Three Varieties of Knowledge- a Critque

1662 words 7 pages
Donald Davidson- Three Varieties of Knowledge
Submitted By: Nathan Copeland- 500349268
Submitted to: Prof. Checkland
April 15, 2013

In Donald Davidsons Three Varieties of Knowledge, he sets out to more or less prove that “A community of minds is the basis of knowledge; it provides the measure of all things." (Davidson, 218). This is done by first categorizing knowledge into three distinct categories. There is knowledge of ones own mind, knowledge of another’s mind, and knowledge of the shared physical world around us. He argues that no one could exist without the others. According to Davidson, knowledge of ones own mind differs from the other two types of knowledge in the sense that one knows the contents of their own mind
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As such “A community of minds is the basis of knowledge; it is the measure of all things. It makes no sense to question the adequacy of this measure, or to seek a more ultimate standard.” (Davidson, pg. 218).


I agree with the general idea of what Davidson is saying, with a few exceptions. I would agree that ‘advanced’ knowledge can only come about with the all three types of evidence, but I also believe that basic knowledge can be acquired by just a person and the observable world. Suppose I live in a world with no other living creatures. I have no formal language. If I walk across a bed of sharp rocks, my nervous system will say “ouch”, and it wont take long to figure out that sharp rocks hurt my feet. I am aware of this with no need to confirm with another.

I am also in contention with the idea that “language is essential to thought” (Davidson, pg. 209). My dog ‘thinks’ its going for a walk every time I put my boots on. I suppose that may be considered language, or some may argue that my dogs actions have no thought, but it seems to me that to make such a claim demands more evidence.

I also had an issue with the claim that “enough in the framework and fabric of our beliefs must be true to give content to the rest” (Davidson, pg. 214). Although I agree that ‘enough’ of our beliefs are true, I don’t see this as a necessary condition. What if