The Slingshot Argument, Gödel's Hesitation and Tarskian Semantics

Prolegomena 8 (1):233-241 (2009)
The slingshot argument is a reductio purporting to show that if there are facts at all there is only one to which all true statements correspond. If facts are not non-trivially individuable then this presumably must render the notion of fact and, by implication, theories such as the correspondence theory of truth incoherent. Church and Davidson (among others) deployed the slingshot in exoneration of the Fregean conclusion that there is a uni-referent – the ‘True’ – for all true statements. The slingshot relies crucially on treating definite descriptions as singular, referring terms, a treatment that is rendered unnecessary on Russell’s theory of descriptions. If this is so, friends of facts such as Russell can rest content. I, however, argue against the thesis that Russell’s theory so succeeds and develop what Gödel could have meant when, in thinking about this application of Russellian semantics, was prompted to write: “I cannot help feeling that the problem raised by Frege’s puzzling conclusion has only been evaded by Russell’s theory of descriptions and that there is something behind it which is not yet completely understood.” (1944: 215). I conclude by suggesting that the coarse-grained, folk theory of facts to which the slingshot objection incontestably applies is in need of being fine-grained into a scientifically more sophisticated theory, and that such an account is to be found in a Tarskian definition of truth which, moreover, also succeeds in placing the correspondence theory of truth on a secure and satisfactory footing
Keywords Gödel  Russell  slingshot argument  Tarski  truth
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