not require an appeal, as John McDowell has urged it does, to a specifically rational relation between mind and world. Moreover, Davidson claims that the idea of such a relation is unintelligible. This paper takes issue with these claims. It shows, first, that interpretivism, contra Davidson's express view, does not depend essentially upon an appeal to a causal relation between events in the world and speakers' beliefs. Second, it shows that interpretivism essentially, if implicitly, depends upon interpreters' appealing to facts taken in in perception, and that such facts are suited to provide a rational connection between mind and world. The paper then argues that none of Davidson's legitimate epistemological arguments tell against the idea that experience, in the form of the propositional contents of perception, can play a role in doxastic economy. Finally, it argues that granting experience such a role is consistent with Davidson's coherentist slogan that nothing can count as a reason for holding a belief except another belief.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-09-01

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