One of the faculty members here, who is departing, left out a number of his books near the lounge, free for the taking; naturally I took some—mostly novels, actually, but some philosophy as well, including Derrida's Die unbedingte Universität (as the title was rendered), and a slim volume with the attractive name of Wie du dir so ich mir: ein Versuch über Intersubjektivität, by an author I'd never heard of before. I want, here, merely to point out some suggestive passages, rendered of all the greater interest by the book's somewhat early publication date. It seems to have been translated by one Benjamin Schwarz, but since I only have the German, that's what I'll quote. I'm not going to go into great detail or anything; I just want to draw your attention to these texts.
There are three bits that I will especially focus on, but since two of them occupy contiguous portions of the text, I'll just quote them together. The topic here is that venerable philosophical problem, our knowledge of the external world:
Mit «erkennbar» meine ich nebenbei nicht, was durch die Wahrnehmung der Sinne erkannt oder vom Geist erfaßt werden kann, sondern eher das, wovon man sagen könnte, daß es bekannt ist oder Kenntnis oder Erkenntnis besitzt oder wenigstens etwas ist, was man einem Freund mitteilen kann.
Können wir das Universum wirklich «kennen»? Mein Gott, es ist doch schon schwierig genug, sich in Chinatown zurechtzufinden.(pp 30–31)
Take the first paragraph: the author, in rejecting sense perception and spiritual "grasp", is, as I read him, attempting to avoid both the traditional sensory Myth of the Given and the specifically conceptual form of the Myth to which Sellars refers in, for instance, §29 of EMP. The "wenigstens" in the concluding clause is another instance of the author's pervasive ironizing: in fact, he regards communicability to another as essential to knowledge. Thus I think we should take quite literally that "sagen könnte": only something about which you really could say that is it is known, and have your saying accepted by your community, can be known.
The second bit quoted here continues the, if you will, prosaicization begun above. (This is undoubtedly a coïncidence, but the Chinatown example is strikingly similar to one used by Tom Sheehan when I audited his Being and Time class a few years ago, in which he used knowing one's way about the Mission (where he grew up, apparently) as an example of—well, I can't remember what, but it was surely something to do with something in the range §§16–30.) We are imbricated in particular social and physical structures, and it is these we should seek to understand. Questions about "the universe" will only lead to a muddle. Zu den Sachen selbst!
Darum könnte das Diktum Descartes': «Ich denke, also bin ich» besser mit «Guck mal, da geht Edna mit einem Saxophon» ausgedrückt werden.
We might quibble with that "better", but I think it's forgivable; someone who feels he's struck upon a profound truth is likely to overestimate either its significance or its boundaries (or both, lord knows). But, if we substitute "as well" for "better", have we not got something akin to Davidson's triangulation—as in "Three Varieties of Knowledge"—avant la lettre?