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Plato’s Philosopher

Donald Davidson, 1 August 1985

... It is a fine question how the aim and method of the philosophical enterprise is to be related to the beliefs we bring to that enterprise. It is bootless to pretend we can start by somehow setting aside the equipment with which we approach philosophy, for then there would be nothing with which to work. We can, however, ask whether the main point of philosophising is to examine, clarify, reconcile, criticise, regroup, or even unearth, the convictions or assumptions with which we began, or whether something more is possible: a search which might lead to knowledge or values that were not in sight at the start, and not necessarily implicit in what we then knew ...

Hot Pursuit

P.F. Strawson, 19 July 1984

Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation 
by Donald Davidson.
Oxford, 292 pp., £16, March 1984, 9780198246176
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... themselves to the subject with the tenacity and thoroughness which, over the last twenty years, Donald Davidson has displayed in the influential series of articles now collected in the present volume. ‘Tenacity’ is here a key word, for there is one idée maîtresse which sets the tone and provides the key to all the arguments and views ...

Cooling it

Colin McGinn, 19 August 1993

Donald Davidson 
by Simon Evnine.
Polity, 198 pp., £9.95, January 1992, 0 7456 0612 1
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Donald Davidson’s Philosophy of Language: An Introduction 
by Bjorn Ramberg.
Blackwell, 153 pp., £12.95, July 1989, 0 631 16458 8
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... Donald Davidson is perhaps the most distinguished philosopher in history never to have written a book. Indeed, he did not get round to writing articles until he was into his forties (he is now 76). Yet those articles – short, intense, allusive, hard – have changed the shape of contemporary analytical philosophy ...


Christopher Peacocke, 18 December 1986

Truth and Interpretation: Perspectives on the Philosophy of Donald Davidson 
edited by Ernest LePore.
Blackwell, 520 pp., £29.50, April 1986, 0 631 14811 6
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... philosophy, has edited the proceedings of the 1984 Rutgers conference on the philosophy of Donald Davidson. The scale of that conference is reflected in the size of this volume, which contains 28 substantial papers. And this is but half the story: a companion volume of similar size, drawn from the same conference, and dealing with ...

Weak Wills

Colin McGinn, 5 September 1985

Essays on DavidsonActions and Events 
edited by Bruce Vermazen and Merrill Hintikka.
Oxford, 257 pp., £20, January 1985, 0 19 824749 4
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... Donald Davidson has this year been George Eastman Visiting Professor at Oxford: only the second philosopher to hold the august position (the first being W.V. Quine, a teacher of Davidson’s at Harvard and his greatest philosophical influence). This honour reflects his present stature in the academic world ...

Cause and Effect

A.J. Ayer, 15 October 1981

Hume and the Problem of Causation 
by Tom Beauchamp and Alexander Rosenberg.
Oxford, 327 pp., £15, August 1981, 0 19 520236 8
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The Science of Legislator: The Natural Jurisprudence of David Hume and Adam Smith 
by Knud Haakonssen.
Cambridge, 240 pp., £17.50, September 1981, 0 521 23891 9
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... flyleaf of Messrs Beauchamp and Rosenberg’s book about Hume’s theory of causation, Professor Donald Davidson says of it: ‘This is certainly the best available discussion of Hume and causality. It is much more than that, however: it is the best book-length treatment of causality.’ Professor Davidson is perhaps ...

Mouse Thoughts

Jerry Fodor, 7 March 2002

Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective 
by Donald Davidson.
Oxford, 237 pp., £30, September 2002, 0 19 823753 7
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... I do wish Donald Davidson would write a book. I mean, a proper book with a beginning, a middle and an end, in contrast to the collections of papers of which the present volume is an instance. My wishing so is not invidious. These bite-sized essays, each a mere fifteen or twenty pages long, often impress one as serious philosophical achievements even when they are read piecemeal, as they were written ...


A.J. Ayer, 20 May 1982

by Iain Hamilton.
Secker, 397 pp., £12, April 1982, 0 436 19191 1
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... how much attention he has paid to the more recent work of philosophers like David Armstrong and Donald Davidson, who identify mental with neural events. I may add that although the acceptance of physicalism, in one form or another, is widespread among contemporary philosophers, with some notable exceptions, such as that of Karl Popper, I myself have ...

What are trees about?

Jerry Fodor, 24 May 2012

Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter 
by Terrence Deacon.
Norton, 602 pp., £19.99, February 2012, 978 0 393 04991 6
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... argument that aboutness doesn’t reduce to mechanism, neural or otherwise. Philosophers (Donald Davidson, for example) have taken that line from time to time. But maybe the reason computations per se lack aboutness and other such semantic properties isn’t the want of an interpreter. It’s been widely suggested, over the last several ...

Encounters with Trees

Jerry Fodor, 20 April 1995

Mind and World 
by John McDowell.
Harvard, 191 pp., £19.95, October 1994, 0 674 57609 8
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... and Quine, and the tradition that runs from Kant through the Hegelians to Wittgenstein, Rorty, Davidson and Hilary Putnam since he left MIT for Harvard. It’s hard to be articulate about this disagreement; we’re very close to the edge of what we know how to talk about at all sensibly. For reductionists, the world picture that the natural sciences lay ...

Blunder around for a while

Richard Rorty, 21 November 1991

Consciousness Explained 
by Daniel Dennett.
Little, Brown, 514 pp., $27.95, October 1991, 0 316 18065 3
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... order – Wilfrid Sellars, J.J.C. Smart, David Armstrong, Hilary Putnam, Jerry Fodor, Donald Davidson, Ruth Millikan, Patricia and Paul Churchland – one gets a clear sense of a developing consensus. There is increasing agreement about which moves will and won’t work, which strategies are dead and which still alive. Bad questions have been ...

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 ...
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 ...

How many grains make a heap?

Richard Rorty: After Kripke, 20 January 2005

Philosophical Analysis in the 20th Century. Vol. I: The Dawn of Analysis 
by Scott Soames.
Princeton, 432 pp., £15.95, February 2005, 9780691122441
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Philosophical Analysis in the 20th Century. Vol. II: The Age of Meaning 
by Scott Soames.
Princeton, 504 pp., £15.95, March 2005, 0 691 12312 8
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... Russell, Wittgenstein, Ayer, Stevenson, Ross, Quine, Ryle, Strawson, Hare, Malcolm, Austin, Grice, Davidson and Kripke – are thought important, you may still be baffled after finishing the second volume. People who are already convinced that the questions Russell asked about the relation between language and reality were good ones will get a lot out of ...


Brian O’Shaughnessy, 1 April 1983

The Character of Mind 
by Colin McGinn.
Oxford, 132 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 0 19 219171 3
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... that the arguments in its favour will be found in philosophy rather than the physical sciences. (Donald Davidson has already made a determined attempt in that direction.) And that is to say that its metaphysical status is more or less acknowledged. In short, metaphysics may at the moment lay claim to the mind at its natural and favoured ...

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