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The Essential Davidson Paperback – February 23, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0199288861 ISBN-10: 0199288860

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (February 23, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199288860
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199288861
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #707,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author


Donald Davidson (1917-2003) was Willis S. and Marion Slusser Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. He was previously Professor at Stanford, Princeton, Rockefeller, and the University of Chicago. He was a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy.

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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Randall Helzerman on March 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
The editors gave themselves quite a task when they decided to compile this book, which aims to bring together in one handy volume the essential works of Davidson. I have to admit, if I were charged with the task, I'd give up. My ideal one-volume collection of Davidson's essays would simply be all of his essays--printed on that very thin paper they use for Bibles and available in a nice leather-bound edition, with quotations from Quine printed in red letters.

But given such a brutal page budget, the authors do a very good job, I think, of choosing essays. Particularly well represented is the development of Davidson's theories about Events and Actions.

A few choices the authors made strike me as odd. The first is the inclusion of the essay "A Coherence Theory of Truth" which Davidson states is, of all his essays, the one he'd like to rewrite the most. The essay was the opening words in a conversation which has lasted for decades now between Davidson, Rorty, Ramberg, and many others. Since the entire conversation couldn't possibly fit in the volume, why not just drop it entirely? There are also two odd ommisions: Why not include 'The structure and content of Truth?' and why not include "Laws and Cause"?

*sigh* choosing is an impossible task. I won't further quibble with the choices.

Does this book capture the essense of Davidson? The answer is inevitably no, but not because this is a necessarily bad collection of essays--it is because, for the most Quinean of reasons, Davidson _has_ no essence.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Richards on October 8, 2008
Format: Paperback
Donald Davidson has a reputation as a difficult philosopher. This reputation is not unfounded. Reading a Davidson essay that was referred to elsewhere (in my case, my first introduction was "Mental Events") is how most people first read him, but that's no way to get familiar with Davidson. We can object all we want to specific essays, or formulations, but Davidson's work forms one of the great systems of 20th century philosophy. Since he wrote no single book that introduces his whole philosophy, we have to scrounge around and read essays, following up interesting leads and lamenting that there is no one place to start.

Enter this book. It is missing a few important essays like "The Structure and Content of Truth" and "Thought and Talk," but that's forgivable given the accessibility of many of his most important essays in a single spot. Reading a single Davidson essay is a difficult task, and piecing together his views is even harder, but to begin unraveling the Davidsonian web it's hard to start anywhere better than here.

The editors provide a great introduction, which should help the reader orient themselves around the work. After reading a number of Davidson essays and not really understanding much beyond the surface, the introduction illuminated the basic structure of his project and made understanding Davidson a pleasure (though he is still difficult, the difficulty is rather like solving a puzzle), rather than an exercise in frustration mixed with pleasure. The editors, sadly, organized the book backwards. The truth work should come first, then the action work. But, then, I'd probably be complaining about that.

It is lacking, however, in fine-grained detail and explication.
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