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Northern European Journal of Philosophy

Editor-in-Chief: Pedersen, Esther Oluffa / Rasmussen, Anders Moe

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Ed. by Haraldsson, Robert H. / Letteval, Rebecka / Serck-Hanssen, Camilla / Verbeek, Peter-Paul / Timmermann, Jens / Wallgren, Thomas / Westerkamp, Dirk

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Interpretability, Perceptual Sensibilities and Triangulation

Tomáš Marvan1

1Institute of Philosophy, Czech Academy of Sciences.

Citation Information: SATS. Volume 4, Issue 2, Pages 93–107, ISSN (Online) 1869-7577, ISSN (Print) 1600-1974, DOI: 10.1515/SATS.2003.93, March 2010

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The paper examines the question whether the perceptual and discriminatory capacities of a creature and its disposition to react to things and events determine the nature and limits of what it is able to communicate and understand. Does a significant divergence in perceptual and discriminatory sensibilities of two creatures threaten the possibility of their mutual comprehensibility? It is argued, with the help of Donald Davidson's recent idea of ‘triangulation’, that this is indeed the case. By introducing into his theoretical framework the notion of triangulation as a necessary precondition of mastering a language, Davidson is forced to admit the possibility of a breakdown of communication between creatures that do not have sufficiently similar evolutionary histories—his own claims to the contrary nothwithstanding. And this, in turn, seems to threaten his claims about the impossibility of the notion of a language that we could not interpret in our own terms.

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