Deflationism: A Use-Theoretic Analysis of the Truth-Predicate

Dissertation, Stockholm University (2006)
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I here develop a specific version of the deflationary theory of truth. I adopt a terminology on which deflationism holds that an exhaustive account of truth is given by the equivalence between truth-ascriptions and de-nominalised (or disquoted) sentences. An adequate truth-theory, it is argued, must be finite, non-circular, and give a unified account of all occurrences of “true”. I also argue that it must descriptively capture the ordinary meaning of “true”, which is plausibly taken to be unambiguous. Ch. 2 is a critical historical survey of deflationary theories, where notably disquotationalism is found untenable as a descriptive theory of “true”. In Ch. 3, I aim to show that deflationism cannot be finitely and non-circularly formulated by using “true”, and so must only mention it. Hence, it must be a theory specifically about the word “true” (and its foreign counterparts). To capture the ordinary notion, the theory must thus be an empirical, use-theoretic, semantic account of “true”. The task of explaining facts about truth now becomes that of showing that various sentences containing “true” are (unconditionally) assertible. In Ch. 4, I defend the claim (D) that every sentence of the form “That p is true” and the corresponding “p” are intersubstitutable (in a use-theoretic sense), and show how this claim provides a unified and simple account of a wide variety of occurrences of “true”. Disquotationalism then only has the advantage of avoiding propositions. But in Ch. 5, I note that (D) is not committed to propositions. Use-theoretic semantics is then argued to serve nominalism better than truth-theoretic ditto. In particular, it can avoid propositions while sustaining a natural syntactic treatment of “that”-clauses as singular terms and of “Everything he says is true”, as any other quantification. Finally, Horwich’s problem of deriving universal truth-claims is given a solution by recourse to an assertibilist semantics of the universal quantifier.

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Arvid Båve
University of Lisbon


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