Tarski’s Convention T: condition beta

South American Journal of Logic 1 (1) (forthcoming)
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Tarski’s Convention T—presenting his notion of adequate definition of truth (sic)—contains two conditions: alpha and beta. Alpha requires that all instances of a certain T Schema be provable. Beta requires in effect the provability of ‘every truth is a sentence’. Beta formally recognizes the fact, repeatedly emphasized by Tarski, that sentences (devoid of free variable occurrences)—as opposed to pre-sentences (having free occurrences of variables)—exhaust the range of significance of is true. In Tarski’s preferred usage, it is part of the meaning of true that attribution of being true to a given thing presupposes the thing is a sentence. Beta’s importance is further highlighted by the fact that alpha can be satisfied using the recursively definable concept of being satisfied by every infinite sequence, which Tarski explicitly rejects. Moreover, in Definition 23, the famous truth-definition, Tarski supplements “being satisfied by every infinite sequence” by adding the condition “being a sentence”. Even where truth is undefinable and treated by Tarski axiomatically, he adds as an explicit axiom a sentence to the effect that every truth is a sentence. Surprisingly, the sentence just before the presentation of Convention T seems to imply that alpha alone might be sufficient. Even more surprising is the sentence just after Convention T saying beta “is not essential”. Why include a condition if it is not essential? Tarski says nothing about this dissonance. Considering the broader context, the Polish original, the German translation from which the English was derived, and other sources, we attempt to determine what Tarski might have intended by the two troubling sentences which, as they stand, are contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of several other passages in Tarski’s corpus.

Author's Profile

John Corcoran
PhD: Johns Hopkins University; Last affiliation: University at Buffalo


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