Radical Interpretation and Intercultural Communication

Eli Dresner


The term radical interpretation is used by Donald Davidson to refer to the
following hypothetical situation: Two persons who do not share a common language
or culture interact with each other and come to understand each other's
language. Davidson's objective in examining this situation is not to analyze
intercultural communication. Rather, his aim, following Quine, is to capture by
this scenario what linguistic meaning amounts to. In this paper I propose to
reverse this explanatory order, and show how Davidson's view of language, as
encapsulated in the notion of radical interpretation, bears upon intercultural
dialogue. In particular, I shall argue that Davidson's outlook undermines the
very use of the notion inter-cultural dialogue (or communication): According to
his perspective linguistic communication is essentially interpersonal, always
taking place between individuals and not between convention-governed cultural or
social systems.


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; radical interpretation; intercultural communication; language; convention

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