Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Commentary on Greg Lynch's


Philosophy Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Social and Behavioral Sciences


Donald Davidson famously argues that for our linguistic utterances to have meaning and for us to have beliefs and other propositional attitudes, both our utterances must be interpretable by any other speaker of a natural language and our beliefs must largely overlap with theirs. He also claims that a speaker must mean whatever a fully informed radical interpreter would take her to mean. The first claim implies that different speakers' conceptual repertoires cannot be globally divergent, that is, that these speakers cannot have different "conceptual schemes". However, Davidson does not, and should not, deny that different speakers conceptual repertoires may diverge locally and that, indeed, such local divergences are very common. Greg Lynch argues that Davidsons admission of such local divergences is incompatible with the second claim. In response, I argue that Lynch overlooks another central Davidsonian doctrine: the indeterminacy of interpretation, according to which, for any instance of speech, there are multiple, mutually exclusive yet equally good interpretations. The indeterminacy thesis implies, I argue, that Davidsons second claim should not be understood in the sense in which Lynch understands it. And once it is understood rightly, it is compatible with local divergences between different speakers' conceptual repertoires.

Conference Name

Central States Philosophical Association

Conference Location

Tulsa, OK

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