Publication Details

Simpson, D. I. (2003). Interpretation and Skill: On Passing Theory. In G. Preyer, G. Peter & M. Ulkan (Eds.), Concepts of Meaning: Framing an Integrated Theory of Linguistic Behavior (pp. 251-266). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.


In this paper I want to explore Donald Davidson’s rejection of the use of the concept of language, when the knowledge of a language is taken as a sufficient and/or necessary condition for communicative understanding. After sketching the original presentation of the argument, I will then look at what I take to be the major weakness of that version – the argument against language as a necessary condition – and at Davidson’s more recent attempts to shore up the story in that area by way of the ‘triangulation’ thesis. After criticising that attempt, I will try to show that Davidson’s general thesis can be maintained if it incorporates an account which analyses the process – a dialectic of physiological development and nurture – by which pre-communicative beings are brought to communicative competence, without the need for the concept of a language.

Link to publisher version (URL)

Kluwer Academic Publishers