Truth and Meaning in Historical Interpretation: A Davidsonian Approach

Knox Peden

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1 Citation (Scopus)


This essay argues that Donald Davidson's work in philosophy sheds light on debates about truth, meaning, and context in historical interpretation. Drawing on distinctions between Davidson's project and that of his mentor, W. V. O. Quine, I aim to show that certain ambiguities that have arisen in the methodological reflections of Quentin Skinner and Frank Ankersmit, to take representatives of contrastive approaches to intellectual history, are clarified once we reckon with Davidson's ideas. This discussion leads to a case for the broader pertinence of Davidson's work to historical writing, which insists that his focus on the centrality of truth to disagreement bears salutary consequences for thinking about what constitutes compelling historical scholarship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-341
Number of pages15
JournalHistory and Theory
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Donald Davidson
  • contextualism
  • hermeneutics
  • historical method
  • intellectual history
  • interpretation


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