Paul Grice and Donald Davidson on the conditions of the possibility of communication

Critch, Raymond Glenn (2008) Paul Grice and Donald Davidson on the conditions of the possibility of communication. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

I define communication, based on a combination of the work of Donald Davidson and Paul Grice, as the transmission of one party's thoughts to another. What their work shows is that communication by triangulation of the meaning of another's words from two fixed points requires a deep form of alterity or a positive orientation toward the other. The fixed points, particularly in Davidson's theory of Radical Interpretation, are the presumptions that the other party is speaking truths about commonly held states of affairs. This triangulation is only possible, they acknowledge, through a thorough application of the principle of charity or cooperation. In this way, Grice and Davidson are kindred spirits; both authors rely on serious dispositional conditions to allow the transmission of meanings from one individual to another. However, neither author might go far enough in their assessment of what the principle of charity implies. Charity requires a presumption of truth and a presumption of common states of affairs. The presumption of truth seems to depend on a presumption of honesty, while both truth and common states of affairs imply a presumption of common ontology. We do communicate, and if Radical Interpretation is a plausible theory for how we communicate, we must also, in our communication, be governed by the principle of charity. Since we are governed by the principle of charity, we must also, for the purposes of communication, share a common basic ontology and, therein, a sense of alterity that goes far beyond what either author expected from the principle of charity.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/8912
Item ID: 8912
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 74-75)
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Philosophy
Date: 2008
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Davidson, Donald, 1917-2003--Criticism and interpretation; Grice, H. P. (H. Paul)--Criticism and interpretation; Communication--Philosophy

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