The Philosophy of Donald Davidson National Taiwan University
Donald Davidson (1917-2003) is arguably the most influential philosopher in the second half of the 20th century, specializing in metaphysics, the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mind, and some other related field. Surprisingly, he did not publish any single monograph, apart from some collections and a variety of essays. Each of his classical essays appears to be individually developed and seems to be fascinating and invaluable on its very own. It is striking that when and only when they are drawn together there emerges a compelling whole picture of man as a rational animal (presumably the only rational animal in this world). According to Davidson, the thoughts of human being should never be reducible to the material. Nonetheless, thoughts are components of the reality. Moreover, he classifies our knowledge into three distinct categories, including knowledge of our own mind, knowledge of the minds of others, and knowledge of the external world. And having knowledge of these categories are so fundamental to the nature of human being as the power of thought and speech itself. Davidson's philosophical program can be roughly organized around two connected projects. The first is that of understanding the nature of human agency. The second is that of understanding the nature and function of language, and its relation to the world. Accordingly, the first part of this course will focus on Davidson's investigation of reasons, causes, and intentions, which revolutionized the philosophy of action. This leads to his notable doctrine of anomalous monism, the view that all mental events are physical events, but that the mental cannot be reduced to the physical. The second part of this course focus on his philosophy of language. We shall study several famous essays in which Davidson set out his highly original and influential truth-conditional program of meaning theory and the role the very concept of truth plays in the theory of meaning and the philosophy of language in general.
The course intends to offer a survey of the philosophy of Donald Davidson so that students can grasp, on the one hand, the development of the philosophy of language in the 20th century from Frege to Davidson, and on the other hand, the Davidsonian account of action. Davidson’s main theses will be formulated as clearly as possible and his arguments will be explicated. His original essays will be studied and common criticisms will be reexamined. I hope this course would be able to pave a road for the student not only to advanced study of Davidson’s works, but also to the study of philosophy of language, philosophy of action, and metaphysics in general.
Online Course Requirement
CHIN MU YANG