Was Davidson’s Project a Carnapian Explication of Meaning?

There are two main interpretive positions on Davidson’s project in the theory of meaning. The Replacement Theory holds that Davidson aimed to replace the theory of meaning with the theory of truth on the grounds that meaning is too unclear a notion for systematic theorizing. The Traditional Pursuit Theory, in contrast, holds that Davidson aimed to pursue the traditional project with a clever bit of indirection, exploiting the recursive structure of a truth theory to reveal compositional semantic structure and placing constraints on it sufficient for its canonical assignments of truth conditions to be used for interpretation. This paper responds to a recent defense of a sophisticated version of the Replacement Theory by Gary Ebbs according to which Davidson was engaged in a Carnapian explication of meaning, intending to preserve only aspects of the usage of ‘means’ most important to us. I argue the Explication Interpretation cannot be sustained in the face of a detailed look at the passages that principally motivate it in “Truth and Meaning” when we take into account their local context, their context in the paper as a whole, and the context of that paper in Davidson’s contemporaneous work, and later work which tries to improve the formulations which he advanced in his early papers.