Was Tarski's Theory of Truth Motivated by Physicalism?

History and Philosophy of Logic 25 (4):265-280 (2004)
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Abstract

Many commentators on Alfred Tarski have, following Hartry Field, claimed that Tarski's truth-definition was motivated by physicalism—the doctrine that all facts, including semantic facts, must be reducible to physical facts. I claim, instead, that Tarski did not aim to reduce semantic facts to physical ones. Thus, Field's criticism that Tarski's truth-definition fails to fulfill physicalist ambitions does not reveal Tarski to be inconsistent, since Tarski's goal is not to vindicate physicalism. I argue that Tarski's only published remarks that speak approvingly of physicalism were written in unusual circumstances: Tarski was likely attempting to appease an audience of physicalists that he viewed as hostile to his ideas. In later sections I develop positive accounts of: (1) Tarski's reduction of semantic concepts; (2) Tarski's motivation to develop formal semantics in the particular way he does; and (3) the role physicalism plays in Tarski's thought.

Author's Profile

Greg Frost-Arnold
Hobart and William Smith Colleges

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