Wooden Hut

Truth Without Borders Workshop

The Truth Without Borders Project offers a workshop to any academic staff or student who shares an interest in the nature and value of truth. This is a capstone event for the half-year long project funded by the University of Waikato's Division of Arts, Law, Psychology, and Social Sciences.

 

The workshop will take place on Zoom from 30 November to 3 December 2021. Details of time and date of scheduled keynote presentations appear below. A full schedule is available by clicking on the button or scrolling down the page. Any questions about the event should be directed to Jay Evans: jay.evans@waikato.ac.nz

notebook-g6bafcc31f_1920.jpg

Tuesday, 30 November 2021
4:00pm EST | 9:00pm GMT | 10:00pm CET
| 5:00am CST +1 | 6:00am JST +1 | 10:00am NZDT +1

Political Truth
Michael P. Lynch (University of Connecticut)

What, if anything, makes political judgments true or false? This is a question we must answer if we wish to grapple with the fake news and misinformation eating away at the foundations of democracy and rediscover truth as a democratic value. But it is also not a question that has a clear answer, in part because politics often seems to be a realm where truth plays a very limited role; as Arendt famously remarked, "no one has ever doubted that truth and politics are on bad terms with one another." In this talk I'll explore some of the difficulties we face in answering this question, and suggest a path forward. 

The Role of Truth in Philosophy: A Conceptual Engineering Approach
Jennifer Nado (University of Hong Kong)

battleship-g89fe50dac_1280.jpg

Wednesday, 1 December 2021
12:00am EST | 5:00am GMT | 6:00am CET
| 1:00pm CST | 2:00pm JST | 6:00pm NZDT

What is the role of truth in philosophical success? The standard picture of (analytic) philosophical methodology might suggest that we take epistemologists to be in the business of uncovering truths about knowledge, philosophers of mind in the business of discovering truths about the mind, and so forth. An alternative to the standard picture of philosophy as conceptual analysis, however, pictures philosophical activity as involving conceptual engineering. Rather than ask, for instance, whether a Gettier case is a case of knowledge, the conceptual engineer would ask whether it should be. I’ll argue that, on the popular ‘practical’ or ‘functional’ approach to conceptual engineering, the truth of a claim like ‘knowledge requires Gettier-proofing’ starts to look orthogonal to the actual goal of epistemology. Such a claim may well be true, but this truth might not bear on the engineer’s project of designing (or discovering) useful epistemic concepts; a Gettier-friendly successor concept might, after all, be better suited to the function or role our knowledge-concept performs. This, in turn, suggests a perspective somewhat in the spirit of Carnap’s distinction between ‘internal’ and ‘external’ questions, where the latter is only properly approachable via a non-cognitive, pragmatic decision between available conceptual or linguistic ‘frameworks’. In this talk I’ll pursue this Carnapian line of thought, while aiming to divorce it from Carnapian baggage regarding analyticity or verification. The ultimate question will be as follows: if some (suitably modified) notion of the distinction between internal and external questions really is implied by the practical approach to conceptual engineering, what is the resulting role for truth in philosophy?

writing-705667_1920.jpg

Concepts of Truth?
Jamin Asay (University of Hong Kong)

Wednesday, 1 December 2021
1:45am EST | 5:45am GMT | 7:45am CET
| 2:45pm CST | 3:45pm JST | 7:45pm NZDT

A familiar form of alethic pluralism develops the view that while there is a single concept of truth, there are multiple properties associated with it. A newer form of alethic pluralism develops the view that there are multiple concepts of truth. This form of pluralism has also been offered an empirical footing, notably in the work of Barnard and Ulatowski and Wyatt. My paper offers a critical appraisal of that project. First, I argue that there are severe challenges involved the very formulation of conceptual pluralism about truth: it risks being an incoherent thesis. Once those problems are addressed, I review the empirical data that have been associated with the thesis, and argue that the evidence points not toward a plurality of concepts but rather a plurality of theories and conceptions. Finally, I offer an alternative empirical approach to the study of truth by providing an analysis of how alethic language is deployed in children’s literature. This approach is observational rather than experimental, and looks to the most basic and fundamental uses of alethic language, rather than considering more theoretical contexts. I believe that such an approach is a more ecologically valid means for studying the concept of truth.

Intellectual Vices of Self-Evaluation
Alessandra Tanesini (Cardiff University)

In this talk I argue that a cluster of intellectual vices that oppose intellectual humility stem from attitudes that evaluate the self and its features for its worth using defective units of measurement. I show how these attitudes are the result of motivated cognition and examine the ways in which they promote behaviours which obstruct effective and responsible inquiry. These attitudes and the vices they generate are shown to distort self-trust, obstruct self-knowledge, and to cause harms to other agents and to the epistemic community as a whole.

instagram-4542275_1920.jpg

Friday, 3 December 2021
4:00am EST | 9:00am GMT | 10:00am CET
| 5:00pm CST | 6:00pm JST | 10:00pm NZDT

truth-3641636_1920.jpg

Lying, Bullshit, and Bullshitting: Why Truth Matters in Analysing Untruthful Discourse
Chris Heffer (Cardiff University)

Friday, 3 December 2021
5:45am EST | 10:45am GMT | 11:45am CET
| 6:45pm CST | 7:45pm JST | 11:45pm NZDT

From time immemorial, philosophy has been teasing out definitions of lying, and more recently of related phenomena such as misleading, withholding and bullshit, by discussing imagined examples. However, if we want to make judgements of untruthfulness in actual attested discourse, we hit the problem that untruthfulness involves often complex relations between language, mind and world. It is one thing to define lying as a ‘believed-false assertion’; quite another thing (as jurors know) to establish that a given speaker believed their assertion to be false. Similarly, one can define bullshit, after Frankfurt, as an indifference to the truth but how do we distinguish in practice between indifference and naïve sincerity? Such questions have, for the most part, been shunned by discourse analysts, who are averse to invoking either cognition or ground truth. But, accordingly, we lack the tools for analyzing the myriad of untruthful statements we are all immersed in today.

