The truth-condition theory of meaning is, naturally, thought of an as explanatory theory whose explananda are the meaning facts. But there are at least two deductive arguments that purport to establish the truth of the theory irrespective of its explanatory virtues. This paper examines those arguments and concludes that they succeed.
In “The Myth of Factive Verbs” (Hazlett 2010), I had four closely related goals. The first (pp. 497-99, p. 522) was to criticize appeals to ordinary language in epistemology. The second (p. 499) was to criticize the argument that truth is a necessary condition on knowledge because “knows” is factive. The third (pp. 507-19) – which was the intended means of achieving the first two – was to defend a semantics for “knows” on which <S knows p> can (...) be true even if p isn’t true. The fourth (Ibid.) – which seemed necessary for the success of the third – was to defend a pragmatic account of the fact that utterances of <S knows p> typically imply p, on which the implication in those cases is down to conversational implicature. In this paper I’ll go after these goals again, with an emphasis on the second. Our topic will be whether the factivity of “knows” (whatever this amounts to) supports the truthcondition on knowledge. A new goal will be to defend my argument against some criticisms from John Turri (2011) and Savas Tsohatzidis (forthcoming). We’ll first look at the truthcondition (§1) and factive presupposition (§§2 – 3), before turning to replies to Turri and Tsohatzidis (§§4 – 7). (shrink)
1.Competition between philosophical theories of linguistic meaning is sometimes specious. For example, suppose Ned believes that an utterance’s meaning is its truth-condition, while Ted insists that the utterance’s meaning is constituted by the speaker’s communicative intentions à la Grice.Here one wants to distinguish explananda:What Ned is after is really the utterance’s (“timeless”) sentence-meaning; Ted is focusing on speaker-meaning, which is not the same, and the two theories are perfectly compatible, indeed mutually complementary, accounts of distinct phenomena.
This paper motivates and develops what I call a condition semantics for moral terms. According to condition semantics, moral sentences conventionally distinguish among moral standards (or test whether a moral standard meets a certain condition) just as ordinary factual sentences conventionally distinguish among possible worlds (or test whether a possible world meets a certain condition). This point is captured formally within an extension of the familiar truth-conditional paradigm. The resulting analysis improves upon its main competitors: (...) invariantism and contextualism. The framework of condition semantics also offers a perspicuous way of posing various classical ethical and metaethical questions—e.g., concerning relativism, expressivism, and judgment internalism. This can motivate clearer, better motivated answers and suggest new ways the dialectic may proceed. (shrink)
It is almost universally presumed that knowledge is factive: in order to know that p it must be the case that p is true. This idea is often justified by appealing to knowledge ascriptions and related linguistic phenomena; i.e., an utterance of the form ‘S knows that p, but not-p’ sounds contradictory. In a recent article, Allan Hazlett argues that our ordinary concept of knowledge is not factive. From this it seems to follow that epistemologists cannot appeal to ordinary language (...) to justify the truthcondition of knowledge. More significantly, Hazlett claims that epistemologists theorizing about knowledge should not concern themselves with the ordinary concept of knowledge as revealed by knowledge ascriptions and related linguistic phenomena. My paper has two goals: first, to defend the orthodox view that the ordinary concept of knowledge is factive; second, to undermine Hazlett’s claim that epistemologists should not theorize about knowledge on the basis of how ‘knows’ is used in everyday speech. (shrink)
Playing with Truth is the first comprehensive work on Pascal to be devoted to his use in the Pens'ees of key terms depicting its central subject--the human condition. Generally acknowledged as one of the greatest masterpieces of seventeenth-century France, the Pens'ees is an unfinished work which has both inspired and perplexed readers in succeeding centuries. In this study Nicholas Hammond explores such fundamental notions as language and order, proceeding with a detailed analysis of the words inconstance, ennui, inqui'etude, (...) bonheur, f'elicit'e, and justice. In the process, he gives an in-depth account of many important critical controversies of the day, as well as offering a novel and provocative insight into the persuasive purpose of the Pens'ees. (shrink)
