Epistemology,  Language,  Trinity

Communitarian Epistemology: Why Humans Need Each Other to Think.

Two men “triangulating” 

Knowledge acquisition is the process of extracting and organizing knowledge from a given source. Some naturalistically inclined philosophers have argued that community—minimally speaking, more than one functioning person who shares a common language with another person—is a necessary condition for knowledge acquisition. I will argue in favor of this view but will suggest that, given naturalism, the view is flawed. However, the view is compatible with theism and theism holds a solution to the problem facing the naturalist.

I will argue that human higher-level thought is a minimal requirement for knowledge, but that thought and language are not possible without one another. Furthermore, since it is not logically possible for a human being to have a private language, human thought is only possible in community. If this is right then it follows that community is a necessary condition for knowledge acquisition.

There are four motivations for such a thesis. First, there is the concern to locate the knower within an accurate context. Knowledge acquisition is often seen in terms of how an individual subject is related to an object. However, a more accurate description is that a group of knowers relate to an object together and that the process by which they gain knowledge is inextricably linked to the community’s role in interpretation. Many postmodern philosophers have suggested that knowledge can be reduced to social knowledge and is relative to it. However, this is not a necessary result of taking this position.

Second, work in philosophy of language has supplied a convincing set of arguments that show that private mental introspection cannot yield what is required to analyze knowledge acquisition. The conclusion of these philosophers is that human knowledge is acquired and is not innate or available to one’s self through private introspection. On this view, a knowing subject is a subject that has acquired knowledge – S knows p if and only if S has acquired knowledge of p.

Third, it is notable that many who hold this view also think that semantic meaning is based on or derived from what is non-meaningful. A physicalist, for example, holds that there is only one kind of reality and its nature is physical. Whatever else we discover it is explainable, in principle, by reference to the physical world in which it is experienced. However, what is physical is not meaningful without reference to something that cannot be reduced to the physical while it is dependent upon it. For these philosophers, mental states supply the necessary preconditions for deriving meaning from the physical world. Mental states are said to supervene on physical states. Supervenience requires that a set A of properties supervenes on set B of properties if for any change to A properties there is a corresponding change to B properties and in every possible world in which A properties and B properties are instantiated there cannot be a change in A properties without a corresponding change in B properties. Non-reductive physicalists often claim that mental properties are distinct from physical properties while not being numerically identical with physical properties.[1]

Consequently, the following analysis is, to some extent, an analysis of naturalized epistemology, whereby epistemology is understood as a scientific study of how knowledge is possible. However, since mental properties cannot be reduced to physical properties analysis of epistemology cannot be reduced to descriptions of the physical. Rational categories can be distinguished from the categories used to describe the physical world.[2]

Finally, much of the effort of naturalized epistemology assumes a non-theistic environment. Irreligiosity is, in part, what motivates the project. However, naturalists, while offering insight into knowledge acquisition, are presented with difficulties due to an atheistic assumption. I will conclude with some thoughts on the compatibility of theism with some of the views presented by naturalists and how theism can solve problems facing naturalists.

The form of the argument is based on an argument supplied by Richard Kortum. His argument shows the connection of language to thought and the impossibility of God having a private language. He concludes that no version of monotheism can supply the necessary inter-linguistic theistic community to make language possible. And if there is no language in God prior to creation then God could not have consciously intended his design of the world:[3]

No individual—human, Martian, dolphin, or divine—could possibly, all alone and all by itself, come to master a language. And without language, thought itself is impossible. And without thought there is no such thing as intention. And without intention, there can be no creation.[4]

Though Kortum’s argument fails to account for versions of Trinitarian Theism that show a perichoretic relation between three centers of consciousness in monotheism,[5] he nevertheless supplies the arch of this argument. Whereas Kortum focuses on what is necessary for God to create, I will focus on what is necessary for human beings to acquire knowledge of the world. The argument is as follows:

(1) Without thought it is not possible to know anything about the world
(2) Without language it is not possible to have thought
(3) Without other people it is not possible to have a language
(4) Therefore, in order to know anything about the world other people are required.[6]

(1) is fairly uncontroversial. Intentionality, it has long been agreed, is a hallmark of thought.[7] Thoughts are about something and having a thought about the world is clearly needed in order to know anything about the world. (3) is less accepted and relies on Wittgenstein’s private language argument. We will return to this later.