 

In this talk I suggest that the key category when analyzing untruthful discourse is not lying (the philosophical obsession) but bullshit, and not Frankfurt’s rhetorical bullshitting, which requires a cognitive judgement of insincerity, but dogmatic bullshit that the speaker may sincerely believe. However, since being wrong is not inherently ethically wrong, it is crucial that we contextualise the analysis through the ethical issues of justifiability and culpability.

Workshop Schedule
30 November - 3 December 2021
Zoom URL link

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Political Truth

Michael P. Lynch (University of Connecticut)

4:00pm EST (New York); 9:00pm GMT (London); 5:00am CST +1 (Beijing); 10:00am NZDT +1 (Auckland)

Truth as a Thick Concept [abstract]

Robert Barnard (University of Mississippi) and Adam Podlaskowski (Fairmont State University)

5:30pm EST (New York); 10:30pm GMT (London); 6:30am CST +1 (Beijing); 11:30am NZDT +1 (Auckland)

35-minute break 

Confined Truth and Cheap Beliefs in the Time of Filter Bubbles [abstract]

Konrad Werner (University of Warsaw)

7:00pm EST (New York); 12:00am GMT +1 (London); 8:00am CST +1 (Beijing); 1:00pm NZDT +1 (Auckland)

What Do Values Tell Us About Truth? [abstract]

Chase Wrenn (University of Alabama)

8:00pm EST (New York); 1:00am GMT +1 (London); 9:00am CST +1 (Beijing); 2:00pm NZDT +1 (Auckland)

65-minute break 

Truth and Chinese Philosophy: Its History and Prospects [abstract]

Frank Saunders (Yonsei University)

10:00pm EST (New York); 3:00am GMT +1 (London); 11:00am CST +1 (Beijing); 4:00pm NZDT +1 (Auckland)

Webs of Truth [abstract]

Graham Wood (University of Tasmania)

11:00pm EST (New York); 4:00am GMT +1 (London); 12:00pm CST +1 (Beijing); 5:00pm NZDT +1 (Auckland)

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

The Role of Truth in Philosophy: A Conceptual Engineering Approach

Jenny Nado (University of Hong Kong)

12:00am EST (New York); 5:00am GMT (London); 1:00pm CST (Beijing); 6:00pm NZDT (Auckland)

Concepts of Truth?

Jamin Asay (University of Hong Kong)

1:45am EST (New York); 6:45am GMT (London); 2:45pm CST (Beijing); 7:45pm NZDT (Auckland)

**End of day**

Political Bald-Faced Lies Are Performative Utterances [abstract]

Susanna Melkonian-Altshuler (University of Connecticut)

1:00pm EST (New York); 6:00pm GMT (London); 2:00am CST +1 (Beijing); 7:00am NZDT +1 (Auckland)

Do Stakes and Context Influence People's Use of 'True'? [abstract]

Kevin Reuter (University of Zurich)

2:00pm EST (New York); 7:00pm GMT (London); 3:00am CST +1 (Beijing); 8:00am NZDT +1 (Auckland)

Why We Need Both Realist and Pragmatist Notions of Truth [abstract]

Celiné Henne (University of Cambridge)

3:00pm EST (New York); 8:00pm GMT (London); 4:00am CST +1 (Beijing); 9:00am NZDT +1 (Auckland)

Why Truth Deflates [abstract]

Matthew Shields (University College Dublin)

4:00pm EST (New York); 9:00pm GMT (London); 5:00am CST +1 (Beijing); 10:00am NZDT +1 (Auckland)

95-minute break 

Disagreement and Entrenchment in Morality and Politics: Reason, Passion, and the Point of Moral and Political Discourse [abstract]

Drew Johnson (University of Connecticut)

6:30pm EST (New York); 11:30pm GMT (London); 7:30am CST +1 (Beijing); 12:30pm NZDT +1 (Auckland)

Truth and Negation in Nāgārjuna's Catuṣkoṭi [abstract]

Chris Rahlwes (University of Connecticut)

7:30pm EST (New York); 12:30am GMT +1 (London); 8:30am CST +1 (Beijing); 1:30pm NZDT +1 (Auckland)

Reflections on the Relation Between Knowledge and Truth [abstract]

Su Wu (Sun Yat-sen University), Jing Zhu (Xiamen University), Jiawei Xu (Xiamen University), Junwei Huang (Huaqiao University)

8:30pm EST (New York); 1:30am GMT +1 (London); 9:30am CST +1 (Beijing); 2:30pm NZDT +1 (Auckland)

Thursday, 2 December 2021

Reconsidering Jamin Asay's Primitivist Theory of Truth: Ineffability of Truth, Effability of the Correspondence Relation [abstract]

Marco Simionato (University Ca' Foscari of Venice)

1:00pm EST (New York); 6:00pm GMT (London); 2:00am CST +1 (Beijing); 7:00am NZDT +1 (Auckland)

Understanding Frege's Treadmill [abstract]

Nathan Hawkins (University of Cambridge)

2:00pm EST (New York); 7:00pm GMT (London); 3:00am CST +1 (Beijing); 8:00am NZDT +1 (Auckland)

Friday, 3 December 2021

Truth as an Incomplete Symbol [abstract]

Mariá José Frapolli (University College London / University of Granada)

2:00am EST (New York); 7:00am GMT (London); 3:00pm CST (Beijing); 8:00pm NZDT (Auckland)

Alternative Truth? Linguistic Diversity of the Use of Truth Predicates and Morality's Role In It [abstract]

Masaharu Mizumoto (Japan Advanced Institute for Science and Technology)

3:00am EST (New York); 8:00am GMT (London); 4:00pm CST (Beijing); 9:00pm NZDT (Auckland)

Intellectual Vices of Self-Evaluation

Alessandra Tanesini (Cardiff University)

4:00am EST (New York); 9:00am GMT (London); 5:00pm CST (Beijing); 10:00pm NZDT (Auckland)

Lying, Bullshitting, and Bullshit: Why Truth Matters in Analysing Untruthful Discourse

Chris Heffer (Cardiff University)

5:45am EST (New York); 10:45am GMT (London); 6:45pm CST (Beijing); 11:45pm NZDT (Auckland)

 

ABSTRACTS

Truth as a thick concept

Robert Barnard (University of Mississippi) & Adam Podlaskowski (Fairmont State University)

Abstract: The distinction between thin and thick concepts has proven extremely helpful in ethics, aesthetics, and epistemology.  We make the case that this distinction is also fruitfully applied to explanations of truth.  In particular, we provide a sketch of truth as a thick concept, with its thin component being a minimal sense of veridicality (such as Tarski has formalized) and its thick component being the more substantive ways in which truth bearers coincide with reality (such as correspondence, superwarrant, etc.).  The resulting account nicely balances the respect in which the range of true claims is quite diverse (‘truth is many’) and that all such claims nevertheless have something key in common (‘truth is one’).  Moreover, this account, while capturing much of the appeal of pluralist theories of truth, does not suffer from the ‘mixing problems’ (involving inferences and compound sentences featuring different sorts of truths) usually associated with alethic pluralism.