On a classical conception, knowing the sense of a proposition is knowing its truth-condition, rather than simply knowing how to verify the proposition, or how to find its implications (whether deductive implications or implications for action). But knowing the truth-condition of a proposition is not unrelated to your use of particular methods for verifying the proposition, or finding its implications. Rather, your knowledge of the truth-condition of the proposition has to justify the use of (...) particular methods for verifying it, or finding its implications. And your knowledge of the truth-condition of the proposition has to be what causes your use of particular methods for verifying it or finding its implications. So on a classical picture, we do not appeal to knowledge of sense only in explaining the informativeness of identities. We have to think of knowledge of sense as what causes, and justifies, your use of particular ways of verifying or finding the implications of a proposition. I argue that in the case of a perceptual demonstrative, like 'that star' or 'that mountain', it is conscious attention to the object that causes, and justifies, your use of particular ways of verifying or finding the implications of propositions involving the demonstrative. So conscious attention to the object is what constitutes your grasp of the sense of the demonstrative. This runs counter to the philosophical tradition since Locke, which takes it that the role of experience in understanding has to do solely with the verification of propositions. I argue that once we think of conscious attention as a pre-intentional acquaintance with the object itself, we can see how it is possible to think of understanding as consisting in knowledge of classical truth-conditions. (shrink)
This paper presents an account of the manner in which a proposition’s immediate structural features are related to its core truth-conditional features. The leading idea is that for a proposition to have a certain immediate structure is just for certain entities to play certain roles in the correct theory of the brute facts regarding that proposition’s truth conditions. The paper explains how this account addresses certain worries and questions recently raised by Jeffery King and Scott Soames.
Michael Dummett has advanced, very influentially, the view that Frege means truth conditions by his notion of thought (Gedanke). My aim in this paper is to argue that Dummett and others are mistaken in this claim. First, Frege's aversion of the correspondence theory of truth does not square well with Dummett's claim. Secondly, and more importantly, Grundgesetze I, §32, is the only place where Frege even appears to be talking about truth conditions in connection with his notion (...) of thought -- and even there, I shall show, he does not really identify thoughts with truth conditions, but states only the triviality that a statement such as, say, 'Leibniz is a philosopher' expresses the thought that Leibniz is a philosopher. (shrink)
This paper outlines a truth-conditional view of logical form, that is, a view according to which logical form is essentially a matter of truth-conditions. Section 1 provides some preliminary clariﬁcations. Section 2 shows that the main motivation for the view is the fact that fundamental logical relations such as entailment or contradiction can formally be explained only if truth-conditions are formally represented. Sections 3 and 4 articulate the view and dwell on its afﬁnity with a conception of (...) logical form that has been defended in the past. Sections 5-7 draw attention to its impact on three major issues that concern, respectively, the extension of the domain of formal explanation, the semantics of tensed discourse, and the analysis of quantiﬁcation.�. (shrink)
Two general approaches to the analysis of knowledge are distinguished: a liberal view that takes the truth of what is known as a condition independent of the justificatory condition, and a conservative view that regards the truth of what is known as implied by the level of justification required for knowledge. Chisholm is classified as a liberal on perceptual knowledge, and his analysis is criticized from a conservative standpoint.
Our aim in the present paper is to investigate, from the standpoint of truth-theoretic semantics, English tense, temporal designators and quantifiers, and other expressions we use to relate ourselves and other things to the temporal order. Truth-theoretic semantics provides a particularly illuminating standpoint from which to discuss issues about the semantics of tense, and their relation to thoughts at, and about, times. Tense, and temporal modifiers, contribute systematically to conditions under which sentences we utter are true or false. (...) A Tarski-style truth-theoretic semantics, by requiring explicitly represented truth conditions, helps to sharpen questions about the function of tense, and to deepen our insight into the contribution the tenses and temporal modifiers make to what we say by using them. (shrink)
In this paper I will be concerned with the question as to whether expressivist theories of meaning can coherently be combined with deflationist theories of truth. After outlining what I take expressivism to be and what I take deflationism about truth to be, I’ll explain why I don’t take the general version of this question to be very hard, and why the answer is ‘yes’. Having settled that, I’ll move on to what I take to be a more (...) pressing and interesting version of the question, arising from a prima facie tension between deflationism about truth and the motivations underlying expressivism for what I take to be two of its most promising applications: to indicative conditionals and epistemic modals. Here I’ll argue that the challenge is substantive, but that there is no conceptual obstacle to its being met, provided that one’s expressivism takes the right form. (shrink)
Critique of prevailing textbook conception of sufficient conditions and necessary conditions as a truth functional relation of material implication (p->q)/(~q->~p). Explanation of common sense conception of condition as correlative of consequence, involving dependence. Utility of this conception exhibited in resolving puzzles regarding ontology, truth, and fatalism.
