Distinguishing WV Quine and Donald Davidson

Abstract

Given W.V. Quine’s and Donald Davidson’s extensive agreement about much of the philosophy of language and mind, and the obvious methodological parallels between Quine’s radical translation and Davidson’s radical interpretation, many—including Quine and Davidson—are puzzled by their occasional disagreements. I argue for the importance of attending to these disagreements, not just because doing so deepens our understanding of these influential thinkers, but because they are in fact the shadows thrown from two distinct conceptions of philosophical inquiry: Quine’s “naturalism” and what I call Davidson’s “humanism.” The clash between Quine and Davidson thus provides valuable insight into the history of analytic naturalism and its malcontents.

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