Confined Truth and Cheap Beliefs in the Times of Filter Bubbles

Konrad Werner (University of Warsaw)

Abstract: Suppose that we have two figures standardly named Smith and Jones. Now, Smith believes that UFOs have been observed since the 1940s, while Jones does not believe in that. Suppose further that Smith’s filter bubble, otherwise full of dubious stuff, provided him with some good evidence in favor of his belief, including eye-witnesses’ testimonies, etc. Jones’ filter bubble did not provide direct counterarguments, but just rendered Jones more willing to follow general consensus and trust the government. Now, the problem is, as we know today, that UFOs have been observed – this is the official position of the US government as of 2021. So, it seems that Smith’s belief was true while Jones’ belief was false. Yet, we may have a difficult time conceding that Smith’s belief must count as knowledge given the fact that the evidence, even if by itself reliable, was provided by his obscure filter bubble. On the other hand, we may feel obliged to somehow defend Jones’ disbelief, for otherwise, we might think, the trust in the general consensus and fundamental institutions will collapse. In my talk I shall try to resolve this puzzling situation by referring to what propose to call confined truths and cheap beliefs. In short, confined truths are true beliefs answering questions that are understandable only within a certain walled-off group of people, e.g. in a filter bubble. Cheap beliefs on the other hand are beliefs decoupled from any genuine questions, held solely on the basis of the general consensus. 

What Do Values Tell Us About Truth?

Chase Wrenn (University of Alabama)

Abstract: Most of us count truth among our values. What does that tell us about what truth is? According to Gila Sher (forthcoming), it tells us quite a bit. To make sense of truth as a value, she claims, we must reject deflationism about truth. Moreover, she proposes, a proper understanding of truth is one on which the property of truth is the property of satisfying certain norms that arise from our commitment to truth as a “human value.” This paper offers some criticisms of Sher’s approach. First, though truth is a value, it is not inherently normative. To be true is not the same as to satisfy our truth-norms. Second, deflationism does have the resources to account for truth as a value, provided it can properly account for the generalizing function of ’true’.

Truth and Chinese Philosophy: Its History and Prospects

Frank P. Saunders Jr. (Yonsei University Underwood International College)

Abstract: The debate over truth and Chinese philosophy encompasses a fascinating body of scholarship emerging from skeptical concerns raised by scholars such as Roger Ames, David Hall, Chad Hansen, Donald Munro, and A.C. Graham about the nature, role, and even existence of truth in early Chinese philosophy. Vibrant and productive discussion has ensued, with views at the opposite end of the spectrum claiming that early Chinese philosophy had not only concepts of truth, but also theories of truth. In this talk, I first survey the debate over truth and Chinese philosophy and argue that much of this debate has been overly reliant on theoretical, pretheoretical, and psychological assumptions about both Chinese thinkers and truth. I then discuss a project that Jamin Asay (HKU) and I are currently working on that avoids some of the pitfalls of existing approaches. Rather than frame our inquiry into truth in early China in terms of a general interpretation of early Chinese thought or a specific theory of truth, we focus instead on identifying truth predicates in the tradition by utilizing a minimalist characterization of truth. I then share some of our findings and argue that early Chinese philosophers indeed utilized truth predicates. In closing, I suggest some potential consequences of our findings and directions for future research based on them. 

Webs of Truth

Graham Wood (University of Tasmania)

 

The paper begins by endorsing ‘evolutionary analysis’. As characterized by Samuels “evolutionary analysis is a strategy for generating hypotheses about the structure of the human mind by analyzing the adaptive problems whose successful solution would have contributed to reproductive success in the environment in which our evolutionary ancestors lived...” (Samuels, 2000, p. 24). I assume that the human mind, as it exists now, is the result of a very long evolutionary history, and throughout that history I further assume that the precursors to the human mind have consistently been subject to evolutionary pressures. For example, ever since social mammals evolved, the cognitive systems in social mammals have been under selective pressure to (1) effectively predict events in the environment, (2) coordinate effectively with their social group, and (3) communicate effectively with one another. Specifically, I assume that the adaptive problems of prediction, social coordination, and communication would have exerted sufficient selective pressure on the minds of our ancestors such as to sculpt the very structure of our minds. This can be understood in terms of the dual systems, or dual processes, account of the mind (Evans and Frankish 2009), where, for example, some mental processes are experienced consciously (System 2), while other mental processes are not experienced consciously (System 1).

 

Introspectively, one experiences a reasonably unified cognitive realm, but the parts of that (phenomenologically) reasonably unified whole have radically different causal-historical evolutionary origins. So the Manifest Image we have of our own mind is very different to the Scientific Image we have of the structure of human minds (Sellars 1964). I suggest that the mind should be understood in terms of function not content – whatever content achieves a function is endorsed. One way of understanding truth in terms of function is the pragmatic account of truth. But it is also possible to understand truth in (functionally inflected) coherentist terms (Howrich 1992). In this paper I suggest that we can understand (at least) three domains of truth, relating to the functions of prediction, social coordination, and communication. I further suggest that there are naturally evolved cognitive systems that predispose humans to entertain what I call ‘predictive truths’, ‘social coordinative truths’, and ‘communicative truths’ where these ‘truths’ tend to further predictive, social coordinative, and communicative capacities, respectively. And note that these three domains are not meant to be definitive defined nor exhaustive. They are merely possible sub-categories of truth that are entertained within, what I call, the Patchwork Mind Hypothesis.