(2) is more contentious and will require the bulk of argumentation. It appears trivially true that there is a connection between thought and language since it is clear that speaking is an attempt to express what we are thinking. Language, then, depends on thought. However, it is not immediately clear if the dependence runs the other way. What reason could we have for supposing that thought depends on language?

Donald Davidson, who supplies a large part of Kortum’s argument, thinks, “each requires the other to be understood.”[8] We should begin, Davidson suggests, by noting that there is some connection between thought and language, but that merely by noting this connection we cannot arrive at a conclusion of primacy. Rather, we should be aware that there is a parallel structure between thinking and speaking. One might say that speech is an expression of a thought (giving the priority to thought) or that thinking is essentially a verbal activity (thus giving the priority to analysis of speech as our analysis of thought). Since the former is fairly uncontested, Davidson sets out to demonstrate the latter conclusion.

In order to demonstrate this thesis, Davidson must show that a necessary condition for the ability of human beings to think about anything is the possession of a language. Davidson does not seek to deny the causal relationship between objects in the world and our knowledge of them (as many social models do). Rather, his view is that what is basic in knowledge acquisition is communal interpretation of what we observe in the world.

The necessary condition for knowledge acquisition, according to Davidson, is the public acquisition of language through interpretation of other people in a common environment.[9] Davidson calls this “triangulation.” And, as Robert Sinclair puts it, “without another person with which to triangulate, an individual’s thoughts would have no content, the result being nothing recognizable as thought. If this is right, the interaction depicted within triangulation is a necessary condition for the possibility of thought.”[10]

The form of the argument can be stated as a transcendental argument, showing what must be the case for a certain feature of experience to be possible. Formally put, the argument looks something like this:

(5) Possibly, there is human thought
(6) Necessarily, if possibly, there is human thought, then it is gained through triangulation.
(7) Human thought is gained through triangulation. 

Davidson has to show why we should accept (6). The main arguments can be divided into explanatory and logical. The explanatory arguments attempt to show how triangulation theory fits with empirical observation of how creatures acquire knowledge. Davidson asks us to consider how creatures work in groups to alert each other of danger; they triangulate: an object (a predator) is perceived and the group correlates each other’s reactions to the object.[11] Similarly, children acquire concepts through interaction with the world among linguistically capable adults.

Apes Triangulating?

These observations, as fitting as they may be with the thesis, do not adequately support (6).[12] What is needed is to show the necessity of the process not merely the adequacy of the interpretation. Consequently, Davidson argues that the gaining of the requisite concepts for human thought can only be gained through the triangulation process.

At this point, something should be said in regard to an obvious objection. Surely, one might suggest, dogs, pre-linguistic children and people isolated from birth from other people could have thoughts without language. There are two things to say in response to this. First, it is not clear that there would be any way to demonstrate that the dog is entertaining a thought in its head such as, “the cat is up the tree.” The matter in question is not an empirical question. It is not possible for us to observe the thinking life of an animal or a pre-linguistic child. Behavior simply won’t tell us whether or not a creature is thinking.

Second, the question in view is conceptual. Even if some basic thoughts appear possible considered in isolation—a dog’s belief that my sandwich will satisfy his hunger, for example—there is no way to ascribe anything like the complexity of human thought apparent within a linguistically capable human beings to a child or a dog or even to Robinson Crusoe. Kortum helpfully circumscribes the kind of thought in question to be “higher-level thought,” thoughts such as counterfactuals, laws of nature, mathematical theorems, speculative metaphysics and alike. Those thoughts, Kortum says, are impossible without the use of expressions found in language:[13] “Just try to think the thought expressed as ‘E=MC2’ without the words ‘energy’, ‘is equivalent to’, ‘mass’, ‘multiplied by’, ‘the speed of light’, and ‘squared’”[14]

