Language, Logic and Epistemology: A Modal-Realist Approach by Christopher Norris (auth.)

By Christopher Norris (auth.)

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Thus, for Derrida, the most remarkable feature of Austin’s discourse consists in his acknowledging that the possibility of the negative (in this case, of infelicities) is in fact a structural possibility, that failure is an essential risk of the operation under consideration; then, in a move which is almost immediately simultaneous, in the name of a kind of ideal regulation, it excludes that risk as accidental, exterior, one which teaches us nothing about the linguistic phenomenon being considered.

That is to say, what Derrida shares with early Davidson is the belief that interpretation cannot even make a start except on the premise that linguistic understanding is primarily a matter of the logical resources that alone make it possible for speech-acts or texts to communicate across otherwise unbridgeable differences of language, culture, social context, background presupposition, and so forth. Early Davidson sets these conditions out in the form of a Tarskian (truth-based) formal semantics which – as he 38 Language, Logic and Epistemology argues – can then be extended to natural languages by way of those various logical constants in the absence of which they would fail to qualify as ‘languages’, properly speaking.

All the same – as I have said – their thinking has more in common than might appear from this face-value characterisation. For with Derrida also the main point of interest is not so much the ambiguity (or semantic overdetermination) of a word like ‘supplement’ in isolated instances of usage but rather the logic of supplementarity as revealed through a mode of conceptual exegesis that scarcely conforms to accepted models of textual or thematic exegesis. ’, just as the semantical case for paradigm-relativism makes much of the fact that the language of certain nomadic farmers picks out manifold shades of ‘green’, or that Eskimo language has many different words for ‘white’.

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