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Finding Aid to the Donald Davidson Papers, 1935-2003, bulk 1955-2003
BANC MSS 2005/167  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical History
  • Scope and Content of Collection

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Donald Davidson papers
    Date (inclusive): 1935-2003,
    Date (bulk): bulk 1955-2003
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 2005/167
    Creators : Donald Davidson, 1917-2003
    Extent: Number of containers: 15 cartons and 5 boxes Linear feet: 20.75
    Repository: The Bancroft Library
    University of California, Berkeley
    Berkeley, California, 94720-6000
    Phone: (510) 642-6481
    Fax: (510) 642-7589
    Email: bancref@library.berkeley.edu
    URL: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
    Abstract: The Donald Davidson Papers, 1935-2003, consist of the correspondence, course notes, writings, professional and administrative records, and research files of Donald Davidson, a world-renowned philosopher who served as a faculty member in the Department of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley from 1981-2003.
    Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English, French and German
    Physical Location: Many of the Bancroft Library collections are stored offsite and advance notice may be required for use. For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has been assigned to The Bancroft Library. Materials in these collections are protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) and may not be used without permission of The Bancroft Library. Use may be restricted by terms of University of California gift or purchase agreements, privacy and publicity rights, licensing terms, and trademarks. All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from, or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley 94720-6000. See: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/reference/permissions.html. 
    Restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Donald Davidson Papers, BANC MSS 2005/167, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Alternate Forms Available

    There are no alternate forms of this collection.
    Additional Notes on Collection:
    Box 5 is restricted until January 1, 2077.

    Related Collections

    Karl Aschenbrenner papers, 1917-1984 (BANC MSS 85/83 c)
    H. Paul Grice papers, 1960-1988 (BANC MSS 90/135 c)
    Edward Strong and Martin Meyers papers, 1964-1965 (CU-436)
    Alfred Tarski papers, 1940-1983 (BANC MSS 84/69 c)
    Richard Wollheim papers, 1947-1998 (BANC MSS 2005/105 c)
    Records of the Department of Philosophy, 1936-1937 (CU-66)
    Records of the Philosophical Union of the University of California, 1889-1919 (CU-200)

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Cavell, Marcia, 1931-
    Davidson, Donald, 1917--archives
    Dummett, Michael A. E
    Quine, Willard Van Orman
    Rorty, Richard
    University of California, Berkeley. Dept. of Philosophy $ Faculty
    Agency (Philosophy)
    Decision theory
    Definition (Logic)
    Meaning (Philosophy)
    Philosophy, American--20th century
    Philosophy, American--21st century
    Philosophy, Analytical
    Philosophy and literary theory
    Philosophy of mind
    Pragmatism (Philosophy)
    Theory of Knowledge
    Theory of Meaning
    Truth Coherence Theory
    Truth Correspondence Theory
    Faculty Papers
    Lecture Notes
    Manuscripts for Publication

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Donald Davidson Papers were given to The Bancroft Library by Marcia Cavell on April 8, 2004. Additions were made on July 22, 2004.


    No additions are expected.

    System of Arrangement

    Arranged to the folder level.

    Processing Information

    Preliminary processing by Josh Schneider in 2005; additional processing by Mia Ouranitsas and Josh Schneider in 2008.

    Biographical History

    Donald Herbert Davidson, born in Springfield, Massachusetts on March 6, 1917, held the position of Willis S. and Marion Slusser Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley from 1981-2003. Working primarily in the fields of ethics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of language, he is widely regarded as one of the most profound and influential American philosophers of his generation. A prolific writer and lecturer, Davidson published over 35 articles and essay compilations in his lifetime. He also contributed to the profession through his editorial stewardship of at least 12 premier academic journals.
    Often recognized for the breadth of his approach to philosophical problems, Davidson was especially influenced by his esteemed mentor at Harvard, the preeminent American philosopher of logic and language William Van Orman Quine. They maintained a close relationship until Quine's death on Christmas Day in 2000.
    During his lifetime, Davidson was the subject of over 20 conferences and over 20 works by others. He was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1975. In addition to his many other professional affiliations, Davidson served as president of the American Philosophical Association from 1985-1986. Donald Davidson died unexpectedly from cardiac arrest following knee surgery on August 31, 2003 in Berkeley, California, at the age of 86.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Donald Davidson Papers, 1935-2003, consist of the correspondence, course notes, writings, professional and administrative records, and research files of Donald Davidson, a world-renowned philosopher who served as a faculty member of the Department of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1981-2003.
    In order to maintain the integrity of the materials, the original order has been retained throughout the collection. The researcher should therefore be advised that in some cases, materials relating to a single subject may be distributed over multiple series. Every attempt has been made to identify those cases where such a distribution may not be immediately obvious to the researcher.
    The collection has been arranged into six series: Correspondence, Publications, Teaching Materials, Professional Associations, Subject Files, and Biographical Materials. The collection includes digital files stored on a variety of media. Although housed separately from the other collection materials, these files have been arranged intellectually within the appropriate series, and their contents have been integrated into the collection listing.
    Included in the collection is extensive correspondence between Davidson and his mentor, the preeminent Harvard philosopher Willard V.O. Quine, as well as with other distinguished colleagues, including Tyler Burge, Marcia Cavell, Daniel Dennett, Michael Dummett, Dagfinn Føllesdal, Ian Hacking, Gilbert Harman, Jaegwon Kim, Ernest LePore, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Colin McGinn, John McDowell, Christopher Peacocke, Jacque Poulain, John Rawls, Richard Rorty, Ernest Sosa, Peter Strawson, and Gregory Vlastos.
    Coverage of Davidson's professional writings and lectures is very robust. Drafts and research notes relating to Davidson's early research into utility and stochastic decision theory, as well as his work on the essay "Actions, Reasons, and Causes," considered by many to be his first major philosophical publication, is particularly strong. Davidson was a very prolific writer and lecturer, as well as a very active editorial correspondent, and evidence of Davidson's productivity extends up until his death in 2003.
    Davidson's writings are supplemented by a compilation of research files relating to traditional subjects in philosophy, as well as other subjects in literature, the humanities, and the social sciences. In some cases these subject files span many decades, and formed the basis for publications, speeches, and course lectures.
    Although there is little material relating to Davidson's administrative responsibilities within the Department of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, Davidson's teaching notes and coursework are relatively well-represented in the collection, especially materials relating to courses on Epistemology, the Theory of Meaning, and the Theory of Action.
    Finally, the collection includes a rich body of materials documenting Davidson's formative years, including his honors thesis and Ph.D. dissertation from Harvard, as well as personal journals and correspondence, including a rich collection of correspondence dating from Davidson's naval service during WWII. These materials, as well as autobiographical essays and a nineteen-part video interview series, together assist in providing a more complete record of Davidson's life and professional achievements.