Radical Interpretation and Indeterminacy

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Attempts to offer a response to Quine's arguments for the indeterminacy of reference and translation by developing an original theory of radical interpretation, i.e. the project of characterising from scratch the language and attitudes of an unknown agent or population. Ch. 1 situates the theory put forward in the context of the recent history of the subject and offers arguments against its main competitors, namely, Kripkean theories of reference and Dummettian verificationist accounts. Ch. 2 introduces the constitutive principles of McCarthy's own theory of radical interpretation, exploiting the constraints on interpretation suggested by Davidson and Lewis as the starting point of discussion. Chs 3 and 4 apply McCarthy's framework to theories of reference and the interpretation problem for the philosophy of logic, offering original accounts of how the reference of expressions in specific problem categories, in particular, proper names, observational predicates, and natural kind terms, is determined, and how the logical devices of a language can be characterized on the basis of data provided by an interpretation of its speakers.
Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages272
ISBN (Print)9780195145069
StatePublished - Oct 31 2002


  • Donald Davidson
  • indeterminacy
  • interpretation
  • language
  • David Lewis
  • natural kind terms
  • observational predicates
  • philosophy of logic
  • W.V.O. Quine
  • Radical Interpretation
  • reference
  • Theory of Reference
  • translation


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