Marian David defends the correspondence theory of truth against the disquotational theory of truth, its current major rival. The correspondence theory asserts that truth is a philosophically rich and profound notion in need of serious explanation. Disquotationalists offer a radically deflationary account inspired by Tarski and propagated by Quine and others. They reject the correspondence theory, insist truth is anemic, and advance an "anti-theory" of truth that is essentially a collection of platitudes: "Snow is white" is true if and only (...) if snow is white; "Grass is green" is true if and only if grass is green. According to disquotationalists the only profound insight about truth is that it lacks profundity. David contrasts the correspondence theory with disquotationalism and then develops the latter position in rich detail--more than has been available in previous literature--to show its faults. He demonstrates that disquotationalism is not a tenable theory of truth, as it has too many absurd consequences. (shrink)
Quine’s paper “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” is famous for its attack on analyticity and the analytic/synthetic distinction. But there is an element of Quine’s attack that should strike one as extremely puzzling, namely his objection to Carnap’s account of analyticity. For it appears that, if this objection works, it will not only do away with analyticity, it will also do away with other semantic notions, notions that (or so one would have thought) Quine does not want to do away with, (...) in particular, it will also do away with truth. I shall argue that there is, indeed, no way for Quine to protect truth against the type of argument he himself advanced in “Two Dogmas” against Carnap’s notion of analyticity. If he wants to keep his argument, Quine has to discard truth along with analyticity. At the end of the paper I suggest an interpretation of Quine on which he can be seen as having done just that. (shrink)
Contra Lewis, it is argued that the correspondence theory is a genuine rival theory of truth: it goes beyond the redundancy theory; it competes with other theories of truth; it is aptly summarized by the slogan 'truth is correspondence to fact'; and it really is a theory of truth.
As to the preference which most people—as long as they are not annoyed by instances—feel in favor of true propositions, this must be based, apparently, upon an ultimate ethical proposition: ‘It is good to believe true propositions, and bad to believe false ones’. This proposition, it is to be hoped, is true; but if it is not, there is no reason to think that we do ill in believing it. Bertrand Russell, “Meinong’s Theory of Complexes and Assumptions” (1904).
This paper is concerned with a popular view about the nature of propositions, commonly known as the Russellian view of propositions. Alvin Plantinga has dubbed it, or more precisely, a crucial consequence of it, Existentialism, and in his paper “On Existentialism” (1983) he has presented a forceful argument intended as a reductio of this view. In what follows, I describe the main relevant ingredients of the Russellian view of propositions and states of affairs. I present a relatively simple response Russellians (...) might want to make to Plantinga’s anti-existentialist argument. I then explore one aspect of this response—one that leads to some rather curious consequences for the Russellian view of propositions and states of affairs. (shrink)
Narrowly speaking, the correspondence theory of truth is the view that truth is correspondence to a fact -- a view that was advocated by Russell and Moore early in the 20 th century. But the label is usually applied much more broadly to any view explicitly embracing the idea that truth consists in a relation to reality, i.e., that truth is a relational property involving a characteristic relation (to be specified) to some portion of reality (to be specified). During the (...) last 2300 years this basic idea has been expressed in many ways, resulting in a rather extended family of views, theories, and theory sketches. The members of the family employ various concepts for the relevant relation (correspondence, conformity, congruence, agreement, accordance, copying, picturing, signification, representation, reference, satisfaction) and/or various concepts for the relevant portion of reality (facts, states of affairs, situations, events, objects, sequences of objects, sets, properties, tropes). The resulting multiplicity of versions and reformulations of the theory is due to a blend of substantive and terminological differences. (shrink)
In the present paper I shall argue that the real problem here is the very idea that there is a dilemma that compels us to choose sides. We can hold both that the meditator's doubts are fully serious, and that they leave the perspective of common sense largely unscathed. The key to dissolving the dilemma is to see that the meditator observes a distinction between two levels of epistemic standards: the very demanding standards appropriate to certainty, understood in a rather (...) technical sense of that term; and the commonplace standards appropriate to reasonable belief. The significance of this levels distinction has not been widely appreciated but it has important consequences both for how we are to understand the skepticism about the senses that is at issue and for appreciating the extent to which Descartes acknowledges and retains our natural trust in the senses. I aim to show that the meditator’s skepticIsm about the senses specifically concerns the possibility of sensory certainties, and is quite serious. It is intended to lead one to a stable change of mind about what is most certain. But a skepticIsm about sense-based certainty leaves the matter of whether experience provides a reliable basis for belief untouched by reasonable doubt. Since the meditator's doubts presuppose very demanding standards they have no bearing on our assessments from within the common sense perspective. I defend this view by arguing that the methodological 