George tries to think without words

Whether one considers Kortum’s experiment to provide adequate evidence or not, it is clear that the question is not settled by empirical investigation. Moreover, even if it is not possible to think about some thing without words, the question is not about the possession of thought, but about the conditions necessary for the acquisition of thought in human beings. Let us stipulate, for the sake of simplicity, that the knowledge in question is knowledge that requires higher-level thought, thought about counterfactuals and alike. This will avoid the continual worry that the possibility that non-linguistically capable creatures have simple thoughts will turn out to show that human beings can think about mathematical theorems without language. As it happens, however, if the argument is sound then even simple thoughts could not be ascribed to any creature without language.

Davidson’s argument must show the chain of preconditions necessary for thought that leads to language. These preconditions are conceptual in nature. How is it that human beings acquire the necessary concepts in order to acquire knowledge?

The first part of his argument is to show that in order to have a thought one must have a belief. Though thoughts come in many kinds—desires, intentions, hopes, and assertions—they all involve beliefs. According to Davidson, a belief is an attitude that has the quality of assenting or dissenting to a proposition. Furthermore, thoughts presuppose a network of related beliefs in order to be intelligible. Any thought is “defined by a set of beliefs, but is itself autonomous with respect to belief.”[15] Beliefs are necessary for thought, but thoughts cannot occur without a pre-established network of beliefs.

Most basically, belief requires the use of the concepts of true and false. The distinction between a true belief and a false belief is conceptual, but this concept must be obtained in some way. Recall that Davidson thinks that all knowledge including the concepts of true and false must be acquired. Davidson argues that they can only be gained through interaction with other people in a common environment.

Davidson’s argument rests on the idea that the necessary concepts that make intentional higher level thought possible are only available when one is interpreting the speech of another language user. One cannot learn these concepts any other way. Davidson argues that there is nothing in the world that gives us the concept of true or false belief.[16] Learning a language, in other words, is the means by which one learns concepts, and language is only learned from language users.

The reason for this conclusion is that in order to gain the concept of truth and falsity, and therefore, belief, one must interpret intentions in the speech of another person. The question, therefore, is how we might acquire knowledge of intentions. His answer is that we could not acquire them introspectively, but only as we interpret the intentional speech of other people in a common environment.

These concepts, Davidson argues, are only available to a human being through mutual interpretation of other people and their intentional statements about the world. Davidson suggests that the human being acquires these concepts externally through learning to interpret another human being respond to the environment he is placed within:

Can a creature have a belief if it does not have the concept of a belief? It seems to me it cannot, and for this reason. Someone cannot have a belief unless he understands the possibility of being mistaken, and this requires grasping the contrast between truth and error—true belief and false belief. But this contrast…can emerge only in the context of interpretation, which alone forces us to the idea of an objective, public truth.[17]

A successful interpreter is someone who understands the statements uttered by another person. Davidson’s argument rests on the idea that in order to think one must be able to interpret the speech of another person: “a creature cannot have thoughts unless it is an interpreter of the speech of another.”[18] This is not to say, Davidson points out, that a creature cannot have thoughts that cannot be spoken, only that in order to be a thinker a creature must be an interpreter.

Interpretation is the action of explaining the meaning of something. To explain the meaning of speech one needs to explain the intentions of the speaker. Since a theory of interpretation is also a theory of a kind of action (speaking), Davidson suggests that we apply an analysis of intention to language. At least we should be able to say that an interpretation of speech should cast light on how an intention (to give information, for example) translates into speech (an assertion, for example).

Furthermore, Davidson argues, if person A and person B stand in a triangular relationship with object X, then both person A and B must recognize their triangular relationship. When there is recognition from the perspective of A and B that they are thinking about X then we can determine the content of our thought. A can only know this through language spoken by B (and vice versa).

Two Humans gaining the concepts of true and false

One might object that we may be able to obtain concepts through introspection. What prevents us referring to objects in our mind and ascribing propositions about them? At this point Davidson employs Wittgenstein’s private language argument to show that introspection cannot yield the required concepts.

