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Donald Davidson on Truth, Meaning, and the Mental$
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Gerhard Preyer

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199697519

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199697519.001.0001

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Against logical form

Against logical form

(p.105) Against logical form
Donald Davidson on Truth, Meaning, and the Mental

Zoltán Gendler Szabó

Oxford University Press

According to the traditional doctrine of logical form, sentences have an underlying structure which lays bare their inferential profiles. Logical form is supposed to be inherent in the sentence (not ascribed to it as a result of formalization), and it is supposed to capture its logical (not merely syntactic or semantic) features. This chapter argues against the existence of logical form in this sense by casting doubt on the coherence of the idea that certain inferences are valid solely in virtue of their form. And while the idea that some inferences are valid in virtue of their form and facts of logic is perfectly coherent, these inferences are arguably unavailable in natural languages. Moreover, appeal to semantic competence is no help, because logical competence is distinct from our knowledge of language. The upshot of the argument is that we should abandon the Davidsonian hope that an adequate compositional semantics could explain why logical validities are valid, or how we know that they are.

Keywords:   analyticity, Davidson, definition, inference, linguistic competence, logic, logical form, semantics

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