Rambling thoughts on rambling topics

Abbaye de Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris

Triangulation and social externalism

If we look at the starting point of learning a first language as involving (lots of) triangulation situations which are special in the sense that in those situations there necessarily is an asymmetrical relation of authority between the parties involved, is that not, pace Davidson, a form/source of social externalism? 

If this is right, then one could make the case that first-person authority exists only as the result of successful communication. And that would make throw a different light on the appeal that Davidson makes to first-person authority in his argumentation against social externalism à la Burge. 

The reason that Davidson wants to keep social externalism at arm’s length is probably that he thinks it might interfere with his claim that language is not an epistemic intermediary. After all, if we accept social externalism and accept the possibility of variety in sources of such external elements, then some form of relativism seem to ensue.

Martin Stokhof
from: Aantekeningen/Notes
date: 20/10/2015

One thought on “Rambling thoughts on rambling topics

  1. Some notion of authority seems to be an almost crucial element of linguistic practice in general (if not of acquisition specifically), acting as a “halting” signal for the learner to stop questioning possible definitions or usage and crack on with doing/acting/speaking. Wittgenstein hints heavily at this dynamic throughout the PI, but it’s perhaps on his ‘On Certainty’ where he gives the most direct warning in this direction: “310. A pupil and a teacher. The pupil will not let anything be explained to him, for he continually interrupts with doubts, for instance as to the existence of things, the meaning of words, etc. The teacher says “Stop interrupting me and do as I tell you. So far your doubts don’t make sense at all.””

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