The purpose of Wittgenstein’s private language argument is to undermine the idea that the foundations of language and knowledge lie in private experience. On this view, the essential function of words is to name entities in the world. Applied to thought, words name mental entities and language describes internal states of affairs such as “I am in pain.” Wittgenstein refutes this idea by showing that such a private language is unintelligible.

Hacker notes that Wittgenstein’s strategy is to show a disanalogy between private and public language. Public language has four features: “(1) ‘stage-setting’, which determines the grammatical category of the defiendum… (2) an ostensive gesture, (3) a sample, (4) a method of projection.”[19]

A private language fails to provide the criteria by which a private mental entity can be named since it fails to meet these four conditions.[20] A private language cannot create its own grammatical category since it would rely on an already existing grammatical context. Neither can a private language succeed in pointing to a private sensation since it has no criteria with which to determine whether what is being pointed at is the same entity that was pointed at previously.[21] One cannot fix a sample entity that is only available privately. Consequently, there is no way to project any such sample in order to compare it with another mental entity.

It may appear to a person that he or she is applying the expression correctly. The problem is that there would be no difference between “his seeming (to himself) to use it correctly and his actually using it correctly. And Wittgenstein is surely right to suggest that, without this distinction, an expression has no meaning.”[22]

Davidson uses this argument to suggest:

Unless a language is shared there is no way to distinguish between using a language correctly and using it incorrectly; only communication with another can supply an objective check. If only communication with another can provide a check on the correct use of words, only communication can supply a standard of objectivity in other domains.[23]

If a person is isolated then the only language available is a private language and since a private language cannot provide the necessary criteria for objective truth a public language is necessary. To have a public language is to have a history of mutual interpretation of an environment:

We have no grounds for crediting a creature with the distinction between what is thought to be the case and what is the case unless the creature has the standard provided by a shared language; and without this distinction there is nothing that can clearly be called thought.[24]

Kirk Ludwig reminds us that Davidson’s argument is open to objections made to transcendental arguments in general.[25] What prevents us from saying that it only needs to appear to the subject that there is a triangulation between object and the other subject? If this is only a possibility it is enough to defeat Davidson’s argument. Another way to state this objection is in terms of an imaginary friend. Claudine Verheggen asks why a person could not carry out a conversation with herself. Surely “self-talk” or “imaginary-friend-talk” yield the same pseudo-triangulation that Davidson requires.[26]

Davidson argues that this problem should affect those who think that the foundation for thought is introspection. But, on his view, the rule that one follows for knowledge acquisition is “at bottom a matter of doing what others do.”[27].

A further objection may be motivated by a concern for objectivity. What, on Davidson’s view, guarantees that either interpreter gets the world right? Davidson has two responses to this objection. First, he says that triangulation does not deny that the objects in the world are causally related to what we know about the world. In other words, triangulation theory has the quality of requiring both a coherence and correspondence theory of truth. One requires a high degree of agreement between subjects and the causal relationship between subjects and the objects they perceive.

Second, Davidson contends that without acceptance of the reliability of most of the statements about the world there would be no concept of belief and therefore the objection would be groundless. Davidson relies on a version of the principle of charity. The principle of charity insists that people have more true beliefs than false beliefs. If human conversation is possible, then people have more true beliefs than false beliefs. In order to challenge all beliefs one must suggest that there is no such thing as a belief. This is because if all beliefs are assumed to be false then there is no such thing as true or false since one can only conceive of something be being true if one can conceive of something being false and vice versa. Davidson suggests that in order to avoid such a radically skeptical conclusion one should interpret one another optimizing agreement.

