'Tensions
Lewis (David)
Source: Lewis - Philosophical Papers Volume I, Part 3: Philosophy of Language, Chapter 14
Paper - Abstract

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  1. In this paper, Lewis introduces a problem that he cannot solve.
  2. He begins by describing, in general outline, two idealized languages: one richly intensional, the other purely extensional.
  3. The problem arises when we imagine two field linguists - one an intensionalist (like Lewis), the other an extensionalist - faced with the task of interpreting a tribe that speaks a previously unknown language.
  4. When the intensionalist interprets the tribesmen as using an intensional language, the extensionalist disagrees, claiming it "gratuitous of [the intensionalist] to ascribe to them a language that requires the notoriously obscure apparatus of intensional semantics1."
  5. Lewis dismisses several unsatisfactory rejoinders to this challenge and concludes by drawing several morals from the unresolved dialectical situation.

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