Everyone agrees that the Enlightenment hasn’t succeeded—in that the critical rationality associated with modern natural science has not been extended to society at large (and may even have retreated from science itself). Should we be relieved or disappointed that the Enlightenment has failed? I am disappointed but not discouraged by what is called the postmodern condition. But to move forward, we cannot simply deny the presence of the condition, as if it were the collective hallucination of weak minds. (...) This is what Dennett does. I fear that he is in denial rather than disappointment. Only when we are clear about the ideals that we want to promote can we see our way through the postmodern condition. (shrink)
In rejecting the Principle of AlternatePossibilities (PAP), Harry Frankfurt makes useof a special sort of counterfactual of thefollowing form: ``he wouldn''t have doneotherwise even if he could have''''. Recently,other philosophers (e.g., Susan Hurley (1999,2003) and Michael Zimmerman (2002)) haveappealed to a special class of counterfactualsof this same general form in defending thecompatibility of determinism andresponsibility. In particular, they claim thatit can be true of agents that even if they aredetermined, and so cannot do otherwise, theywouldn''t have done otherwise even if (...) they couldhave. Using as a central case an argument ofSusan Hurley''s, I point out that thecounterfactuals in question are both``interlegal'''' and ``indeterministic'''', and I raisedoubts about whether this special class ofcounterfactuals have clear truth conditions. Finally I suggest that acknowledging thesepoints leads to an appreciation of the realstrength of Frankfurt-style examples. (shrink)
Over the last three decades, truth-condition theories have earned a central place in the study of linguistic meaning. But their honored position faces a threat from recent deflationism or minimalism about truth. It is thought that the appeal to truth-conditions in a theory of meaning is incompatible with deflationism about truth, and so the growing popularity of deflationism threatens truth-condition theories of meaning.
Some deflationists about truth maintain that such deflationism undercuts truth-condition theories of meaning. We offer a deductive argument designed to show that meaning must at least include truth-condition. Deflationist replies are considered and rebutted. We conclude that either deflationism is false or it is not, after all, incompatible with truth-condition theories of meaning.
In his 'Meaning and Truth-Conditions', Gary Kemp offers a reconstruction of Frege's infamous 'regress argument' which purports to rely only upon the premises that the meaning of a sentence is its truth-condition and that each sentence expresses a unique proposition. If cogent, the argument would show that only someone who accepts a form of semantic holism can use the notion of truth to explain that of meaning. I respond that Kemp relies heavily upon what he himself (...) styles 'a literal, rather wooden' understanding of truth-conditions. I explore alternatives, and say a few words about how Frege's regress argument might best be understood. (shrink)
The truth-conditional theory of sense holds that a theory of truth for a natural language can serve as a theory of sense: if knowledge of a theory of truth for a language L is sufficient for understanding utterance of L-sentences, the T-sentences of the theory 'show' the sense of the uttered object-language sentences. In this paper I aim to show that indexicals create a serious problem for this prima facie attractive theoretical option. The so-called 'instantiation problem' is (...) that a truth-theory for indexical languages needs to contain universal statements that show how the reference of indexicals depends on features of the utterance context. Now one can deduce from such statements T-sentences that do not show the sense of an indexical sentence on an occasion of use. I survey proposed solutions to the instantiation problem by Evans and Sainsbury and, unfortunately, find them all wanting. Perhaps there is nothing like the sense-giving truth-condition for an indexical sentence. (shrink)
Richard Heck has contested my argument that the equation of the meaning of a sentence with its truth-condition implies deflationism, on the ground that the argument does not go through if truth-conditions are understood, in Davidson's style, to be stated by T-sentences. My reply is that Davidsonian theories of meaning do not equate the meaning of a sentence with its truth-condition, and thus that Heck's point does not actually obstruct my argument.
