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Davidson, “Coherence Theory of Truth and Knowledge”

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Divya Dharmaraj

on 20 October 2014

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Transcript of Davidson, “Coherence Theory of Truth and Knowledge”

Important Quotes
The theory “is not in competition with a correspondence theory, but depends for its defense on an argument that purports to show that coherence yields correspondence."
All Roads Lead to Skepticism

Coherence can not guarantee that belief is truth.

All that a coherence theory can say is that most of the beliefs in a coherent total set of beliefs are true.
How do you show that someone with a coherent set of beliefs has a reason to suppose his beliefs are not false?
Beliefs: mental states that cause and are caused by both internal and external events
Truth: correspondence to reality
Knowledge: justified true belief of an objective world independent of thoughts or language
A theory of knowledge that allows that we can know the truth must be a non-relativized, non-internal form of realism.

What's the problem here?
Davidson, "A Coherence Theory of Truth and Knowledge"
“What distinguishes coherence theory is simply the claim that nothing can count as a reason for holding a belief except another belief.”
"My slogan is: correspondence without confrontation [with reality]."
Foundationalism: holds that our sensations must be true, justifies belief through senses
1. What makes it possible for sensation to justify belief? What is the relation between the two?

2. Why should we trust our senses?

3. Sensations and experiences are beliefs.
Hume: sensations are beliefs
1. Basic beliefs must exceed content of sensations in order to support other beliefs.

2. Such beliefs cannot exist.
what a sentence means depends on external information, but also on its relations with other sentences

relations between sentences are also beliefs

belief depends equally on meaning because access to individual beliefs is through the sentences we use to express and describe beliefs

meaning and beliefs are interdependent
Belief and Meaning
Quine: meaning is given by experience/ observation
Then we must allow that many of the beliefs we hold true to be false.

1. Point is to understand belief.

2. Belief cannot be understood singularly.

3. Principle of Charity

4. Correct understanding of person's speech, beliefs, etc. will lead to the conclusion that:
a. his set of beliefs must be true
b. any individual belief is true if it coheres with the rest of them

5. Important to recognize that person has reason to believe his beliefs.
Davidson's Argument
"All beliefs are justified in this sense: they are supported by numerous other beliefs...and have a presumption in favor of their truth. The presumption increases the larger and more significant the body of beliefs with which a belief coheres, and there being no such thing as an isolated belief, there is no belief without a presumption in its favor."
Solution: Find a reason for supposing most of our beliefs are true that is not a form of evidence.
Give up idea that knowledge is grounded upon ultimate source of evidence (like sensation).

Belief are "veridical" by nature if they cohere with the rest.

Your belief means what mine does if belief in its truth is caused by the same events and objects.

If we understand the nature of beliefs, which are about the world and true, then we understand that we and other people mostly have true and non-coincidental beliefs about the world, and so have knowledge about the world.
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