 

By way of illustration, consider Griffiths on the fracturing of ‘emotion’ as a unified psychological category. According to Griffiths, the folk psychological category ‘emotion’ should not be understood as one scientific psychological category. Griffiths fractures the category ‘emotion’ into – “socially sustained pretences, affect program responses and higher cognitive states” ... And he observes that “How this fracturing will show up conceptually is hard to predict.” (1997, p.17). Following Griffiths, one could consider a fracturing of the notion of ‘truth’. Griffiths recounts Ian Hacking's observation that "in everyday life concepts are not used exclusively for explanation or induction. They are used to structure social systems, to further the interests of individuals or groups, and to promote programs of social action. This suggests that the way in which the world is conceptualized by ordinary speakers will not simply conform itself to the most powerful explanatory and predictive taxonomy suggested by current science.” (1997, p. 7).

 

Furthermore, Quine’s insights about webs of belief can be usefully applied to possible webs of truth. In Quine and Ullian’s (1978) ‘web of belief’, the edges of the web represent ‘experience’ (more precisely ‘observational statements’), and it is these observational statements to which the internal content of the web is answerable in the ‘tribunal of sensory evidence’ (Quine 1969, p. 89). Noting that ‘an observational sentence is one in which all speakers of the language give the same verdict when given the same concurrent stimulation’ (1969, pp.86-87).

 

Quine allows for any of the contents of the web to be changed, even the core beliefs like logic, as long as the ’observational statements’ are consistent with the ’tribunal of experience’. Quine and Ullian (1978) advocate the use of five ‘theoretical virtues’ to update the web: conservatism; modesty; simplicity; generality and refutability. Importantly, Quine thinks ‘of the conceptual scheme of science as a tool, ultimately, for predicting the future in the light of past experience’ (1980, p. 44). But now recall Hacking’s insight: "in everyday life concepts are not used exclusively for explanation or induction. They are used to structure social systems, to further the interests of individuals or groups, and to promote programs of social action.” (1997, p. 7)

 

Following Hacking, I assume that there are many purposes for concepts, and I further assume there are at least three purposes for ‘truths’. As well as predicting the future, there are other purposes for ‘truths’ to be in ‘webs of truth’: for example, truths of social coordination, or truths of communication. And along with Quine’s ‘theoretical virtues’ there might be other ‘social coordination virtues’ or ‘communicative virtues’ that are used to update ‘truths’ in webs that serve different purposes. Some of these may be the same as some of the ‘theoretical virtues’ but there may be distinct ‘cooperative virtues’. Consider, for example, the manifest goal of a rain dance (to bring about rain) versus its latent function (to increase social cohesion) Salmon (1992). On this account moral truths are to be understood as embedded within a web of truths of social coordination. If changing one’s moral truth furthers one capacity for social coordination then that is ‘good’ and perhaps such change is judged against ‘cooperative virtues’.

 

Finally, I don’t think Quine would not be surprised by the suggestions I make here. When considering the question of which conceptual scheme to adopt he describes it as an open question, and while he himself addresses it with reference to ‘the epistemological point of view’, he acknowledges that this point of view is ‘one among various, corresponding to one among our various interests and purposes’ (1980, p. 19). So, I suggest that there are at least three domains of truth. And following Quine these three domains are to be understood in terms of distinct (evolutionarily defined) interests and purposes.

 

References:

Evans, J. & Frankish, K. (2009). In two minds: dual processes and beyond. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Griffiths, P. E. (1997). What emotions really are: the problem of psychological categories. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Horwich, P. (1992) ‘truth, theories of’ in A Companion to Epistemology, edited by J. Dancy and E. Sosa published by Blackwell (Oxford), pp. 509-514.

Quine, W. V. (1969). Ontological relativity and other essays. Columbia University Press.

Quine, W. V. (1980). From a logical point of view. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Quine, W. V.,& Ullian, J. S. (1978). The web of belief. New York: Random House.

Salmon, W. (1992) Explanation. In J. Dancy & E. Sosa (Eds) A Companion to Epistemology. Oxford: Blackwell.

Samuels, R. (2000). Massively modular minds: evolutionary psychology and cognitive architecture. In P. Carruthers & A. Chamberlain (eds). Evolution and the human mind: modularity, language and meta-cognition (pp. 13-46). Cambridge: CUP.

Sellars, W. (1964). Philosophy and the scientific image of man. In R. Colodny (Ed.),Frontiers of science and philosophy (pp. 35–78). London: Allen & Unwin.

 
 
 
 
 

Political Bald-Faced Lies Are Performative Utterances 

Susanna Melkonian-Altshuler (University of Connecticut)

This talk is about the role of bald-faced lies in politics. Sometimes, political bald-faced lies pass for truth. Certain groups of people behave according to them – behave as if the political bald-faced lies were true. How can this phenomenon be explained? I argue that to explain it we need to take political bald-faced lies to be performative utterances whose goal is to bring about a worldly state of affairs just in virtue of making the utterance. When the former US-President tweets ‘we won the election’, he is trying to make it the case that they have. And indeed, people storm onto the streets to protest election fraud. In this way, the bald-faced lie is successful in bringing about a certain kind of result, that is, the lie passes for truth. 

 

My view of political bald-faced lies is to be preferred over various other views such as the contempt for truth view (Lynch 2021), the deception view (Lackey 2013), and the value-signaling view (Stanley 2012). These alternative views fail to adequately account for how political bald-faced lies pass for truth.

Do stakes and context influence people’s use of ‘true’?
Kevin Reuter (University of Zurich)

Starting with Tarski (1944), many philosophers have argued that a fruitful definition of truth must be materially adequate, i.e., must fit with the ordinary notion of truth. It is then usually assumed that this ordinary conception involves something like correspondence with reality. While Arne Næss (1938) –– a pioneer of the experimental philosophy movement –– provided some empirical evidence against the idea that the common-sense view of truth is clearly rooted in correspondence, his methodology was arguably too explicit, e.g., asking people what the common property of true statements is, to reveal how people apply the term ‘true’ in ordinary contexts (for a recent discussion, see Barnard & Ulatowski 2016).

