Monday, October 17, 2011

Prado, C. G. Review of Jeff Malpas, ed. DIALOGUES WITH DAVIDSON. NDPR (October 2011).

Malpas, Jeff, ed.  Dialogues with Davidson: Acting, Interpreting, Understanding.  Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011.

This is an impressive collection, though one defying brief review. It consists of an illuminating Foreword, a clear, stage-setting Introduction, twenty articles in three topical sections, and an extensive Bibliography. The orientation of the collection turns on Jeff Malpas' attempt to cast Donald Davidson's work as broader than the narrowly analytic corpus many take it to be: e.g., Ernest LePore. (xviii) Another collection in this vein, to which I refer below, is Ludwig 2003.

Two comments on the orientation before turning to the articles: first, no one, including the philosopher in question, can legitimately limit interpretation of and extrapolation from a philosophical corpus. Second, that said, I had the privilege of meeting Davidson and commenting on his "A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs" two years before its publication. (Queen's University, 9/27/84). I drew a parallel between him and Gadamer that Davidson resisted. He seems later to have changed his mind to some extent, but I suspect he would be ambivalent about several of this collection's articles, despite their being as intellectually productive as they are convincingly supportive of Malpas' view of Davidson's work.

I proceed by saying a bit about each article and more about those I found most interesting. I will say now that this is a book anyone interested in Davidson should own.

A preliminary point: the collection's articles are "dialogues" with Davidson; discussion of his work in relation to continental thinkers is not about one-way or reciprocal influences but about parallels in philosophical thought. It is one thing to draw parallels, though, and another to exploit them: a difference evident in the more and less successful articles. . . .

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