Topic: HUMAN SEMANTICS
Davidson's Criticism of the Proximal Theory of Meaning
By Dirk Greimann
According to the proximal theory of meaning, which is to be found in Quine’s early writings, meaning is determined completely by the correla-tion of sentences with sensory stimulations. Davidson tried to show that this theory is untenable because it leads to a radical form of skepticism. The present paper aims to show, first, that Davidson’s criticism is not sound, and, second, that nonetheless the proximal theory is untenable because it has a very similar and equally unacceptable consequence: it implies that the truth-value of ordinary sentences like ‘Snow is white’ is completely determined by the properties of the speaker, not by the properties of the objects to which these sentences refer.
Appeared in Principia - An International Journal Of Epistemology, volume 9, n. 1-2, p. 73-86, 2005.