Minimal Inflationism: A Defense of the Truth-Conditional Theory of Meaning

Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh (2000)

This dissertation defends the truth-conditional theory of meaning and the inflationary theory of truth it requires by explaining how truth-conditions could play an explanatory role in the account of the proper use of a language while being nevertheless metaphysically "lightweight" properties of sentences instituted by the way these sentences are used by the speakers of a language. Following the common division of approaches to truth into deflationary and inflationary, the dissertation begins in Chapter One with a discussion of currently advocated deflationary theories. A general characterization of deflationism is developed that focuses on the deflationist's explanation of why certain attributions of truth-condition to the sentences of a language are assertible. This basic, meaning-theoretic deflationary commitment is distinguished from the metaphysically deflationary idea that truth is somehow not "robust" in the way that traditional inflationary theories take it to be. Chapter Two then argues that meaning-theoretic deflationism is best characterized by a less-noticed commitment to the claim that it is sufficient for adequacy in a theory of truth that it imply the attributions of truth-conditions discussed in Chapter One. In Chapter Three the relation of these basic deflationary commitments to the also common deflationary claim that meanings attributed with locutions like the English "means that", meanings that, in Hartry Field's phrase, "encapsulate truth-conditions" is considered, and it is argued that this latter view is actually not compatible with deflationism. ;Chapter Four examines the most prominent sorts of inflationary theory and finds them wanting. Chapter Five then discusses in a general way how a better inflationary theory could be developed; the central ideas are that truth-conditions play an explanatory role in the account of certain embedded uses of sentences, and that truth-conditions should be understood as instituted for sentences by the way that speakers use them. In Chapter Six the relevant sort of use is explained. The result is a view that is meaning-theoretically inflationary, in that truth-conditions play an explanatory role in the account of meaning, but metaphysically deflationary
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