Indeterminacy thesis

This is a very old paper of mine.

Indeterminacy thesis

Inscrutability of reference Indeterminacy of reference refers to the interpretation of words or phrases in isolation, and Quine's thesis is that no unique interpretation is possible, because a 'radical interpreter' has no way of telling which of many possible meanings the speaker has in mind.

Quine uses the example of the word "gavagai" uttered by a native speaker of the unknown language Arunta upon seeing a rabbit.

A speaker of English could do what seems natural and translate this as "Lo, a rabbit. Other translations can be ruled out only by querying the natives: An affirmative answer to "Is this the same gavagai as that earlier one? But these questions can only be asked once the linguist has mastered much of the natives' grammar and abstract vocabulary ; that in turn can only be Indeterminacy thesis on Indeterminacy thesis basis of hypotheses derived from simpler, observation-connected bits of language; and those sentences, on their own, admit of multiple interpretations.

Thus, translating some native utterance as, say, "Pelicans are our half-brothers" is a much more contextual affair. It involves utilizing what Quine calls analytical hypothesis i. His [Quine's] claim is not that successful translation is impossible, but that it is multiply possible.

The philosophical moral of indeterminacy of translation is that propositions, thought of as objectively valid translation relations between sentences, are simply non-existent Holophrastic indeterminacy The second kind of indeterminacy, which Quine sometimes refers to as holophrastic indeterminacy, is another matter.

Here the claim is that there is more than one correct method of translating sentences where the two translations differ not merely in the meanings attributed to the sub-sentential parts of speech but also in the net import of the whole sentence.

This claim involves the whole language, so there are going to be no examples, perhaps except of an exceedingly artificial kind. He suggests that there are always different ways one might break a sentence into words, and different ways to distribute functions among words.

Any hypothesis of translation could be defended only by appeal to context, by determining what other sentences a native would utter. But the same indeterminacy appears there: General remarks[ edit ] Indeterminacy of translation also applies to the interpretation of speakers of one's own language, and even to one's past utterances.

This does not lead to skepticism about meaning — either that meaning is hidden and unknowable, or that words are meaningless. But saying that there are no "meanings" is not to say that words are not meaningful or significant. Quine denies an absolute standard of right and wrong in translating one language into another; rather, he adopts a pragmatic stance toward translation, that a translation can be consistent with the behavioral evidence.

And while Quine does admit the existence of standards for good and bad translations, such standards are peripheral to his philosophical concern with the act of translation, hinging upon such pragmatic issues as speed of translation, and the lucidity and conciseness of the results.

The key point is that more than one translation meets these criteria, and hence that no unique meaning can be assigned to words and sentences.

The argument hinges on the role of synonymy in analytic statements, "A natural suggestion, deserving close examination, is that the synonymy of two linguistic forms consists simply in their interchangeability in all contexts without change of truth value".

Thus, this kind of substitutability does not provide an adequate explanation of synonyms.In this article, in the context of the fiftieth anniversary of H.

L. A. Hart’s The Concept of Law, The author reconsiders the moderate indeterminacy of law thesis, which derives from the open texture of language. legal indeterminacy Neither of these uses of the indeterminacy thesis has substantial consequences for the actual, as opposed to the perceived, legitimacy of.

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that if the indeterminacy thesis is true then this has invariably and greatly affected the potency of the fundamentals of Quine’s arguments by its own criterion. This is because if the thesis is true, it follows that the thesis itself is indeterminate and it is therefore unjustified to declare translation and meaning indeterminate.

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Indeterminacy thesis

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