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Volume 34, 2017

Meaning and Publicity

Richard N. Manning
Pages 73-97

Reflections on Davidsonian Semantic Publicity

The topic of the present essay is the proper understanding of Donald Davidson’s version of the publicity requirement for the determinants of linguistic meaning. On the understanding I promote, the requirement is very strict indeed. My narrow aim is to show how such a strict conception of the publicity requirement can be maintained despite the evident need for interpreters to go beyond what is public on that conception in the process of constructing Davidsonian theories of meaning. Towards that aim, I engage dialectically with treatments of Davidson’s principle of charity owing to Lepore and Ludwig and to Bar-On and Risjord, each of which, in different ways, recommend a more permissive approach to the publicity requirement than the one I recommended here. A broader aim is to shed some light on what would be required to take seriously the larger ambitions of Davidson’s semantic program.

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