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Philosophical Papers Volume I$
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David Lewis

Print publication date: 1983

Print ISBN-13: 9780195032048

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0195032047.001.0001

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(p.250) Fourteen ’Tensions
Philosophical Papers Volume I

David Lewis

Oxford University Press

In this paper, Lewis introduces a problem that he cannot solve. He begins by describing, in general outline, two idealized languages: one richly intensional, the other purely extensional. The problem arises when we imagine two field linguists – one an intensionalist (like Lewis), the other an extensionalist – faced with the task of interpreting a tribe that speaks a previously unknown language. When the intensionalist interprets the tribesmen as using an intensional language, the extensionalist disagrees, claiming it “gratuitous of [the intensionalist] to ascribe to them a language that requires the notoriously obscure apparatus of intensional semantics.” Lewis dismisses several unsatisfactory rejoinders to this challenge and concludes by drawing several morals from the unresolved dialectical situation.

Keywords:   extensional semantics, intensional semantics, Terence Parsons, Quine, radical interpretation, semantics

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