What these objections miss is the distinction between knowledge possession and knowledge acquisition. While self-talk is possible once one has thoughts it is not possible until one has acquired this capability. Davidson’s argument attempts to show what must be the case in order to acquire the ability to think and concludes that the thinker must have acquired the concepts of true and false in order to think. It does not attempt to show how one applies those concepts once one has them.[28]

Sinclair argues that these kinds of criticisms miss the assumption that Davidson is trying to defend. Davidson is attempting to account for a non-reductive mental and psychological life of human beings within a naturalistic frame of reference. There are no prior concepts found in creatures that one could use to begin a conversation with oneself or an imaginary friend. Consequently, there is no internal point of reference for the creature with which to form the necessary apparatus for gaining and applying concepts to the world.[29]

Peter Pagin objects to Davidson’s argument by suggesting that the necessary concept required is not true or false, but agreement.[30] However, Pagin says that this would require the subjects in question to already possess the concept of agreement prior to triangulation. In attempting to explain the acquisition of concepts we must, according to Pagin, assume the presence of the concept of agreement for the criteria that we need in order to obtain all other criteria.

There are two responses to this objection. First, Pagin seems to assume that a concept can be obtained on its own. Yet Davidson argues that concepts cannot do any work without reference to the network of beliefs, desires and other concepts: “Unless you have a lot of beliefs about what a cat is, you don’t have a concept of a cat…beliefs can’t emerge one at a time, since the content of each belief depends on its place in the nexus of further beliefs… It is the holism of the mental that makes its emergence so difficult to describe.”[31]

Second, as Davidson sees it, the process by which one moves from non-thought to thought is unanalyzable since to analyze the process is to employ the concepts already obtained through the process.[32] Triangulation is not, therefore, to be seen as a description of the process of the ability to acquire knowledge. Rather, it is a description of a pre-linguistic context that can “exist independently of thought” and that supplies the necessary conditions for the possibility for thought. The object and at least two people looking at the object could triangulate only if language connects the two subjects. Language could only connect the two subjects if both are able to interpret the actions visible and audible to the other subject.

A more troubling question is how thought emerges from non-thought. If Davidson is right then he needs to account for how a non-thinking creature could triangulate with another non-thinking creature and produce two thinking creatures through speech. Pagin suggests that thought must be introduced too early in the argument. Triangulation assumes that two already thinking creatures are conversing about the world. If it turns out that it is necessary to introduce thought to the equation at this early stage, prior to interpretation, then triangulation cannot be what is necessary for thought. Catherine Talmage argues that it is only a person who is already thinking, using her concepts and applying them to the world, that is able to speak about the world. It is the person’s own engagement with the world that yields what she means by a statement made about the world.[33]

Davidson’s reply is that triangulation does not attempt to show what non-thinking to thinking looks like (the emergence of thought). What we could say about this would be limited by our application of our own already gained concepts to the phenomena. What Davidson instead attempts to show is what would have to be in place in order for the process to occur.[34]

Christian Barth notes that Davidson’s argument, at this point, cannot show much, but it arrives at the point whereby any alternative is inconceivable. It is not an observable phenomena. In other words, the question cannot be solved empirically since observation assumes thought. There is nothing preventing our reading in of our conceptual apparatus. The problem cannot be solved with reference to counter examples in creatures (the likelihood of dolphin language or the kinds of thoughts available to pre-linguistically capable children or whether or not humans growing up alone on an island could think). Rather, Davidson’s claim is that it is inconceivable that a subject acquires the concept of objective truth without having acquired it through communication with another person.[35]

Barth notes that the concept of truth in Davidson’s work is intersubjective. “The concept of truth… implies that the truth-value of thoughts is determined by a world that more than one subject is able to speak and to have thoughts about.”[36] Intersubjective truth is objective truth. Given this definition, Davidson’s argument is that such an idea of truth is unavailable without presupposing its acquisition within a linguistic community.

Let us return to the emergence question. For the naturalist, Davidson’s project tries to show how thought could emerge from the non-meaningful objects and creatures that inhabit the world. However, given this assumption, the criticism is more intractable. Pagin’s central criticism is that thought has to start somewhere. It has to begin in one mind even if only in one or two beliefs about the world. Once such beliefs are in one person then Davidson’s argument shows us how thought is passed on, but it cannot adequately describe how it gets going in the first place. Recall that Davidson and similar philosophers are attempting to describe the process by which meaning is made from the non-meaningful. However, while Davidson provides a constitutional account, he is unable to provide a historical account. Let us call this the “first thought objection.”

