Donald Davidson, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at University ofCalifornia, Berkeley, is one of the world's most important and influential philosophers. While Davidson's most prominent work systematically interconnects themes from philosophy of action, mind and language, he has contributed to most fields of philosophy. In this comprehensive video archive, Professor Davidson defends his position in a series of intensive one-on-one conversations each scrutinizing a particular topic; he participates in a summit panel discussion with W V Quine and Sir Peter Strawson which explores some similarities and differences between them; and he speaks candidly in a scene-setting biographical interview with Rudolf Fara of the London School of Economics.
The Davidson Series is a major resource for teaching from undergraduate upwards as well as animportant research archive. The series contains nineteen VHS videos (available in all formats) anda Series Guide.
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This in-depth personal interview is in two parts. The first covers Davidson's early childhood, school, university years at Harvard and graduate study at Harvard Business School, ending with his war service. The second part begins with his return to philosophy after the war, provides an overview of his philosophy and traces the development and influences on his views. 122 minutes
In this historic session, Davidson is joined by W. V. Quine and Sir Peter Strawson – the first time the three have shared the same podium – for a general discussion about their attitudes towards scepticism; their views about the relationship between metaphysics and philosophy of language, and between formal and natural languages; and their thoughts about reducing meaning to intention. 70 minutes
Nancy Cartwright considers Davidson's views about causation and laws; questioning how these views are invoked in his arguments for anomalous monism, and how they bear on disputes about scientific realism. The differences Davidson sees between what makes singular causal statements true and how we come to know their truth are highlighted. 93 minutes
Tim Crane joins Davidson to discuss various objections to anomalous monism. Beginning with the objection that anomalous monism leaves no room for the causal efficacy of the mental, the discussion covers a variety of related topics: events, ontology, counterfactuals and causal explanation. 49 minutes
Rudolf Fara invites Davidson to place his celebrated paper "Mental Events" in its historical context. Next, Martin Davies analyzes the argument for anomalous monism. Close attention is paid to what Davidson meant by both the premises and the conclusion of that argument. Davidson offers support for the premise of the "anomalism of the mental" – that is, there are no strict deterministic laws by which mental events can be predicted. 73 minutes
Sir Michael Dummett engages Davidson in a discussion about meaning and truth. While arguing about the relationship between theories of meaning and theories of truth, the two philosophers cover a range of important questions: what is the aim of a theory of meaning for a language? What is the role of the concept of error in understanding another speaker? What sort of thing can count as a reason for a belief? How are the notions of truth and falsity related? In what does our understanding of the logical constants consist? 110 minutes
Sir Stuart Hampshire sets out to compare Davidson's views with those of Spinoza. Among the topics discussed are: how we conceive of reality and our place in it; what is the difference between mathematical and physical propositions; and what is the relation between body and mind. Davidson is also asked what he thinks about distinctions between the subjective and the objective, and about Nagel's idea of the "view from nowhere". 65 minutes
Jim Hopkins joins Davidson to discuss two areas of his work: his unified theory of interpretation, and his views about irrationality. Both areas are considered, while the first is compared to the works of both Wittgenstein and Quine, and the second to that of Freud. 81minutes
Jennifer Hornsby takes up the topic of actions and their explanation. She presents a detailed comparison of the different ways Davidson has summarised his views about how actions are to be individuated, and asks him to clarify them. She next exposes these views to criticisms to which Davidson responds. The session ends with a discussion of Davidson's claims that reasons are causes and that the explanation of action is causal explanation. 74 minutes
Michael Martin joins Davidson to discuss epistemology. Martin elicits Davidson's responses to a variety of rival views about how we come to have empirical knowledge, focusing particularly on the claim that there might be a nonconceptual epistemic intermediary between the world and our beliefs about it. Davidson also gives his own positive view of perceptual knowledge, and discusses how to deal with problems of illusion and hallucination in perception. 68 minutes
John McDowell questions Davidson about his notion of the constitutive ideal of rationality, and the role that it plays in many areas of his thinking. This forms the background to a discussion of many issues: the nature of conceptual schemes; semantic interpretation; normative constraints on semantic relations; subjectivity and consciousness. 101 minutes
Professor David Papineau talks with Davidson about his attitude to various approaches toward the notion of truth. In addition to a discussion of correspondence, coherence, and deflationary thoeries of truth, considerable attention is paid to the question of whether a general definition of truth is either attainable or desirable. 56 minutes
In this crucially important interview of Davidson by his mentor (and vice versa), the similarities and differences of the two are brought into focus. Among the questions raised are: whether Quine is committed to a "third dogma of empiricism"; the relative importance of distal versus proximal stimuli in empiricist philosophy; and the character of the notion of truth, including the extent to which its content is given by disquotation. The section which concludes with Davidson's cry: "We're in agreement. It only took fifty years!" will be of great interest to Quine scholars. 76 minutes
Richard Rorty challenges Davidson's arguments for why language must have are cursive structure, why the notion of truth plays an essential role in linguistic understanding, and why the content of that notion isn't given by disquotation. Rorty elicits Davidson's opinions about the history of analytic philosophy, and about his own work in that context. The thoughts of both philosophers on metaphor and Pragmatism are discussed. 68 minutes
Mark Sainsbury scrutinises Davidson's belief that a theory of meaning is a theory of truth. Beginning with some general questions about the relationship between meaning and truth, Sainsbury invites Davidson to respond to a variety of criticisms of his view that a theory of truth can serve as a theory of meaning for a language. The question is also raised of how the notion of there being a theory of meaning for a language is consistent with Davidson's conclusion that there is no such thing as a language. 89 minutes
Gabriel Segal joins Davidson to discuss theories of meaning for natural languages. Among the questions addressed are: what is the goal of a theory of meaning? What is the evidence to which a theory of meaning is answerable? What is the relation between accounts of the truth conditions of sentences and of inferential relations between sentences? Where, and how much, does logic figure in theories of meaning? The session ends with Davidson's comments on the current state of the project of Davidsonian semantics for natural languages. 61 minutes
Barry Smith explores first person authority and what Davidson takes this notion to be, elaborating on the similarities and differences between first and third person knowledge of mental content. After exposing Davidson's views to various objections and criticisms, Smith ends the session by questioning Davidson about the alleged tension between externalism and the view that we have first person authority with respect to our mental states. 77 minutes
Sir Peter Strawson addresses Davidson's views about events. They begin by discussing criteria for individuating events, comparing them with similar criteria for individuating objects. Davidson's proposal for giving the logical form of action sentences is then raised, and Strawson tries to persuade him to accept a rival proposal. The session ends with a discussion of the conceptual interrelatedness of our notions of events and of objects. 53 minutes
Barry Stroud questions Davidson about his views on how we come to gain knowledge about the external world, and how that route to knowledge avoids scepticism. Particular attention is paid to the role of perception in our acquisition of knowledge, to Davidson's thesis of triangulation, and to Davidson's criticisms of empiricism. 74 minutes