On the Very Idea of Radical Interpretation
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The aim of this paper is threefold; its first part contains an account of the Quinean argument in which he elaborated the idea of radical interpretation. Secondly, several historical and theoretical facts are cited in order to demonstrate that Quine not only influenced Richard Rorty, the postmodernist, but also point to interesting affinities between Quinean and Derridean conceptions of language, something which continues to worry advocates of empiricist realism. The paper concludes with a metaphilosophical argument according to which the idea of inscrutability of reference, relativism, holism and other Quinean doctrines which put him at odds with the traditional dogmas of realism, need not be seen as particularly troubling; the argument is supported by an extended metaphor of the translator's work as consisting in an attempt at identifying appropriate meanings in different languages, while the languages themselves are compared to partly isolated shoals on which octopi dance continually holding each other by their all multiple flexible hands.
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