26 December 2008

Go on, guess

Guess who wrote this:

Because it was unclear how to harness Wittgenstein's insight, it was hard to view Wittgenstein's later work as leading to a coherent view of the general structure of language. As a result much of the work he inspired led to a dead end. Nevertheless, the basic idea is right: meaning is use; what is needed is to take this in, and apply it to the right use.

It's not Brandom.

(Incidentally, this is the 100th post on this blog.)


N. N. said...

Not a clue, so this is a shot in the dark: Rorty.

How long do we have to wait for the unveiling

Shawn said...

I'm going to guess either Tyler Burge or Jason Stanley, from their respective summaries of 20th century philosophy of language.

Daniel Lindquist said...

It's Donald Davidson, from a late article titled Quine's Externalism.

Not the sort of thing I expect to see Davidson saying circa 1998, but he did in fact say this. It's a weird article.

Shawn said...

Never would've guessed that. How is the rest of the article?

Daniel Lindquist said...

Yeah, I never would have guessed that there was a place where Davidson flatly endorsed the claim "meaning is use". Though he does go on to claim that "uses" lack clear individuation criteria, so it's not as odd in context. But I still did a double-take here.

The piece is effusively praiseful of Quine, especially "Word and Object". Downright scornful of "meanings" in the sense Quine & Davidson reject meanings; he puts his points more strongly than I'm comfortable with in one or two places. Usually Davidson's later writings are pretty relaxed, if not conversational; this piece is definitely neither of those. It's an encomium for Quine, and an insistence that Quine has, in fact, unwittingly been an externalist since the 60s (a footnote indicates that Quine explicitly denied being an externalist upon hearing the paper read, but Davidson is not unconvincing that he shouldn't have done this).

It was published posthumously, though a footnote indicates it was delivered as early as 1998 (at a symposium where Quine was present). It was supposed to be delivered at a conference in Berlin in September 2001, but Davidson couldn't make it to the conference because something or other shut the airports down. And by the time they were asking the presenters to edit their contributions for publication, Davidson was dead. So I suspect that part of the tone of the piece is due to a lack of editing.

There's some interesting stuff against McDowell in it that I mean to post on; it seems to me that McDowell and Davidson both argue past one another in pieces from around this time.

Duck said...

What I find interesting, given Davidson's lukewarm attitude toward Wittgenstein and his "followers" (whoever they may be), is how close they (DD and LW) can be made out to be, on suitable readings of each. I often find in Davidson what in our post-Quinean context I see as an entirely Wittgensteinian attitude, without the man ever being mentioned. He seems simply to have identified "Wittgensteinianism" (admittedly not a word he uses) with some cardboard version of "ordinary language philosophy". I think, though I can't document this, he also goes along with Rorty's and/or McDowell's conception (so, a vague one!) of LW as a "quietist" opposed to Davidson's own semantic "theorizing" – where as you know I don't have any such objection on Wittgensteinian grounds (except possibly where he *does* go too far ...!).