The material interpretation of conditionals is commonly recognized as involving some paradoxical results. I here argue that the truth functional approach to natural language is the reason for the inadequacy of this material interpretation, since the truth or falsity of some pair of statements ‘p’ and ‘q’ cannot per se be decisive for the truth or falsity of a conditional relation ‘if p then q’. This inadequacy also affects the ability of the overall formal system to establish (...) whether or not arguments involving conditionals are valid. I also demonstrate that the Paradox of Indicative Conditionals does not actually involve a paradox, but instead contains some paralogistic elements that make it appear to be a paradox. The discussion of the paradox in this paper further reveals that the material interpretation of conditionals adversely affects the treatment of disjunctions. -/- Much has been said about these matters in the literature that point in the same direction. However, there seems to be some reluctance against fully complying with the arguments against the truth functional account of conditionals, since many of the alternative accounts rely on the material conditional, or at least on an understanding of the conditional as a function of antecedent and consequent in a similar sense as the material conditional. My argument against truth functionality indicates that it may in general involve similar problems to treat conditionals as such functions, whether one deals with theories of truth, assertability or probability. (shrink)
The determination argument is supposed to show that a sentence's meaning is at least a truth-condition. This argument is supposed to rest on innocent premises that even a deflationist about truth can accept. The argument comes in two versions: one is metaphysical and the other is epistemological. In this paper we will focus on the epistemological version. We will argue that the apparently innocent first premise of that version of the argument is not as innocent as it (...) seems. If the premise is understood in the sense required for the argument to go through then it should be rejected by a deflationist. (shrink)
This essay is a study of ontological commitment, focused on the special case of arithmetical discourse. It tries to get clear about what would be involved in a defense of the claim that arithmetical assertions are ontologically innocent and about why ontological innocence matters. The essay proceeds by questioning traditional assumptions about the connection between the objects that are used to specify the truth-conditions of a sentence, on the one hand, and the objects whose existence is required in order (...) for the truth-conditions thereby specified to be satisfied, on the other. This allows one to set forth an assignment of truth-conditions to arithmetical sentences whereby nothing is required of the world in order for the truth-conditions of a truth of pure arithmetic to be satisfied. The essay then argues that such an assignment can be used to account for the a priori knowability of certain arithmetical truths. (shrink)
According to orthodox semantics, to know the meaning of a sentence is to know its truth-conditions. Against this view I observe that we typically do not know the truth-conditions of the sentences we understand. We do not know the truth-conditions, for instance, of empty definite descriptions, non-declaratives, subjunctive conditionals, causal ascriptions, belief ascriptions, probability statements, figurative language, category mistakes, normative judgments, or vague statements. Appealing to tacit knowledge does not help, for the problem goes beyond our inability (...) to articulate complete truth-conditions: even full knowledge of the world’s condition would leave us unable to say whether an arbitrary sentence was true or false. (shrink)
In a finitary closure space, irreducible sets behave like two-valued models, with membership playing the role of satisfaction. If f is a function on such a space and the membership of in an irreducible set is determined by the presence or absence of the inputs in that set, then f is a kind of truth function. The existence of some of these truth functions is enough to guarantee that every irreducible set is maximally consistent. The closure space is (...) then said to be expressive. This paper identifies the two-valued truth functional conditions that guarantee expressiveness. (shrink)
Two meanings of "subjective consequentialism" are distinguished: conscious deliberation with the aim of producing maximally-good consequences, versus acting in ways that, given one's evidence set and reasoning capabilities, is subjectively most likely to maximize expected consequences. The latter is opposed to "objective consequentialism," which demands that we act in ways that actually produce the best total consequences. Peter Railton's arguments for a version of objective consequentialism confuse the two subjective forms, and are only effective against the first. After reviewing the (...) arguments of Eric Wiland and Frances Howard-Snyder against objective consequentialism, two of Railton's arguments which might seem to count against the second form of subjective consequentialism are shown to be ineffective. This leaves subjective consequentialism as a viable theory to replace objective consequentialism with. (shrink)
Two-dimensional semantics is a framework that helps us better understand some of the most fundamental issues in philosophy: those having to do with the relationship between the meaning of words, the way the world is, and our knowledge of the meaning of words. This selection of new essays by some of the world's leading authorities in this field sheds fresh light both on foundational issues regarding two-dimensional semantics and on its specific applications. Contributors: Richard Breheny, Alex Byrne, David Chalmers, Martin (...) Davies, Gareth Evans, Manuel Garcia-Carpintero, Josep Maci`, Martine Nida-Rumelin, Christopher Peacocke, James Pryor, Francois Recanati, Scott Soames, Cara Spencer, Robert Stalnaker, Kai-Yee Wong, Stephen Yablo. (shrink)
Recent philosophy of language has been profoundly impacted by the idea that mainstream, model-theoretic semantics is somehow incompatible with deflationary accounts of truth and reference. The present article systematizes the case for incompatibilism, debunks circularity and “modal confusion” arguments familiar in the literature, and reconstructs the popular thought that truth-conditional semantics somehow “presupposes” a correspondence theory of truth as an inference to the best explanation. The case for compatibilism is closed by showing that this IBE argument fails (...) to rule out two kinds of deflationism: the position Field famously accused Tarski of having; and a less familiar version of the view that defines reference in terms of a deflated notion of truth. Finally, the distinction between unifying and constitutive explanation is used to forestall the response that correspondence theory is literally part of mainstream semantics. (shrink)
This paper argues that a certain type of self-referential sentence falsifies the widespread assumption that a declarative sentence's meaning is identical to its truthcondition. It then argues that this problem cannot be assimilated to certain other problems that the assumption in question is independently known to face.