Within the last two decades, philosophers have increasingly used experimental methods to investigate folk concepts such as knowledge and moral responsibility. More recently, philosophers have begun to run empirical studies on the folk concept of truth. Kölbel (2008) considers the two statements ‘Ali G is very funny’ and ‘Statements concerning what is funny can’t be true or false’. When presenting his students with both statements, a substantial amount considered both of them to be true, which he takes to indicate an ambiguous use of the term ‘true’. Bernard & Ulatowski (2013) show that people will entertain a correspondence notion of truth more strongly in the empirical domain compared with the mathematical domain. Recently, Reuter & Brun (2021) investigated the application of the truth predicate in the empirical domain. Their results suggest that even within the empirical domain, truth is ambiguous between a coherence and a correspondence reading.

Empirical research on knowledge has shown that stakes and authority can influence people’s use of a term (Buckwalter & Schaffer 2015). In this talk, I present the results of a pilot study which suggests that the higher the stakes and the more scientific a context, the more likely people are to use a correspondence notion of truth in the empirical domain.

134 participants (61 females, 73 males, 0 non-binary, M(av)=35.62 years) were randomly assigned to three different conditions.

(1) Rolex Case: Low Stakes (vignette taken from Reuter & Brun (2021))

Maria is a watch collector. She keeps all her watches in a safe and knows her collection really well. One day, her friend John asks her, whether she has a 1990 Rolex Submariner in her safe and, if so, could show it to her. Maria answers that she has got a 1990 Rolex Submariner in her safe. After all, she had purchased that watch a few years ago.

 

When Maria opens the safe a little later, she finds out that a burglar has stolen several watches, among them the 1990 Rolex Submariner.

(2) Sugar-Father: Scientific Context / Mid Stakes

Peter's next chemistry class will be about sugar. At the weekend, his father tells Peter that the chemical composition of sugar is C12 H18 O9. On Monday morning, Sandra asks him what the chemical composition of sugar is: He answers that the chemical composition of sugar is C12 H18 O9, because that is what his father has told him at the weekend.

When Peter and Sandra attend their chemistry class in the afternoon, they find out that their chemistry textbooks state that the chemical composition is actually C12 H22 O11.

(3) Sugar-Textbook: Scientific Context / High Stakes

Peter's next chemistry class will be about sugar. So, he decides to read his chemistry textbook over the weekend which states that the chemical composition of sugar is C12 H22 O11. When Sandra and Peter meet up on Monday morning, Sandra asks him what the chemical composition of sugar is: He answers that the chemical composition of sugar is C12 H22 O11, because that is what he has read in the textbook.

When Peter and Sandra attend their chemistry class in the afternoon, they find out that scientists have recently discovered that the chemical composition is actually C12 H18 O9.

After the participants read one of the three vignettes, the were asked “Was Peter's [Maria’s] answer true or false?”, and responded with either “True” or “False”. Previous research by Reuter & Brun (2021) suggests that in the Rolex case many participants believe the protagonist to be operating with a coherence reading of ‘true’. I predicted that in a more scientific context (Chemistry setting), more participants would select ‘False’ as an answer indicating a correspondence reading of ‘true’. Furthermore, I varied the stakes of the scenarios: Whereas in Sugar-Father, Peter’s father provides false information about the molecular composition of sugar (Mid Stakes), in Sugar-Textbook, it is the textbook that contains false information about sugar. It is a reasonable assumption that textbooks containing wrong information constitute a higher stake context than if a single person provides wrong information.

Pairwise comparisons were conducted using Pearson χ2-Test. Differences between the Rolex and Sugar-Father (χ2 = 19.60; p < 0.001) as well as Rolex and Sugar-Textbook (χ2 = 7.51; p = 0.006) were significant. The two sugar cases failed to be significant, but only marginally so (χ2 = 3.41; p = 0.065). The percentage of true-responses are shown in Figure 1 below.

 

The outcome in the Rolex case replicates previous findings from Reuter & Brun, showing that laypeople have a tendency to entertain a coherence reading of the term ‘true’ in non-scientific but empirical contexts. However, in the scientific contexts of chemistry, the results were reversed, indicating that a majority of people consider a statement false that does not correspond to reality. Additionally, for the condition in which the stakes were highest, 4 out of 5 participants considered a claim false that relied on wrong textbook information.

The results of this study are preliminary. Nonetheless, they do indicate that the meaning of the term ‘true’ is relative to context and stakes. I will discuss the relevance of these studies for research on the folk concept of truth, as well as philosophical debates on truth. Furthermore, I will argue that empirical research on the folk concept of truth is crucial to “convey the central role that truth and related concepts play in our everyday lives” (Stated Aim of the Truth without Border Project).

 

References:

Barnard, R. and Ulatowski, J. (2013). ‘Truth, Correspondence, and Gender,’ Review of Philosophy and Psychology 4(4), pp. 621–638.

Barnard, R. and Ulatowski, J. (2016). ‘Tarski’s 1944 Polemical Remarks and Naess’ ‘Experimental Philosophy’,’ Erkenntnis 81(3), pp. 457–477.

Buckwalter, W., & Schaffer, J. (2015). Knowledge, stakes, and mistakes. Noûs, 49(2), 201-234.

Næss, A. [original: Ness](1938). ‘Truth’ as Conceived by Those Who Are Not Professional Philosophers. Oslo: Jacob Dybwad.

Kölbel, M. (2008). ‘‘True’ as Ambiguous,’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 77(2), pp. 359–384.

Reuter, K., & Brun, G. (2021). Empirical Studies on Truth and the Project of Re‐engineering Truth. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly.

Tarski, A. (1944). ‘The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundations of Semantics,’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 4, pp. 341–375.

Why We Need Both Realist and Pragmatist Notions of Truth

Céline Henne (University of Cambridge)

What norm of truth should guide our conversations and inquiries? In this paper, I argue that there are two distinct norms of truth needed for our conversational and epistemic practices, depending on whether we are making and evaluating claims within a settled conceptual framework (“Is it true that there were more people at Trump’s inauguration than at Obama’s inauguration?”) or whether we are reconfiguring an unsettled conceptual framework (“Is it true that trans women are women?”). One is a realist notion of truth, the other is a pragmatist notion of truth. The paper has three main parts.

