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|Title: ||Davidson on Conceptual Schemes|
|Authors: ||Beillard, J. C. Julien|
|Advisor: ||Katz, Bernard|
|Issue Date: ||29-Jul-2008|
|Abstract: ||In his influential essay “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme”, Donald Davidson argues that we cannot make sense of conceptual relativism, the doctrine that there could be incommensurably different systems of concepts applicable to a single world. According to Davidson, there is no criterion of identity for language that does not imply or presuppose the possibility that we interpret that language by means of our own language. Given some plausible assumptions, this implies that there is at most one conceptual scheme, one way of interpreting or representing the world. But then the very idea of a conceptual scheme is empty.
The dissertation is an examination of Davidson’s reasoning, and a defence of a different position regarding conceptual relativism. I reject much of Davidson’s argumentation, and his radical (subordinate) conclusion that we would be able, at least in principle, to make sense of any language. Languages that we would be unable to translate or interpret, even in principle, are at least logically possible, in my view. However, this possibility should not be thought to imply or encourage conceptual relativism. In this respect, I think that Davidson and many of his critics have conflated the notion of a difference in conceptual scheme, which requires incommensurability between languages or systems of concepts, and mere conceptual difference.
I argue that a genuinely alternative conceptual scheme would be associated with language unintelligible to us because of its relation to our language. For what is at issue, supposedly, is a conceptual relation: a relation between languages, not a relation between speakers, or their capacities, on the one hand, and languages, on the other. I try to show how some of Davidson’s arguments, suitably modified, can be deployed against the possibility of an alternative scheme, so understood, and provide some additional arguments of my own. My position is thus significantly weaker than Davidson’s: there could not be languages that we would be unable to interpret because they are incommensurable with our own.|
|Appears in Collections:||Doctoral|
Department of Philosophy - Doctoral theses
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