The Indefinability of Truth and Interpretation in Heidegger and Davidson

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Heidegger famously diminishes the significance of everyday theories of truth like
the correspondence theory, disparaging these as a matter of ‘mere’ correctness.1
They are among the starting points that lead to ‘the true’ but are not themselves
genuine or authentic. For Heidegger, once we reflect on their inadequacies and
recognize their function in everyday practice, they have no further role to play in
philosophical reflection. Indeed, once we reach this point, reliance upon the
everyday senses of truth becomes a barrier to reflection. We dispense with truth
as correctness just as we throw away the Wittgensteinian ladder once we have
reached a pertinent height. Although he also rejects the correspondence theory of
truth (or at least one of its particular variations), Donald Davidson develops a
theory of interpretation that suggests some reasons why the ordinary senses of
truth should not be so mistreated: responsible theories of interpretation should
treat the everyday senses of truth more seriously. I do not mean to suggest thereby
that all important hermeneutic questions are satisfied. On the contrary, the point
is that some version of the theory of truth embodied in Tarski’s convention T is
a necessary but insufficient condition of interpretation. In the following I intend
to argue that the necessity of convention T as a condition of interpretation means
that correctness is essential both in philosophy and elsewhere. This is due to the
fact that we cannot clearly distinguish the authentic from the inauthentic, since correctness is a condition of understanding, and because it functions as a crucial
constraint on false and arbitrary interpretation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-45
Number of pages11
JournalAnalecta Hermeneutica
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


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