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Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature 
by Richard Rorty.
Blackwell, 401 pp., £12.50, May 1980, 0 631 12961 8
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The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality and Tragedy 
by Stanley Cavell.
Oxford, 511 pp., £12.50, February 1980, 0 19 502571 7
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Philosophy As It Is 
edited by Ted Honderich and Myles Burnyeat.
Pelican, 540 pp., £2.95, November 1979, 0 14 022136 0
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... The whole interest of Rorty’s use of arguments drawn from Quine and Sellars, and indeed from Davidson and Kuhn too, lies in the detail. His book cannot, therefore, be summarised by the reviewer for the reader: it has to be read. But it is important to notice that Rorty is not claiming that he has summed up the force and the outcome merely of the central ...

Only Sentences

Ray Monk, 31 October 1996

Wittgenstein’s Place in 20th-Century Analytic Philosophy 
by P.M.S. Hacker.
Blackwell, 368 pp., £50, October 1996, 0 631 20098 3
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Wittgenstein: Mind and Will, Vol. IV of an Analytical Commentary on the ‘Philosophical Investigations’ 
by P.M.S. Hacker.
Blackwell, 742 pp., £90, August 1996, 0 631 18739 1
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... the great influence exerted on Oxford philosophers by the ambition of the American philosopher, Donald Davidson, to construct a general, truth-functional-theory of meaning for natural languages. His chief target, however, is not Davidson himself, but his erstwhile teacher, W.V. Quine, whose ‘philosophy, if ...

Odds and Ends

Alan Donagan, 19 April 1990

Ethics after Babel: The Languages of Morals and their Discontents 
by Jeffrey Stout.
Beacon, 338 pp., $27.50, June 1988, 0 8070 1402 8
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... either true or false unless it reaches what is, and tells either how it is or how it isn’t. As Donald Davidson has pointed out in Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation, ‘in giving up dependence on the concept of an uninterpreted reality ... we do not relinquish the notion of objective truth, quite the contrary ... Truth of sentences remains ...

Albino Sea-Cucumber

Glen Newey: The Long March of Cornelius Castoriadis, 5 February 1998

The Imaginary Institution of Society 
by Cornelius Castoriadis.
Polity, 418 pp., £14.95, May 1997, 0 7456 1950 9
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Les Carrefours de Labyrinthe: Fait et a faire 
by Cornelius Castoriadis.
Seuil, 281 pp., frs 139, February 1997, 2 02 029909 7
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The Castoriadis Reader 
edited by David Ames Curtis.
Blackwell, 470 pp., £50, May 1997, 1 55786 703 8
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... philosophical idiom) ‘incommensurable’ with our own. There is a well-known argument by Donald Davidson to show that such a people couldn’t be known by us to be concept-users, since, by hypothesis, we would have no basis for translating what they said: we could only do so by imputing beliefs to them, and we could only do that by assuming that ...

The Contingency of Language

Richard Rorty, 17 April 1986

... may be used to describe a variety of topics. More specifically, I shall be describing the work of Donald Davidson in philosophy of language, and of Nietzsche, Freud and Harold Bloom in moral psychology, as so many manifestations of a willingness to drop the idea of ‘intrinsic nature’, a willingness to face up to the contingency of the language we ...

The Contingency of Community

Richard Rorty, 24 July 1986

... and ‘absolute’ is badly suited to describe the relation between the old and the new. Donald Davidson has pointed out that once we give up on the notion of ‘absolute criteria of rationality’, and begin using ‘rational’ to mean something like ‘internal coherence’, then, if we do not limit the range of this term’s application, we ...

Second-Decimal Arguments

Jon Elster, 23 May 1985

The Thread of Life 
by Richard Wollheim.
Harvard, 288 pp., £20, January 1985, 0 06 748875 7
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... in their name that their defenders ought to lean over backwards to be simple, clear and explicit. Donald Davidson and David Pears have recently made pioneering attempts to render elements of Freud’s theory in terms comprehensible to analytical philosophers and empirical psychologists. Instead of following their lead, Wollheim retreats to the more ...


