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The central question which these essays address is what it is for words to mean what they do. The author, Donald Davidson, argues that a philosophically instructive theory of meaning should acknowledge the holistic nature of linguistic understanding, in that it should provide an interpretation of all utterances, actual and potential, of a speaker or group of speakers; and that it should not rely upon the concepts it attempts to explain, in that it should be verifiable independently of knowledge of the detailed propositional attitudes of the speaker. Among the topics covered in the essays are the relation between theories of truth and theories of meaning, translation, quotation, belief, radical interpretation, reference, metaphor, and communication.
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