Realists without a Cause: Deflationary Theories of Truth and Ethical Realism

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 26 (4):561 - 589 (1996)
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In ‘The Status of Content,’ Paul Boghossian points out an embarrassment in which A.J. Ayer finds himself in his extensive irrealism. Ayer embraces both an emotivist theory of ethics and a deflationary theory of truth. According to an emotivist theory, sentences that look like perfectly good declarative sentences, such as ‘One ought not to kill,’ should be interpreted as non-declarative sentences. According to a deflationary theory of truth, ‘truth’ is not a predicate of sentences, and sentences of the form ‘“p” is true’ are equivalent to sentences of the form ‘p.’ Boghossian argues that emotivism and deflationism turn out to be incompatible.Boghossian's criticism should not be presented before we ask this question: What motivates Ayer's subversion of surface grammar? A typical motivation to provide an analysis of a certain region of discourse is to find a way in which patterns of inference and compositionality could be more perspicuously presented.



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Sergio Tenenbaum
University of Toronto, Mississauga

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