Truth & Transcendence: Turning the Tables on the Liar Paradox

In Bradley Armour-Garb (ed.), Reflections on the Liar. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 281-306 (2017)
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Confronting the Liar Paradox is commonly viewed as a prerequisite for developing a theory of truth. In this paper I turn the tables on this traditional conception of the relation between the two. The theorist of truth need not constrain his search for a “material” theory of truth, i.e., a theory of the philosophical nature of truth, by committing himself to one solution or another to the Liar Paradox. If he focuses on the nature of truth (leaving issues of formal consistency for a later stage), he can arrive at material principles that prevent the Liar Paradox from arising in the first place. I argue for this point both on general methodological grounds and by example. The example is based on a substantivist theory of truth that emphasizes the role of truth in human cognition. The key point is that truth requires a certain complementarity of “immanence” and “transcendence”, and this means that some hierarchical structure is inherent in truth. Approaching the Liar Paradox from this perspective throws new light on its existent solutions: their differences and commonalities, their purported ad-hocness, and the relevance of natural language and bivalence to truth and the Liar.
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