Emma attempts a first thought

Davidson does indicate, in a rare mention of God, that there could be an account for the origin of language if his assumptions allowed him. He writes, “according to the Bible, the Word was there from the beginning, but it seems more plausible that words and thought emerged rather recently.”[37] On an emergentist account one views things as coming into existence over long periods of time. Davidson supposes that a first thought, corresponding to the first language, must have emerged over time. Emergentism generally struggles with precision with its historical account and Davidson’s view of the emergence of thought struggles no less. Given his view that language emerged recently, Davidson’s account lacks an adequate description for the origin of the first thought. And if his account leaves this answer blank, then it gives us good reason to suspect that it is possible that thought could emerge in an individual without reference to other human beings. Linguistic interaction would be neither sufficient nor necessary, since at least one person began to think without help. This can be stated as a dilemma:

(8) Either the first thought is somehow had before triangulation or there is no first thought.
(9) If there is no first thought then it is not possible that thought could begin.
(10) Speech-capable creatures have not existed eternally.
(11) If there is a first thought that does not require triangulation then triangulation is not a necessary condition for knowledge acquisition.
(12) Triangulation is not a necessary condition for knowledge acquisition.

It seems that Davidson wants to argue that a first thought is possible when triangulation takes place. Pagin’s point is that it is very difficult to see how thought could get started without thought. If Pagin is right about this then the argument is in some difficulty.

While the first thought objection might present problems for the naturalist, the theist may have resources to allow for a first human thought. The solution is found in embracing the second horn of the dilemma – there is no first thought. God, being eternally conscious with intentional thought is the first thinker since he has always been a talker. God exists in an eternal linguistic community: “Language does not have as its sole purpose human-human communication, or even divine-human communication, but also divine-divine communication.”[38] 

Poythress notes that our doctrine of the Trinity is developed, in part, because we note the inter-linguistic relationship between the three persons of the Trinity. John writes that The Spirit of truth speaks and hears (John 16:13-15). Christ’s prayers and the eternal love between the Son and the Father (John 17) imply a pre-incarnate conversation. Since God is eternal, God has never developed a language, but has always been capable of using language. This gives human beings a first speaker, one who is able to teach them to speak and, therefore, to acquire knowledge.

If God creates the first human beings and instructs them in the garden then they have a method of learning the concepts necessary for thought. God, being eternally triune, also eternally and perfectly interprets his creation within the divine community. This world, after all, is God’s creation. He creates it through the use of language (Psalm 33:6) and knows it comprehensively. He then passes on some of his authoritative interpretation to human beings as he teaches them to speak and, thereby, to think about the world.

God is able to provide the first humans an interpretation of the world by explaining it to them. He explains the environment he has placed them in (Gen 1:28-30; 2:16-17). It even appears that God is embodied in the garden (Gen 3:8) thus allowing for Adam and Eve to observe and interpret God’s assertions about the environment. God also gives Adam a role in naming his environment (Gen 2:20). He trains the first humans to use speech to interpret their environment in a manner consistent with God’s own thought.

However, there may be a problem with such a picture. The problem, it seems, is with how humans gain concepts. Davidson argues that the interpreter gains concepts by noticing how mistakes are made. If mistakes are necessary for gaining of concepts then God may be without the ability to discern the difference (since God does not make mistakes). Furthermore, in a pre-fallen state and being taught to speak by someone who cannot make mistakes, human beings may not have been able to interpret in such a way that falsity was possible. In fact, Satan would have introduced the first notion of a mistake in the temptation of Eve.

There is no reason, however, to find this particularly troubling. It is consistent with perfection to point out what is false as well as what is true. This is seen in God’s command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Such a command presupposes a grasp of true and false. Indeed, every assertion of truth assumes its contrary. This does not impinge on perfection. Perfection entails never believing a falsehood; it does not entail that no falsehood is possible or conceivable.