'withdrawal of assent' from perceptual beliefs is a mere pretense that is compatible with continued endorsement. Despite the seriousness with which the method of doubt is pursued, there is an important sense in which the meditator never doubts the basic deliverances of his senses. This helps explain the practical insulation of perceptual beliefs from skepticism. With one minor qualification, the meditator retains his natural trust in the senses throughout - although Descartes’ rhetoric sometimes suggests otherwise. Note that I shall be exploring the skepticism about the senses as we find it in the First Meditation. This paper does not purport to discuss all of the skeptical doubts of the First Meditation, e.g., skepticism about mathematical truths, God's existence and reason. Instead I shall focus solely upon the ways in which the meditator's doubts bear on his perceptual beliefs. The rationale for this restriction is twofold: 1) in the first place Descartes describes the general aim of the skeptical doubts of the First Meditation m terms of 'freeing us from our preconceived opinions, and providing the easiest route by which the mind may be led away from the senses’. I am specifically concerned to qualify this ambition and argue that Descartes retains throughout his preconceived trust in the reliability of the senses; and 2) the Meditations has long been thought to provide the grounds for a radical form of external world skepticism which not only denies us knowledge of, but also any reason to believe in, the existence of an external world. My discussion of Descartes' perceptual doubts is intended to show just how distant any such skepticism is from Descartes' own thoughts and intentions. (shrink)
Minimalism, Paul Horwich’s deflationary conception of truth, has recently received a makeover in form of the second edition of Horwich’s highly stimulating book Truth1. I wish to use this occasion to explore a thesis vital to Minimalism: that the minimal theory of truth provides an adequate explanation of the facts about truth. I will indicate why the thesis is vital to Minimalism. Then I will argue that it can be saved from objections only by tampering with the standards of adequate (...) explanation —a move that deprives it from giving support to Minimalism. At the heart of Minimalism lies a theory of truth for propositions. It is called the minimal theory, or MT for short. It consists of a collection of axioms. Each axiom is a proposition of the form.. (shrink)
In some recent articles, Jaegwon Kim has argued that non-reductive physicalism is a myth: when it comes to the mind-body problem, the only serious options are reductionism, eliminativism, and dualism. And when it comes to reductionism, Kim is inclined to regard a functionalist theory of the mind as the best available option—mostly because it offers the best explanation of mind-body supervenience. In this paper, I will discuss Kim’s views about functionalism. They may be contended on two general grounds. First, some (...) functionalists will object to being classified as reductionists. Second, Kim argues for a version (or a reading) of functionalism, conceptualized functionalism, that makes it rather similar to the “old” mind-body identity theory it was designed to replace. Moreover, Kim’s conceptualized functionalism turns out to be a somewhat surprising brand of reductionism—a reductionism with some eliminativist cut-outs and, possibly, some dualist leftovers. At the end of the paper I propose a construal of the more standard version of functionalism that obviates Kim’s argument for switching-over to his conceptualized version. (shrink)
I want to discuss, in some detail, a short section from Quine’s Philosophy of Logic. It runs from pages 10 to 13 of the second, revised edition of the book and carries the subheading ‘Truth and semantic ascent’.1 In these two and a half pages, Quine presents his well-known account of truth as a device of disquotation, employing what I call Quine’s Ladder. The section merits scrutiny, for it has become the central document for contemporary deflationary views about truth.
The paper offers some preliminary and rather unsystematic reflections about the question: Do Beliefs Have Their Contents Essentially? The question looks like it ought to be important, yet it is rarely discussed. Maybe thatâs because content essentialism, i.e., the view that beliefs do have their contents essentially, is simply too obviously and trivially true to deserve much discussion. I sketch a common-sense argument that might be taken to show that content essentialism is indeed utterly obvious and/or trivial. Somewhat against this, (...) I then point out that a sexy conclusion that is sometimes drawn from Putnam-Burge-style externalist arguments, namely that our mental states are not in our heads, presupposes content essentialism â which suggests that the view is not entirely trivial. Moreover, it seems intuitively that physicalists should reject the view: If beliefs are physical states, how could they have their propositional contents essentially? I distinguish three readings of the title question. Content essentialism does seem fairly obvious on the first two, but not so on the third. I argue that the common-sense argument mentioned earlier presupposes one of the first two readings but fails to apply to the third, on which âbeliefâ refers to belief-state tokens. Thatâs because ordinary belief individuation is silent about belief-state tokens. Token physicalists, I suggest, should indeed reject content essentialism about belief-state tokens. What about token dualists? One might think they ought to embrace content essentialism about belief-state tokens. I end with puzzling why this should be so. (shrink)
