Moods and Performances

  • Donald Davidson
Part of the Synthese Language Library book series (SLAP, volume 3)


Frege held that an adequate account of language requires us to attend to three features of sentences: reference, sense, and force. Elsewhere I have argued that a theory of truth patterned after a Tarski-type truth definition tells us all we need to know about sense.1 Counting truth in the domain of reference, as Frege did, the study of sense thus comes down to the study of reference.


Truth Condition Reductive Theory Illocutionary Force Linguistic Convention Ordinary Meaning 
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  1. 1.
    For a recent statement of my position, see “Radical Interpretation,” Dialectica 27 (1973): 313-328. For its defense, see “Reply to Foster,” in: Truth and Meaning: Essays in Semantics, G. Evans and J. McDowell (eds. ), Oxford, 1976.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Michael Dummett, Frege: Philosophy of Language, London, 1973, pp. 315, 316.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    J.L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words, Cambridge, Mass., 1962, p. 22.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    I am indebted to Michael Dummett for making me appreciate this point.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    David Lewis, “General Semantics,” in: Semantics of Natural Language, D. Davidson and G. Harman (eds.), Dordrecht, 1972, p. 208.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Herbert Bohnert, “The Semiotic Status of Commands,” Philosophy of Science 12 (1945).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Yes-no interrogatives would then be treated, perhaps, as having the same semantics as the corresponding affirmative indicative; or, on another option, as having the same semantics as the alternation of the affirmative, with the negation of the affirmative, indicative. WH-questions might be assigned the same semantics as the corresponding open sentences in the indicative. Here as elsewhere in this article my remarks about the inter- rogative mood are sketchy. As Jaakko Hintikka has pointed out to me, my general program for the moods may run into trouble when a serious attempt is made to apply it to interrogatives.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    P.T. Geach, “Assertion,” The Philosophical Review 74 (1965): 458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    J.L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words, p. 32.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    For a fuller discussion of this proposal, see my “On Saying That,” Synthese 19 (1968 — 1969): 130-146.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald Davidson
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of ChicagoUSA

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