Language and the World

Nancy Brenner

Abstract



After the theory of evolution became the guiding paradigm of a scientific explanation
of life, Descartes’ fundamental distinction between body and mind was transformed
into a distinction between nature and culture. The conception of the natural world
remained the physical world, as Descartes saw it, but instead of the thinking mind
being independent of the body came a culture independent of nature. The variety of
languages came to be seen as ‘cultural lenses’ through which its users understand the
world and act accordingly. And most important, while Descartes’ postulated that
reason, with its purpose to create true knowledge was the essence of the thinking
mind, reason became the product of some cultures and not of others. While this
transformation has led to cultural relativism, Donald Davidson’s criticism of Quine’s
version of this view rejects this conclusion in a way reminiscent of Spinoza’s
naturalistic rejection of Cartesian dualism.

Keywords


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; Quine's vs Tarski's theories of interpretation; pragmatism; culture vs nature; logic vs rhetoric; truth; grammar vs logic

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