On rules of inference and the meanings of logical constants

Analysis 68 (4):282-287 (2008)
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In the theory of meaning, it is common to contrast truth-conditional theories of meaning with theories which identify the meaning of an expression with its use. One rather exact version of the somewhat vague use-theoretic picture is the view that the standard rules of inference determine the meanings of logical constants. Often this idea also functions as a paradigm for more general use-theoretic approaches to meaning. In particular, the idea plays a key role in the anti-realist program of Dummett and his followers. In the theory of truth, a key distinction now is made between substantial theories and minimalist or deflationist views. According to the former, truth is a genuine substantial property of the truth-bearers, whereas according to the latter, truth does not have any deeper essence, but all that can be said about truth is contained in T-sentences (sentences having the form: ā€˜Pā€™ is true if and only if P). There is no necessary analytic connection between the above theories of meaning and truth, but they have nevertheless some connections. Realists often favour some kind of truth-conditional theory of meaning and a substantial theory of truth (in particular, the correspondence theory). Minimalists and deflationists on truth characteristically advocate the use theory of meaning (e.g. Horwich). Semantical anti-realism (e.g. Dummett, Prawitz) forms an interesting middle case: its starting point is the use theory of meaning, but it usually accepts a substantial view on truth, namely that truth is to be equated with verifiability or warranted assertability. When truth is so understood, it is also possible to accept the idea that meaning is closely related to truth-conditions, and hence the conflict between use theories and truth-conditional theories in a sense disappears in this view

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Panu Raatikainen
Tampere University


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