In an introductory article on forcing, Timothy Chow mentions something he calls “exposition problems,” which are the problems of presenting some material in such a way that it is perspicuous, clear, explained, and learnable. He thinks that forcing presents an open exposition problem. I just read through Ramberg’s Donald Davidson’s Philosophy of Language and it goes a way towards an answer to the exposition problem for Davidsonian philosophy of language. With the exception of the incommensurability chapter towards the end, it is remarkably clear and quite helpful. I’m not sure if it would be perspicuous to someone coming to it without having read at least some of the Davidson articles. If you have read them it does a good job of displaying the unity of Davidson’s thought on language which is not always apparent when, say, one juxtaposes “Truth and Meaning” and “A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs”. Ramberg isn’t doing straight Davidson exposition though and the volume of quotation is rather meager. He does succeed in presenting Davidson’s ideas in a coherent, unified, perspicuous manner that, at least for me, made things gel. One of the things that he emphasized is that interpretation is a process that is supposed to result continuously in the revision of theories of truth rather than a single theory. This is maybe easier to see in “Nice Derangement” than the early stuff. I don’t know if Davidson made this explicit anywhere though. Anecdotally, I heard someone say that Davidson endorsed this book as a better explanation of his theory than he ever gave.

I came across something while reading this that reminded of a claim Davidson makes which I’ve never quite gotten. He claims that in order to interpret someone you have to treat their beliefs as mostly true. Since beliefs are mostly true there isn’t the possibility of systematic error of the kind skepticism points to. Ramberg didn’t say much about this that clarified why this is so. He may have said some things in relation to the principle of charity that are relevant and I suspect there is a connection to his rejection of the principle of humanity (aim to maximize intelligibility rather than agreement). However, it seems like if I ran into a modern Don Quixote, who took cars to be metal horses and who took my apartment to be a castle and me to be a coffee bean, I could interpret his (bizarre) behavior even though it seems like most everything he says is false. It may take a little while for enough of his knights errant tale to come out, but it seems like his speech would be interpretable. Despite the fact that most of what he says is false, one would be able to work out the ways in which it is false, thereby making sense of him. Maybe the idea is supposed to be that there is a lot more that he believes that is true, or at least that you take to be true, that is semantically connected to what he says, though not made explicit in his speech behavior (possibly implicit in his nonverbal behavior). This other stuff must, for the most part be true, in order for us to make sense of him. But if my Don is under the impression that he is floating above the surface of Mars, many of these background beliefs go false too. It seems like I’d be able to interpret him, with some difficulty, yet his beliefs are systematically mistaken. I don’t think I could interpret him if I didn’t take him ah treating most of his beliefs as true. This, however, isn’t what Davidson claims. He thinks that it would be impossible to interpret someone unless you treated them as having mostly true beliefs. So, I am stuck.

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