Truth, correspondence, models, and Tarski

In Sami Pihlström, Panu Raatikainen & Matti Sintonen (eds.), Approaching truth: essays in honour of Ilkka Niiniluoto. London: College Publications. pp. 99-112 (2007)
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In the early 20th century, scepticism was common among philosophers about the very meaningfulness of the notion of truth – and of the related notions of denotation, definition etc. (i.e., what Tarski called semantical concepts). Awareness was growing of the various logical paradoxes and anomalies arising from these concepts. In addition, more philosophical reasons were being given for this aversion.1 The atmosphere changed dramatically with Alfred Tarski’s path-breaking contribution. What Tarski did was to show that, assuming that the syntax of the object language is specified exactly enough, and that the metatheory has a certain amount of set theoretic power,2 one can explicitly define truth in the object language. And what can be explicitly defined can be eliminated. It follows that the defined concept cannot give rise to any inconsistencies (that is, paradoxes). This gave new respectability to the concept of truth and related notions. Nevertheless, philosophers’ judgements on the nature and philosophical relevance of Tarski’s work have varied. It is my aim here to review and evaluate some threads in this debate.

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Panu Raatikainen
Tampere University


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