Tarski, Frege and the Liar Paradox

Philosophy 46 (176):133- (1971)
A.1. Some philosophers, including Tarski and Russell, have concluded from a study of various versions of the Liar Paradox ‘that there must be a hierarchy of languages, and that the words “true” and “false”, as applied to statements in any given language, are themselves words belonging to a language of higher order’. In his famous essay on truth Tarski claimed that ‘colloquial’ language is inconsistent as a result of its property of ‘universality’: that is, whatever can be said at all can in principle be said in it, with an extended vocabularly if necessary. Thus, in English we can talk about English expressions, what they denote, what they say, whether what they say is true or false, and so on: English contains its own metalanguage. This universality enables us to construct sentences which say of themselves that they are false, and by applying the law of excluded middle to them we easily derive a contradiction. Tarski concludes that ‘these antinomies seem to provide a proof that every language which is universal in the above sense, and for which the normal laws of logic hold, must be inconsistent’ . He then proposes to avoid such contradictions by the use of a hierarchy of languages such that statements about any one language can be made only in a different language at a higher level
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DOI 10.1017/S0031819100017186
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