Radical interpretation, scepticism, and the possibility of shared error

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Davidson argues that his version of interpretivism entails that sceptical scenarios are impossible, thus offering a response to any sceptical argument that depends upon the possibility of sceptical scenarios. It has been objected that Davidson’s interpretivism does not entail the impossibility of sceptical scenarios due to the possibility that interpreter and speaker are in a shared state of massive error, and so this response to scepticism fails. In this paper I show that the objection from the possibility of shared error rests on a misunderstanding of Davidson’s interpretivist position. Properly understood, Davidson’s view does entail that sceptical scenarios are impossible. I also give a reason independent of its anti-sceptical implications to prefer Davidson’s interpretivism over the version of interpretivism erroneously attributed to him (at least implicitly) by those who object to his anti-sceptical argument.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3355-3368
Early online date28 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

My thanks to Bernhard Salow, Crispin Wright, Peter Sullivan and Adrian Haddock for helpful discussion, and to two anonymous Synthese referees for comments that have greatly improved the paper. I am also grateful for a research grant from the São Paulo Research Foundation (Grant ID No. 2016/03277-1) that allowed me to complete this paper.


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