Broadbent, Paul (2010)
M.Phil. thesis, University of Birmingham.
In the paper “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme” Donald Davidson argues that we cannot make sense of the claim that there could be conceptual schemes which are different from our own. He argues that conceptual schemes different to our own must be untranslatable into our own language, and further that the idea of untranslatable languages does not make sense. By considering three variants of conceptual relativism which can be developed using the work of Kant, Quine, and Kuhn I aim to make three criticisms of Davidson's arguments: firstly I will argue that Davidson is unable to respond to the claim that the reality which schemes must fit is unknowable; secondly I will argue that Davidson is wrong to represent his opponents as all claiming that distinct conceptual schemes must be untranslatable, and that in fact we can make sense of the idea of distinct conceptual schemes which can be translated; finally, I will argue that Davidson fails to acknowledge the central role interpretivism plays in his arguments, and that this hidden interpretivism both makes much of his argument redundant, and robs them of any power to convince someone who rejects the controversial thesis of interpretivism
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