 

I start by presenting and contrasting the realist and pragmatist notions of truth, broadly construed. At first sight, they seem to be irreconcilable. According to the realist notion, whether a belief is true depends on how things are, and is independent from whether the belief is verified, coherent, useful, etc. (Kirkham 1992; Alston 1996; Lynch 2009). According to the pragmatist notion, the truth of an idea depends on (or is constituted by) its workableness (James 1909), its warranted assertibility (Dewey 1941), its ability to stand up to indefinitely continued inquiry (Peirce 1998; Misak 1991).

 

I argue that these two notions should not be in conflict, because they do not have the same (legitimate) scope. I give a preliminary justification of this claim by showing that pragmatists and realists are not usually interested in the same things. The realist applies her notion of truth to propositions such as “snow is white” or “the cat is on the mat”. Surely the truth of such propositions only depends on how things are: whether snow is in fact white or the cat is indeed on the mat. Pragmatists, on the other hand, often talk about the truth of general ideas or conceptions such as the idea of “the atom, of inertia, of energy, of reflex action, or of fitness to survive” (James 2000, 150). They reject a representationalist theory of language and truth, according to which terms and predicates correspond to pre-carved natural kinds or structures in the world.

In other words, it seems that pragmatists are primarily interested in evaluating conceptual frameworks, whereas realists are concerned with the truth of particular claims. Unfortunately, the two parties share a common mistake, which is to generalize their view of truth beyond their legitimate scope.

 

Building on these preliminary remarks, I develop my account of the two norms and their respective scopes. Realist truth is adapted to what I call “framed” situations: when we already have a settled conceptual framework in place. The notion of realist truth I defend is deflationary, in the sense that it does not appeal to a substantive property that all true statements possess. Following Sellars (1968), truth is a norm that follows from the normativity of language itself. Concepts have (implicit and explicit) semantic rules governing their correct application. Whether the correctness conditions are satisfied depends on how things are in the world (in the same way that whether the conditions for a checkmate are fulfilled depends on the position of the pieces on the board), and it does not depend on whether we did, will, or are able to verify that they are satisfied. Hence, it fulfils the two conditions for a realist notion of truth.

 

Pragmatist truth is the norm adapted to what I call “framing” situations: when we are still building, refining, or reconfiguring our conceptual tools. I examine how the three main notions of pragmatist truth (Jamesian, Deweyan, and Peircian) can operate as norms for framing. To put it briefly, the concept or idea’s “truth” can be nothing over and beyond its ability to work in various situations in which it is or will be used (solving problems, producing the intended consequences, promoting inference, guiding our actions).

 

I briefly distinguish my account from Lynch’s alethic pluralism: the variation in scope (framed/framing) cuts across all domains of discourse (scientific, moral, aesthetic, etc.).

 

Finally, I expose the dangers of generalizing either notion across the board. In framed situations, there is a fact of the matter about whether a claim is correctly assertible, independently from our purposes or the consequences of asserting the claim. I will not repeat the well-known objections made against the pragmatist theory of truth. Instead, I will emphasize that a person following the pragmatist norm instead of the realist norm in a framed situation is both disregarding the facts and breaking the rules of social cooperation, by ignoring the rules of the conceptual framework. However, we might need to change the rules of the conceptual framework, because they are defective in some way. We then move to a framing situation.

 

In framing situations, following the realist norm of truth leads to fruitless metaphysical debates and dangerous essentialism. The construction and revision of concepts is taken to be a matter of accurately representing the world. In other words, the rules governing our concepts (e.g., object, personal identity, woman) should directly answer to and align with the structure of the world (what objects, personal identity, and women really are). Here, I follow Thomasson’s alternative view of metaphysics as “normative conceptual work” (Thomasson 2017; 2020). I also respond to the realist’s worry that, if we follow the pragmatist norm of truth, our framing inquiries cannot be answerable to the facts or reality at all. Far from “anything goes”, I show that Dewey’s notion of truth as “operational correspondence” (Dewey 1941) rests on the coordination between facts and ideas.

 

I conclude by emphasizing the flexibility of my proposal, both with regard to the notions of truth at play (e.g., realist truth can be Tarskian or Sellarsian, the pragmatist notion of truth can be Jamesian, Deweyan, Peircian) and the very use of the term “truth”. There are good reasons to prefer keeping the term “truth” for realist truth: it seems to better align with our ordinary use of “true”, and the use of the same term for both realist and pragmatist truth is conducive to the confusion of the two norms.

 

References

Alston, William P. 1996. A Realist Conception of Truth. Cornell University Press. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7591/j.ctv75d3h3.

Dewey, John. 1941. “Propositions, Warranted Assertibility, and Truth.” The Journal of Philosophy 38 (7): 169–86. https://doi.org/10.2307/2017978.

James, William. 1909. The Meaning of Truth. New York: Longmans, Green, and Co.

———. 2000. Pragmatism and Other Writings. Penguin Classics. New York: Penguin Books.

Kirkham, Richard L. 1992. Theories of Truth: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Lynch, Michael P. 2009. Truth as One and Many. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Misak, Cheryl. 1991. Truth and the End of Inquiry: A Peircean Account of Truth. Oxford University Press.

Peirce, Charles Sanders. 1998. The Essential Peirce, Volume 2: Selected Philosophical Writings (1893-1913). Bloomington, United States: Indiana University Press. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/cam/detail.action?docID=923144.

Sellars, Wilfrid. 1968. Science and Metaphysics: Variations on Kantian Themes. Routledge & K. Paul.

Thomasson, Amie L. 2017. “What Can We Do, When We Do Metaphysics?” In The Cambridge Companion to Philosophical Methodology, edited by Giuseppina D’Oro and Søren Overgaard, 1st ed., 101–21. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316344118.007.

———. 2020. “A Pragmatic Method for Normative Conceptual Work.” In Conceptual Engineering and Conceptual Ethics, by Amie L. Thomasson, 435–58. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198801856.003.0021.

Why Truth Deflates

Matthew Shields (University College Dublin)

Abstract: In this paper, I argue that there is an unappreciated but crucial value that deflationary truth adds to our linguistic and cognitive lives: it allows us to make sense of the world from perspectives other than our own. 