I have argued that knowledge acquisition requires community. It requires more than the subject and the object to be in a causal relationship. Rather, human thought is dependent on natural language use and the ability of human beings to interpret one another as they make assertions about the world. However, on a naturalist assumption, the view fails to account for the origin of the first thought. Yet since God, existing eternally as triune, has always had language theism holds a solution not available to naturalists.

[1] Though supervenience theories in philosophy of mind have been challenged, they continue to hold sway. Cf. Jaegwon Kim, Physicalism or Something Near Enough (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005).
[2] Robert Sinclair, “The Philosophical Significance of Triangulation: Locating Davidson’s Non-Reductive Naturalism,” Metaphilosophy, Vol. 36, No 6 (2005), 715.
[3] Richard Kortum, “The Very Idea of Design: What God Couldn’t Do,” Religious Studies (2004), 81-96.
[4] Ibid., 82.
[5] Tom McCall convincingly shows that Kortum’s argument fails against Trinitarian Monotheism: Tom McCall, “Trinity and Creation: Why Kortum’s Argument Fails,” Heythrop Journal (2007), 260-266.
[6] The form of this argument can be stated as a hypothetical.
[7] Franz Brentano is responsible for persuading most philosophers of this: Edward Feser, Philosophy of Mind (Oxford: One World, 2006), 171.
[8] Donald Davidson, “Radical Interpretation,” Inquiries Into Truth and Interpretation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 156.
[9] A. N. Carpenter, “Davidson’s Transcendental Argumentation: Externalism, Interpretation, and the Veridicality of Belief” in From Kant to Davidson: Philosophy and the Idea of the Transcendental ed. J. Malpas (London: Routledge, 2003), 13-14.
[10] Robert Sinclair, “The Philosophical Significance of Triangulation”, 713.
[11] Donald Davidson, “The Emergence of Thought,” Erkenntnis 51, No. 1 (1999), 7-17.
[12] Abductive (or inference to the best explanation) does not support a necessary conclusion. A transcendental argument, on the other hand, takes a feature of experience for granted and shows what must be the case in order for that feature to be possible.
[13] Kortum, “The Very Idea of Design,” 85.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Davidson, “Thought and Talk,” Inquiries Into Truth and Interpretation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 157.
[16] Donald Davidson, “Rational Animals,” Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2001), 95-106.
[17] Ibid., 170.
[18] Davidson, “Radical Interpretation”, Inquiries Into Truth and Interpretation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 157.
[19] P.M.S. Hacker, “Private Language Argument,” eds. Jonathan Dancy and Ernest Sosa, A Companion to Epistemology (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1992), 370.
[20] Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1958), p. 92e, § 258.
[21] Cf. Anthony Kenny, Wittgenstein (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2006), 152.
[22] Kortum, “The Very Idea of Design,” 92.
[23] Donald Davidson, “Three Varieties of Knowledge,” in Donald Davidson, Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2001), 209.
[24] Ibid.
[25] Kirk Ludwig, “Triangulation Triangulated,” in eds. Preyer and Amoretti Triangulation: From an Epistemological Point of View (Frankfurt: Ontos, 2011), 76.
[26] Sinclair, “The Philosophical Significance of Triangulation,” 720
[27] Davidson, “The Emergence of Thought,” 129.
[28] Christian Barth, Objectivity and the Language Dependence of Thought: A Transcendental Defense of Universal Lingualism (New York: Routledge, 2011), 68-69.
[29] Ibid., 722.
[30] Peter Pagin, “Semantic Triangulation,” in eds. Kotatko, Pagin & Segal, Interpreting Davidson (Stanford: CSLI Publications, 2001), 209.
[31] Davidson, “The Emergence of Thought,” 124-127.
[32] Ibid.
[33] Sinclair, “The Philosophical Significance of Triangulation,” 720.
[34] Ibid., 724.
[35] Barth, Objectivity, 70-71.
[36] Ibid., 58.
[37] Donald Davidson, “The Emergence of Thought,” Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2001), 123.
[38] Vern Poythress, In the Beginning Was the Word: Language – A God-Centered Approach (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2009).

Assistant Professor of Philosophy and History of Ideas at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and The College at Southeastern.