Truth: explanation, success, and coincidence

Philosophical Studies 175 (5):1243-1265 (2018)
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Inflationists have argued that truth is a causal-explanatory property on the grounds that true belief facilitates practical success: we must postulate truth to explain the practical success of certain actions performed by rational agents. Deflationists, however, have a seductive response. Rather than deny that true belief facilitates practical success, the deflationist maintains that the sole role for truth here is as a device for generalisation. In particular, each individual instance of practical success can be explained only by reference to a relevant instance of a T-schema; the role of truth is just to generalise over these individualised explanations. I present a critical problem for this strategy. Analogues of the deflationist’s individualised explanations can be produced by way of explanation of coincidental instances of practical success where the agent merely has the right false beliefs. By deflationary lights, there is no substantive explanatory difference between such coincidental and non-coincidental instances of practical success. But the non-/coincidental distinction just is an explanatory distinction. The deflationist’s individualised explanations of non-coincidental instances of practical success must therefore be inadequate. However, I argue that the deflationist’s prospects for establishing an explanatory contrast between these cases by supplementing her individualised explanations are, at best, bleak. The inflationist, by contrast, is entitled to the obvious further explanatory premise needed to make sense of the distinction. As such, pending some future deflationary rejoinder, the deflationary construal of the principle that true belief facilitates practical success must be rejected; and with it the deflationary conception of truth.

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Will Gamester
University of Leeds

Citations of this work

Nothing Is True.Will Gamester - 2023 - Journal of Philosophy 120 (6):314-338.
Deflationism about Truth.Bradley Armour-Garb, Daniel Stoljar & James Woodbridge - 2021 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Knowledge-yielding communication.Andrew Peet - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (12):3303-3327.

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References found in this work

Truth and objectivity.Crispin Wright - 1992 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Truth and Objectivity.Crispin Wright - 1992 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Truth.Paul Horwich - 1990 - Oxford, GB: Clarendon Press. Edited by Frank Jackson & Michael Smith.
Truth.Paul Horwich - 1999 - In Meaning. Oxford University Press. pp. 261-272.
Tarski's Theory of Truth.Hartry Field - 1972 - Journal of Philosophy 69 (13):347.

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