 

In the first section, I begin by laying out a certain inflationary view of truth. This neo-pragmatist approach seeks to ground our accounts of truth in our practices of inquiry and is defended separately, but in kindred forms by both Hilary Putnam (1994) and Huw Price (2011). For Putnam and Price, the value or function of truth lies in how it allows speakers to view one another as talking and thinking about the same thing despite differences in belief or worldview. In particular, both Putnam and Price argue that truth allows speakers and thinkers from different conceptual backgrounds to construe themselves as genuinely disagreeing with one another; truth is “the grit that makes our individual opinions engage with one another” (Price 2011, 169). These are not traditional inflationary views: they require no metaphysical commitments on the part of the theorists’ advocating for them. But they are nonetheless inflationary because they claim that speakers take one another to be mutually accountable to something over and above their respective idiolects and webs

of belief.

 

After sketching this Putnam-Price inflationism about truth, I argue in the second and main section of the paper that while Putnam and Price are right methodologically to push for grounding our view of truth in our practices of inquiry, they nonetheless underestimate the full range of these practices. Putnam-Price views cannot account for contexts of inquiry where speakers do judge themselves to be talking and thinking past one another. I draw here on the later work of Thomas Kuhn (2002). Kuhn argues that if we always default to the assumption that speakers are talking and thinking about the same things as we are (because they use the same words we do or engage in seemingly kindred linguistic behavior), we will be able unable to make sense of speakers from different historical moments and cultural backgrounds.

 

For example, Kuhn describes trying to make sense of Aristotle’s account of motion and finding his texts riddled with “egregious errors, both of logic and observation”, speculations of a “dreadfully bad physical scientist” (2002, 16). After “wrestling with [these] nonsense passages”, Kuhn comes to a realization: “[T]he fragments in my head sorted themselves out in a new way, and fell into place together. My jaw dropped, for all at once Aristotle seemed a very good physicist indeed, but of a sort I’d never dreamed possible” (16). For Aristotle, ‘motion’ means a change in quality, rather than change in position of an object (as it does for many contemporary speakers). The catalyst for this shift in Kuhn’s perspective is that Aristotle’s “words had not always meant to him and his contemporaries quite what they meant to me and mine” (16). To engage in this form of inquiry – to learn to view the world from a perspective that fundamentally differs from one’s own – we cannot default to the assumption that we are samesaying with such speakers, or else they will continue to show up to us as making “baffling” or “absurd” errors in their linguistic and epistemic behavior.

 

For Putnam’s and Price’s speakers, however, for whom truth is always inflationary and where, as such, they take one another to be mutually accountable to something over and above their utterances and thoughts and therefore to be samesaying with one another, speakers from distant historical moments or different cultural backgrounds will inevitably show up to them as absurd or nonsensical. Putnam-Price speakers will always substitute our contemporary understanding of the relevant words or expressions onto the target speaker’s linguistic behavior because they will assume these speakers are engaged in the same project of getting something over and above their respective idiolects and webs of belief right. But Kuhn shows that we have an entire practice of inquiry where we do not assume that simply because speakers are using the same words we are or engage in

seemingly kindred linguistic behavior, they must therefore be talking and thinking about the same things as we are. This assumption is in fact an impediment to inquiry where we work to acquire the language and concepts of historically or culturally distant speakers and thereby understand the world as they do.

 

To engage in these practices, then, truth cannot be exclusively inflationary for us in the way Putnam and Price argue. Truth must also be able to deflate for us such that we can view another speaker’s utterances and thoughts as the product of a distinct language. We must be able to treat other speaker’s utterances and thoughts as a self-contained unit that, despite their truth-aptness, are not primarily accountable to a shared extralinguistic, extramental world. For example, I need not take Aristotle’s use of ‘motion’ to refer to the same kind or state of affairs as my use of ‘motion’; I can view Aristotle’s use of this word and its corresponding meaning as a product of an interrelated web of semantic and epistemic commitments that are not primarily accountable to something over and above those commitments and therefore do not necessarily implicate views contradictory with my own. Because truth does not only inflate for me, but also deflates, I am able to view other speakers as possessing perspectives on the world that I do not yet have, but can nonetheless come to grasp.

 

In the third and final section, I show that this role for deflationary truth differs from those typically invoked – for example, serving as a device of generalization, as Horwich (1999) argues, and grounding the varied pragmatics of truth talk, as, for example, Rorty (2000), Grover (2001), and Kukla and Winsberg (2016) argue. I also show that the position I defend accords with a certain pluralism about truth (Wyatt and Lynch 2016).

 

References

Grover, D. (2001). “The Prosentential Theory: Further Reflections on Locating Our Interest in Truth” in The Nature of Truth, ed. M.P. Lynch (Cambridge MA: MIT Press): 505-526.

Horwich, P. (1998). Truth. (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Price, H. (2011). “Truth as Convenient Friction” in Naturalism Without Mirrors (Oxford: Oxford University Press): 163-183.

Putnam, H. (1994). Words and Life, ed. J. Conant (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press).

Kuhn, T.S. (2002). The Road Since Structure: Philosophical Essay, 1970-1993, with an Autobiographical Interview, eds. J. Conant and J. Haugeland (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

Kukla, R. and Winsberg, E. “Deflationism, Pragmatism, and Metaphysics” in Meaning Without Representation: Essays on Truth, Expression, Normativity, and Naturalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), eds. S. Gross, N. Tebben, and M. Williams: 25-46.

Rorty, R. (2000). “Universality and Truth” in Rorty and His Critics, ed. R.B. Brandom (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd): 1-30.

Wyatt, J. and Lynch, M.P. (2016). “From One to Many: Recent Work on Truth”. American Philosophical Quarterly 53 (4): 323-340.

Disagreement and Entrenchment in Morality and Politics: Reason, Passion, and the Point of Moral and Political Discourse

Drew Johnson (University of Connecticut)

Disagreement in moral and political matters is particularly widespread and often resists easy resolution. Recent work by social epistemologists and psychologists has offered useful tools for analyzing disagreement and polarization both online and in person, by describing how general cognitive biases and heuristics, as well as the affective dimension of normative judgments, make certain moral and political beliefs resistant to rational revision through reasonable discourse. This talk discusses the affective and social aspects of moral and political judgment, how they contribute to explanations of deep disagreement and polarization, and their implications for the possibility of moral and political knowledge.

