A Correspondence Theory of Truth

Dissertation, Brown University (2002)
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The aim of this dissertation is to offer and defend a correspondence theory of truth. I begin by critically examining the coherence, pragmatic, simple, redundancy, disquotational, minimal, and prosentential theories of truth. Special attention is paid to several versions of disquotationalism, whose plausibility has led to its fairly constant support since the pioneering work of Alfred Tarski, through that by W. V. Quine, and recently in the work of Paul Horwich. I argue that none of these theories meets the correspondence intuition---that a true sentence or proposition in some way corresponds to reality---despite the explicit claims by each to capture this intuition. I distinguish six versions of the correspondence theory, and defend two against traditional objections, standardly taken as decisive against them, and show, plainly, that these two theories capture the correspondence intuition. Due to the importance of meeting this intuition, only these two theories stands a chance of being a satisfactory theory of truth. I argue that the version of the correspondence theory incorporating a simple semantic representation relation is preferable to its rival, for which the representation relation is complex. I present and argue for a novel version of this correspondence theory according to which truth is a correspondence property sensitive to semantic context. One consequence of this context-sensitivity is that an ungrounded sentence does not express a proposition. In addition to accounting for the similarity between the Liar and Truth-Teller sentences, this theory of truth is immune to the Liar Paradox, including empirical versions. It is argued that the Liar Paradox is devastating to all of the other theories above, and even formal theories of truth designed to solve it, such as the revision and vagueness theories. Customized versions of the Liar Paradox besetting this theory are handled by its context-sensitivity, and by enforcing the distinction between truth and truth value. This same pair of considerations also yields solutions to Lob's Paradox and Grelling's Paradox. Arguments similar to those given to defend this correspondence theory show that with one minor alteration, Kripke's fixed point theory may be used to model this correspondence notion of truth

Author's Profile

Jay Newhard
East Carolina University


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