Possibly v. actually the case: Davidson’s omniscient interpreter at twenty

Acta Analytica 18 (1-2):143 - 60 (2003)
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Recent anthologizing of Davidson’s articles from the 1980s and 1990s encourages us to reconsider arguments contained in them. One such argument is Davidson’s omniscient-interpreter argument (“OIA”) in “A Coherence Theory of Truth and Knowledge,” first published 20 years ago. The OIA allegedly establishes that it is necessary that most beliefs are true. Thus the omniscient interpreter, now 20 years old, was born to answer the skeptic. In §1 of this paper, I consider charges that the OIA establishes only that it is possible that most beliefs are true; if correct, then it is also possibly the case that most beliefs are false—the skeptic’s very position. Next, I consider two responses on Davidson’s behalf, showing that each fails. In §2, I show that the OIA establishes neither that it is necessarily nor possibly but actually the case that most beliefs are true. I then conclude that this is enough to answer the skeptic.



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