In Reason, Truth, and History Hilary Putnam has presented an anti-skeptical argument purporting to prove that we are not brains in a vat. How exactly the argument goes is somewhat controversial. A number of competing "recon¬structions" have been proposed. They suffer from a defect which they share with what seems to be Putnam's own version of the argument. In this paper, I examine a very simple and rather natural reconstruction of the argument, one that does not employ any premises in (...) which a sentence, viz. the sentence 'I am a brain in a vat', is mentioned rather than used. In this respect my version of the argument is importantly different from what appears to be Putnam's own version. (shrink)
The T-biconditionals, also known as T-sentences or T-equivalences, play a very prominent role in contemporary work on truth. It is widely held that they are so central to our understanding of truth that conformance with them is indispensable to any account of truth that aspires to be adequate. Even “deflationists” and “inflationists” tend to agree on this point; their debate turns largely on just how central a role these biconditionals can play in a theory of truth. In the present paper, (...) I want to bracket this debate about their “theoretical role” and focus on the T- biconditionals themselves. They are typically presented as entirely unproblematic, as models of simplicity, clarity, and obviousness. I confess that I find them rather more puzzling than that. The main purpose of the paper is to reflect on some of these biconditionals and to survey and explore some doubts one might have about their virtues. (shrink)
Roderick Chisholm appears to agree with Kant on the question of the existence of synthetic a priori knowledge. But Chisholm’s conception of the a priori is a traditional Aristotelian conception and differs markedly from Kant’s. Closer scrutiny reveals that their agreement on the question of the synthetic a priori is merely verbal: what Kant meant to affirm, Chisholm denies. Curiously, it looks as if Chisholm agreed on all substantive issues with the empiricist rejection of Kant’s synthetic a priori. In the (...) end, it turns out that Chisholm disagrees with both, empiricism and Kant, over a fundamental question: whether mere understanding of the contents of our thoughts must always remain within the circle of our own ideas or can provide us with genuine knowledge of matters of fact. (shrink)
Our tmst in our own trustworthiness as evaluators of tmth plays a uniquely important role in Lehrer's recent work in epistemology. Lehrer has claimed that a person who trusts in her own trustworthiness has a reason for accepting everything she accepts, including that she is trustworthy. This claim is too bold, trust in our trustworthiness cannot play the epistemic role Lehrer assigns to it. Neither does a suitably revised version of the claim succeed in assigning any important epistemic role to (...) our own trustworthiness as evaluators of truth. (shrink)
The paper offers some preliminary and rather unsystematic reflections about the question: Do Beliefs Have Their Contents Essentially? The question looks like it ought to be important, yet it is rarely discussed. Maybe that’s because content essentialism, i.e., the view that beliefs do have their contents essentially, is simply too obviously and trivially true to deserve much discussion. I sketch a common-sense argument that might be taken to show that content essentialism is indeed utterly obvious and/or trivial. Somewhat against this, (...) I then point out that a “sexy” conclusion that is sometimes drawn from Putnam-Burge-style externalist arguments, namely that our mental states are not in our heads, presupposes content essentialism — which suggests that the view is not entirely trivial. Moreover, it seems intuitively that physicalists should reject the view: If beliefs are physical states, how could they have their propositional contents essentially? I distinguish three readings of the title question. Content essentialism does seem fairly obvious on the first two, but not so on the third. I argue that the common-sense argument mentioned earlier presupposes one of the first two readings but fails to apply to the third, on which ‘belief’ refers to belief-state tokens. That’s because ordinary belief individuation is silent about belief-state tokens. Token physicalists, I suggest, should indeed reject content essentialism about belief-state tokens. What about token dualists? One might think they ought to embrace content essentialism about belief-state tokens. I end with puzzling why this should be so. (shrink)
The paper explores Lehrer's notions of trustworthiness and acceptance and the interplay between them; it adopts a historical approach, looking at how Lehrer's views on these topics have evolved over the years.
According to a classical correspondence theory of truth, a proposition is true iff it corresponds to a fact. The approach has its competitors. One of them, the identity theory of truth, pushes for a surprising simplification. It says that true propositions do not correspond to facts, they are facts. Some find this view too bizarre to be taken seriously. Some are attracted to it because they worry that the correspondence theory opens a gap between our thoughts and reality--a gap that, (...) once opened, will turn out to be unbridgeable, thus making it impossible for our thoughts to come into contact with reality and for us to attain knowledge. They think the identity theory will avoid these nasty consequences because it does not open the gap to begin with. The no-gap theme will play a role in the background of the present paper. It will surface at times. But the paper is more concerned with a different theme, the collapse-charge. Opponents of the correspondence theory sometimes charge that the theory is unstable, that it must collapse into the identity theory, because there is not enough play between true propositions and facts to leave room for a genuine relation to hold between them. Those who regard the identity theory as absurd might see this a reductio of the correspondence theory. Others might see it as an argument for the identity theory. After some exploration of the identity theory, I will present one form of the collapse-charge, then I will discuss what a correspondence theorist has to offer by way of a response. (shrink)