Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

Demystifying Davidson: Radical Interpretation meets Radical Enactivism [Special Issue]

Topics: Epistemology, History of Analytic Philosophy, Philosophy of language, Theoretical philosophy
Keywords: intentionality, Naturalism, Radical Enactivism, Radical interpretation

 

Davidson’s signature ideas on the holism and autonomy of propositional thought have led some exegetes to hold that he advances a kind of transcendentalism that is discordant with a satisfactory naturalism. On the other hand, Davidson’s work has strong connections with naturalism, as some Quinean strands of his thinking make apparent. Two strands can thus be identified in Davidson’s thought. One emphasizes features of thought that set it apart from the rest of nature. The otherseeks to locate thought within nature. Taken to extremes these different strands in Davidson’s thinking come into tension. After summarizing both strands, we diagnose the apparent tension between them and propose a way to overcome it by making central appeal to the Radical Enactivist claim that minds can be intentionally directed to the world without contentfully representing it. By expanding our thinking about the character of the mental along radically enactivist lines it becomes possible to defend some of Davidson’s most important insights about minds while also promoting a satisfactory and demystifying naturalism.

Any naturalist worth his or her salt, even if methodologically non-reductionist, should seek to make the connections between contentful thought and the natural world non-mysterious. Davidson’s signature ideas on the holism and autonomy of propositional thought have led some exegetes to hold that he advances a kind of transcenden talism that is discordant with a satisfactory naturalism (see for example Maker 1991; Cutrofello 1999; Genova 1999; and Barth 2011).

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