Samuel Scheffler, 13 September 1990

Natural Reasons: Personality and Polity 
by S.L. Hurley.
Oxford, 462 pp., £40, January 1990, 0 19 505615 9
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... of mind, and in so doing it rests heavily on the work of Wittgenstein and the Berkeley philosopher Donald Davidson, among others. The aim of the argument is to show that preferences cannot determine values in the way that the subjectivist supposes, because values and preferences are conceptually interdependent. That is, it is impossible to identify a ...

How do I know?

M.F. Burnyeat, 4 November 1993

Testimony: A Philosophical Study 
by C.A.J. Coady.
Oxford, 315 pp., £40, April 1993, 0 19 824786 9
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... sketched is one that has been very popular in recent philosophy. Its most notable proponent is Donald Davidson, who has inspired a good deal of discussion about how exactly the premises and conclusion of such arguments are best formulated. But so far as I know, Coady is the first person to extend the reasoning into the area of testimony. He gives due ...

What is it about lemons?

Thomas Nagel: Barry Stroud, 20 September 2001

The Quest for Reality: Subjectivism and the Metaphysics of Colour 
by Barry Stroud.
Oxford, 228 pp., £19.99, January 2000, 0 19 513388 9
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... do. His arguments depend on a view of psychological concepts that he shares with Wittgenstein and Donald Davidson: We identify what different people think, believe and perceive in ways that are as rich and complex as our conception of the nonpsychological world onto which those thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions are directed . . . we who inhabit the ...

Fraught with Ought

Tim Crane: Wilfrid Sellars, 19 June 2008

In the Space of Reasons: Selected Essays of Wilfrid Sellars 
edited by Kevin Scharp and Robert Brandom.
Harvard, 491 pp., £29.95, May 2007, 978 0 674 02498 4
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Wilfrid Sellars: Fusing the Images 
by Jay Rosenberg.
Oxford, 320 pp., £45, September 2007, 978 0 19 921455 6
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... journal (Philosophical Studies, still one of the field’s leading journals), he edited textbooks (Donald Davidson once said that he ‘got through graduate school’ by reading Feigl and Sellars’s Readings in Philosophical Analysis), he was by all accounts a charismatic and devoted teacher, and he clearly believed in academic philosophy as a discipline ...

Southern Discomfort

Bertram Wyatt-Brown, 8 June 1995

The Southern Tradition: The Achievement and Limitations of an American Conservatism 
by Eugene Genovese.
Harvard, 138 pp., £17.95, October 1994, 0 674 82527 6
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... successors, the Nashville Agrarians – Robert Penn Warren, John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate and Donald Davidson, to name the most prominent. Turning to more recent times, Genovese relies on the anti-modernist commentaries of Richard Weaver, a Southern sociologist in Chicago, and Melvin Bradford, a literary critic in Dallas, who both firmly believed in ...


Alexander Nehamas, 22 May 1986

Contest of Faculties: Philosophy and Theory after Deconstruction 
by Christopher Norris.
Methuen, 247 pp., £16, November 1985, 0 416 39939 8
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Philosophical Profiles 
by Richard Bernstein.
Polity, 313 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 7456 0226 6
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Against Theory: Literary Studies and the New Pragmatism 
edited by W.J.T. Mitchell.
Chicago, 146 pp., £12.75, November 1985, 0 226 53226 7
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... suspect, will find a number of weaknesses in Norris’s treatment of authors like Frege, Quine and Davidson. They will certainly remain (at best) unmoved by his confident view that ‘Derrida shows – in exemplary close-reading style – how Aristotle’s entire metaphysics rests on a notion of momentary consciousness which his text simultaneously works to ...

To the Sunlit Uplands

Richard Rorty: A reply to Bernard Williams, 31 October 2002

Truth and Truthfulness: An Essay in Genealogy 
by Bernard Williams.
Princeton, 328 pp., £19.95, October 2002, 0 691 10276 7
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... Treatise and the Ethics. Contemporary philosophers who invoke Nietzsche, James, Dewey, Donald Davidson and Jürgen Habermas in order to strengthen their criticisms of the correspondence theory of truth typically share Nietzsche’s hope. They believe that the institutions and practices their critics see as threatened will in fact be ...
... interpret these things. We are also familiar with the idea, developed powerfully in philosophy by Donald Davidson, that we could not come to understand these people without building into our interpretation at a structural level some assumptions about the ways in which their experience and thoughts resemble ours: that we must interpret what they say, for ...

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