Interpreting Davidson

Dialogue 32 (3):565- (1993)
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To approach the philosophical anthropology of Donald Davidson is to get ready for an unusually high number of laps around the hermeneutic circle. Apparently a problem-oriented philosopher, Davidson presents his views in a continuing series of dense, tightly focussed papers on narrowly circumscribed topics. The lines of the big picture are mostly implicit. Yet it is the scope and the power of this picture that has made Davidson one of the most significant philosophers of this century. Naturally, this makes Davidson's work an extremely tempting—and extremely treacherous—target for the exegete with synthesizing tendencies. Until now, the sense of danger seems to have won out; secondary expositions have largely confined themselves to particular aspects of his thought. For those seeking to appreciate the cohesion and comprehensiveness of Davidson's vision, there has been no alternative but, as Ted Honderich says, to “struggle and learn,” working their way through Davidson's papers, continually calibrating and recalibrating interpretations of Davidson's detailed philosophical proposals with the emerging pattern of their interrelationships.



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Bjørn Ramberg
University of Oslo