In a 2003 obituary, Anna Sherrat described one of my many philosophy heroes, Donald Davidson, as “one of the greatest American philosophers.” She did an excellent job of summarizing one of the perspectives of one of the most respected philosophers of the 20th century, as follows:
[W]e can ascribe beliefs to a speaker only on the basis of prior assumptions about meaning, and vice versa…there will be many different assignments of meaning and belief that fit equally well with a given speaker’s behaviour.
I understand that Wittgenstein transformed the field of philosophy of language with his insight that while objective definitions consists of language, we understand linguistic utterances by interpreting subjective meanings, and we do that according to our individual histories of learning how those utterances were used by the people we’ve known to use them. In fewer words, meaning derives from usage.
As he wrote in Philosophical Investigations, 1953, “the meaning of a word is its use in the language” (Quoted here by Anat Biletzki). He invented the term “language games” to refer to the many different ways that language may be used.
In his IEP article on philosophy of language, Michael P. Wolf reflects a consensus in the field that Wittgenstein’s theory, developed over half a century ago, has yet to be superseded:
[I]t can be safely said that Wittgenstein rejected a picture of language as a detached, logical sort of picturing of the facts and inserted a concern for its pragmatic dimensions. One cannot look at the representational dimension of language alone and expect to understand what meaning is. https://www.iep.utm.edu/lang-phi/#SH3b
My question is: Does anyone here know of any philosophy book or article (published in that last fifty years), which offers cogent criticism to refute or weaken these theses?