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Interpreting autism: a critique of Davidson on thought and language

By Kristin Andrews and Issn -/print/issn -x/online//- Taylor


ABSTRACT Donald Davidson's account of interpretation purports to be a priori, though I argue that the empirical facts about interpretation, theory of mind, and autism must be considered when examining the merits of Davidson's view. Developmental psychologists have made plausible claims about the existence of some people with autism who use language but who are unable to interpret the minds of others. This empirical claim undermines Davidson's theoretical claims that all speakers must be interpreters of other speakers and that one need not be a speaker in order to be a thinker. The falsity of these theses has consequences for other parts of Davidson's world-view; for example, it undermines his argument against animal thought. Donald Davidson's work on thought and language strikes me as a paradigm example of the limitations of an exclusively conceptual approach to the philosophy of mind. A lack of concern for the claims of experimental psychology can lead one down a path towards developing a philosophical theory of the mind which, though coherent, is disconnected from the world as understood through the sciences. In order to defend the claim that one's theory corresponds to the actual state of affairs in the world, there must be at least some evidence that the world is the way presupposed by the theory. Merely showing that a theory is consistent is not sufficient justification. My concern is that Davidson does not have the string

Year: 2011
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