The Root of the Third Dogma of Empiricism: Davidson vs. Quine on Factualism

Acta Analytica:1-23 (forthcoming)
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Davidson has famously argued that conceptual relativism, which, for him, is based on the content-scheme dualism, or the “third dogma” of empiricism, is either unintelligible or philosophically uninteresting and has accused Quine of holding onto such a dogma. For Davidson, there can be found no intelligible ground for the claim that there may exist untranslatable languages: all languages, if they are languages, are in principle inter-translatable and uttered sentences, if identifiable as utterances, are interpretable. Davidson has also endorsed the Quinean indeterminacy-underdetermination distinction. The early Quine, as well as the later Quine, believe that the indeterminacy of translation casts serious doubt on the existence of facts of the matter about correct translation between languages. In this paper, I will argue that Quine cannot be the target of Davidson’s argument against conceptual relativism, and that Davidson’s argument is in conflict, among others, with his endorsement of the Quinean indeterminacy-underdetermination distinction. I will show how this conflict results in a radical departure from Quine with respect to the matter of factualism about fine-grained meanings.

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Ali Hossein Khani
Iranian Institute of Philosophy (IRIP)

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