Triangulation and the Objectivity of Thought
John Richard Sageng
The aim of this project is to defend a version of Donald Davidson’s claim that “beliefs are by nature veridical”. The arguments presented in my thesis often depart from Davidson’s own, but remains sympathetic to his central ideas.
The thesis starts with an examination of the “The Principle of Charity". I argue that the need to separate belief from meaning in order to proceed with interpretation is sufficient to establish that an interpreter must assume that the individual has true beliefs, but insufficient to show that the individuals’ beliefs are actually true. I propose that charity impose a dialectical burden on an argument for the stronger claim. An argument must establish that a “truth-tracking” property of individuation is a requirement for content without resting on the assumption that meaning is public.
I then proceed to examine whether a socially determined common cause can offer a candidate for the wanted property. I offer a reconstruction of Davidson’s idea that only a common cause can account for the individual’s command the objective-subjective distinction. The principled challenge to concept attribution in the solitary case consists in reconciling the need to read correctness-conditions off an individual’s dispositional basis with the demand that the individual has rational command over these conditions across all their behavioural manifestations. I propose that socially adjusted dispositions are suited to meet this challenge if we allow that intersubjective availability operates as a regulative idea in linguistic interaction.
The final part of the thesis discusses whether the sociality considerations can successfully account for the truth-tracking property required by charity. The idea that there is a principled connection between veridicality and content is partly accounted for by the dynamic nature of the proposed ideal of intersubjective availability. As has been noted in the literature, however, the specification of the notion of triangulation seemingly begs the question, because it depends on attributing veridical beliefs to the individual. I discuss these claims, and conclude that the notion of triangulation does require certain verificationist assumptions, but only with the application of very general notions like object or causation. These assumptions, however, do not amount to a solution that is anything like a traditional verificationism.