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Truth, Language, and HistoryPhilosophical Essays Volume 5$
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Donald Davidson

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780198237570

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2005

DOI: 10.1093/019823757X.001.0001

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Dialectic and Dialogue

Dialectic and Dialogue

(p.251) 17 Dialectic and Dialogue
Truth, Language, and History

Donald Davidson

Oxford University Press

This essay argues that the Socratic elenchus is a crucible in which some of our most important words, and the concepts they express are tested, melted down, reshaped, and given a new edge. It is a microcosm of the ongoing process of language formation itself, though a sophisticated and self-conscious microcosm which takes advantage of rich and complex linguistic and cultural institutions already in existence. To illustrate this point, a feature of elementary language learning is compared with the cooperative reworking of verbal usage that occurs in a dialectical exchange.

Keywords:   Socrates, elenchus, language, elenctic method

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