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Quine versus DavidsonTruth, Reference, and Meaning$
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Gary Kemp

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199695621

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199695621.001.0001

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Quine versus Davidson on Reference

Quine versus Davidson on Reference

(p.124) 4 Quine versus Davidson on Reference
Quine versus Davidson

Gary Kemp

Oxford University Press

A central pillar of Quine’s naturalistic view of language is known as the inscrutability of reference. On the face of it, the idea seems flatly incompatible with Davidson’s programme of theories of meaning. Indeed Davidson accepts it, but argues that inscrutability can be explained away. The chapter analyses the issue in detail, arguing that whereas Quine can give a fully naturalistic, scientific account of the phenomena that we commonsensically describe as referring to a thing, Davidson must rely on a certain unscientific judgements of reference to attach his theories of meaning to reality; this violates naturalism. The crux of the matter is Quine’s insistence on the ‘proximate’ in his account versus Davidson’s need for the ‘distal’ as genuine objects of reference; taking a page from Darwin, Quine argues for a pre‐established harmony of proximate response that accounts for the appearance that the distal theory is correct.

Keywords:   reference, inscrutability, pre‐established harmony, proximate, distal, Davidson, Quine

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