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Davidson on Intentionality and Externalism


Davidson has attempted to integrate externalism into his account of meaning and understanding. He contends that what words mean is fixed in part by the circumstances in which they were learnt, in which the basic connection between words and things is established. This connection is allegedly established by causal interaction between people and the world. Words and sentences derive their meanings from the objects and circumstances in which they were learnt, which ‘anchor’ language to the world.

Against this it is argued that there is no ‘semantic connection’ between words and things, that words derive their meanings from explanations of meaning, which are rules for their use, and that the manner of concept acquisition is irrelevant to determination of meaning, understanding and speaker's meaning.

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  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
  • URL: /core/journals/philosophy
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