Tarski's definition and truth-makers

Annals of Pure and Applied Logic 126 (1-3):57-76 (2004)
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A hallmark of correspondence theories of truth is the principle that sentences are made true by some truth-makers. A well-known objection to treating Tarski’s definition of truth as a correspondence theory has been put forward by Donald Davidson. He argued that Tarski’s approach does not relate sentences to any entities (like facts) to which true sentences might correspond. From the historical viewpoint, it is interesting to observe that Tarski’s philosophical teacher Tadeusz Kotarbinski advocated an ontological doctrine of reism which accepted only concrete individuals and rejected all such abstract entities as facts, states of affairs, properties, and sets. Kotarbinski’s physicalism influenced Tarski who also avoided concepts like “fact” and “property” in his theory of truth, but—unlike Kotarbinski—he used freely set-theoretical terminology. In his mature work in model theory in the 1950s, Tarski used systematically the notion of a relational system (i.e., a domain of objects with designated elements, subsets, and relations). Wilfrid Hodges has argued that the notions of “structure” and “truth in a structure” appeared in Tarski’s work only in 1950. In my view, one can find the main ingredients of the model-theoretic account of truth already in the 1930s. These considerations suggest, against Davidson, that Tarski’s definition presupposes that material truth is always related to some kind of truth-maker. Further, facts as truth-makers can be reconstructed by employing the resources of model theory.



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Author's Profile

Ilkka Niiniluoto
University of Helsinki

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The structure and content of truth.Donald Davidson - 1990 - Journal of Philosophy 87 (6):279-328.
The elements of being.Donald Cary Williams - 1953 - Review of Metaphysics 7 (2):3-18, 171-92.

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