Controversy has arisen of late over the claim that deflationism about truth requires that we explain meaning in terms of something other than truth-conditions. This controversy, it is argued, is due to unclarity as to whether the basic deflationary claim that a sentence and a sentence that attributes truth to it are equivalent in meaning is intended to involve the truth-predicate of the object language for which we develop an account of meaning, or is intended to (...) involve the truth-predicate of the metalanguage in which we develop an account of meaning. The former view is compatible with the truth-conditional theory of meaning for the object language, the latter is incompatible with it. However, the former view is also trivially true; hence we should endorse the claim that any form of deflationism worth being interested in is incompatible with understanding meaning truth-conditionally. (shrink)
In this paper I consider two strategies for providing tenseless truth-conditions for tensed sentences: the token-reflexive theory and the date theory. Both theories have faced a number of objections by prominent A-theorists such as Quentin Smith and William Lane Craig. Traditionally, these two theories have been viewed as rival methods for providing truth-conditions for tensed sentences. I argue that the debate over whether the token-reflexive theory or the date theory is true has arisen from a failure to distinguish (...) between conditions for the truth of tensed tokens and conditions for the truth of propositions expressed by tensed tokens. I demonstrate that there is a true formulation of the token-reflexive theory that provides necessary and sufficient conditions for the truth of tensed tokens, and there is a true formulation of the date theory that provides necessary and sufficient conditions for the truth of propositions expressed by tensed tokens. I argue that once the views are properly formulated, the A-theorist’s objections fail to make their mark. However, I conclude by claiming that even though there is a true formulation of the token-reflexive theory and a true formulation of the date theory, the New B-theory nonetheless fails to provide a complete account of the truth and falsity of tensed sentences. (shrink)
The paper addresses itself to the "Homeric struggle" in the theory of meaning between those (e.g., Grice) who try to analyze declarative meaning in terms of an intention to induce a belief and those (e.g., Davidson) for who declarative meaning consists in truth conditions. (The point of departure is Strawson's celebrated discussion of this issue, in his Inaugural Lecture.) I argue that neither style of analysis is satisfactory, and develop a "hybrid" that may be-although what I take from the (...) Gricean side in the struggle is not the notion of an intention, but that of somebody's reason for speaking as he does. The paper applies the hybrid analysis to resolve certain problems connected with the rationale for compositional, truth-theoretic semantics. (shrink)
Introduction The mainstream view in philosophy of language is that sentence meaning determines truth-conditions. A corollary is that the truth or falsity of an utterance depends only on what words mean and how the world is arranged. Although several prominent philosophers (Searle, Travis, Recanati, Moravcsik) have challenged this view, it has proven hard to dislodge. The alternative view holds that meaning underdetermines truth-conditions. What is expressed by the utterance of a sentence in a context goes beyond what (...) is encoded in the sentence itself. Truth-conditional content depends on an indefinite number of unstated background assumptions, not all of which can be made explicit. A change in background assumptions can change truth-conditions, even bracketing disambiguation and reference assignment. That is, even after disambiguating any ambiguous words in a sentence and assigning semantic values to any indexical expressions in the sentence, truth-conditions may vary with variations in the background. (shrink)