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ABSTRACT. This essay is an exposition, defense, supplementation, and elaboration of Donald Davidson’s account of metaphor. The first section outlines some features of Davidson’s account of language. The second section shows how Davidson’s account of metaphor as rhetorical fits with his general conception of language. The third section discusses the semantic indeterminacy that arises as a consequence of Davidson’s account of metaphor. This indeterminacy is a consequence that goes well beyond anything that Davidson explicitly acknowledged. Davidson’s account is committed to the thesis that the line between the metaphorical and the literal is sometimes indeterminate in principle. In effect this means that the semantics of most idiolects is indeterminate. I argue that this is a result that should be expected, given that there is indeterminacy in applying the intentional scheme and given that truth is the central concept of the intentional scheme. The fourth and fifth sections defend this conclusion against two kinds of objections. The fourth section argues that, unless a surprising reduction of semantics to neurophysiology is possible, there is no empirical criterion for a determinate line between the metaphorical and the literal. The fifth section meets the objection that a truth-conditional semantics cannot tolerate indeterminacy of truth-values.

 

Written by SAMUEL C. WHEELER III
 
 
 

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