Truth and Negation in Nāgārjuna’s Catuṣkoṭi

Chris Rahlwes (University of Connecticut)

 

Abstract: From Priest and Garfield (2002), a common dialetheist reading of Nāgārjuna’s (c. 200 CE) catuṣkoṭi (tetralemma or four-cornered argument) has formed. The typical logical structure of Nāgārjuna’s catuṣkoṭi is taken to be A, Not A (¬A), Both (A &¬A), and Neither (¬[A∨¬A]). The dialetheist reading holds that these four options establish four different truth-values: True, False, Both, Neither. This reading finds its origin in Garfield’s (1995) translation and commentary on Nāgārjuna’s Mūlamadhyamakakārikā verse 18.8. This verse establishes the relationship between everything (sarva) and truth (tathya) with the catuṣkoṭi’s framework. Nāgārjuna states that ‘everything is true’, ‘everything is not true’, ‘everything is true and untrue, ‘everything is not true and not untrue’. This is further complicated by the Indian and Tibetan commentarial tradition’s appeal to Nāgārjuna’s two-truths doctrine of conventional truth (saṃvṛti satya) and ultimate truth (paramārtha satya) to explain the four corners. This leads to two different terms and concepts for ‘truth’: tathya and satya. The question I address is: how do these two terms relate to each other for Nāgārjuna? In addressing this question, I further address the question of what exactly the relationship between Nāgārjuna’s use of negation and falsity is. Through these questions, I propose that Nāgārjuna adopts a correspondence theory of truth relativized by the two-truths doctrine and that he does not take negation as truth-functional. Without a truth-functional negation, Nāgārjuna is not led to adopting a truth-value of Both nor a truth-value of Neither.

Reflections on the Relation Between Knowledge and Truth

Su Wu (Sun Yat-sen University), Jing Zhu (Xiamen University), Jiawei Xu (Xiamen University), Junwei Huang (Huaqiao University)

 

Abstract: Mainstream epistemology assumes a very close relationship between knowledge and truth. For example, the JTB analysis of knowledge takes truth as a necessary condition of knowledge. In another word,knowledge implies truth. However, we will find that this understanding of the relation between knowledge and truth is puzzling and confusing with some reflection.

 

Firstly, students in their first lesson of epistemology are often troubled with the definition that knowledge is necessarily true: A proposition can be taken as knowledge only if it is true, but how the truth value of the proposition can be known at the very beginning. Isn’t there a circularity in the definition?

 

Second is the issue of fallibilism and skepticism. Is knowledge fallible? If knowledge is fallible, how can we still say that knowledge must be true? While if it is not, then how can we deal with the threat of skepticism? 

 

The third is closely related to the second. There are some typical kinds of knowledge, such as scientific knowledge or historical knowledge, that can be updated by the discovery of new evidence or the development of new technology. Is it possible to have knowledge in these fields?

 

These are fundamental philosophical issues of great significance and need to be taken seriously. And the first step to handling these problems should be to rethink the relation between knowledge and truth.

 

Taking truth as a necessary condition of knowledge is problematic in at least three aspects:

 

1) From a theoretical point of view, it does not apply to the actual or possible epistemic inquiry of human beings. The truth condition presupposes a third party with the perspective of God. In the actual epistemic inquiry, there is no such third party, so it is impossible to first decide whether a proposition is true or not, and then judge if it is knowledge. On the contrary, when we can determine a proposition is true, we will take ourselves as knowing the proposition. 

 

2) According to evidence from experimental epistemology, it is not supported by the common-sense understanding of the relationship between knowledge and truth. It is found that the truth condition of knowledge is not an essential part of folk epistemology, and knowledge is not always necessary to be strictly accurate. Meanwhile, a belief that can be wrong or need double-check can also be attributed as knowledge.

 

3) Considering the normality aspect of epistemology, it cannot provide useful guidance for epistemic inquiry. The truth condition can only give a standard to evaluate the result of the epistemic inquiry from a retrospective view. It can only tell us whether a certain epistemic inquiry has succeeded. But a theory with normality should also tell us how to succeed, which means that it can also guide how to achieve our epistemic goals from a forward-looking view.

 

Therefore, this paper attempts to propose a new epistemology framework of the relation between knowledge and truth: We propose that the aim of the epistemic inquiry is truth, which means that all epistemic inquiries are attempts to approximate truth. However, in different situations, the efforts we can make and need to make to approximate truth are different. Knowledge is a sign of where we can reasonably end our epistemic inquiry and take it as an epistemic achievement.

 

Above all, the aim of epistemic inquiries is to approximate truth. The close relationship between knowledge and truth is not that knowledge implies truth, but that knowledge is the epistemic product obtained by seeking truth. And with the goal of truth, knowledge can have a cross-situation core behind multiple standards.

 

At the same time, knowledge is a sign that we can reasonably end our epistemic inquiry. In different cultures, fields, and contexts, there are differences in the availability of various epistemic resources, the understanding of acceptable methods, the degree of approximation to the truth that is allowed or required, etc. Therefore, although knowledge is the product of truth-seeking across all these situations, its constitutive elements and standards can be very diverse.

 

This framework can well respond to the three problems raised to the traditional understanding of the relation between knowledge and truth.

 

1) The new framework does not need to presuppose a third party with the perspective of God. It is more appliable to possible epistemic inquiry practice of human beings, which is obtaining knowledge during the continuous procedure of approximating the truth.

 

2) The new framework can better accommodate the empirical results on folk epistemology so far. Based on the resources and standards in our daily life, we agree that when the epistemic product is close enough to the truth or of enough certainty for our current purpose, there is no need to make additional epistemic efforts and the inquiry is allowed to stop.

 

3) The new framework focuses not only on epistemic consequence but also on epistemic procedures. Taking knowledge as a sign of where the epistemic inquiry can stop makes it possible to provide more direct guidance on our practice of truth-seeking (of course, the specific guidance depends on the resources and standards of the specific situation).

 

In addition, the framework has some advantages:

 

On the one hand, it unifies knowledge under the epistemic aim of truth. Therefore, knowledge can be distinguished from other rational goals, such as maximizing one’s utility by making the right decision for actions. Meanwhile, it also makes knowledge not just a polysemy with loose and various meanings in different contexts.

 

On the other hand, such a framework can help answer that in what sense we can take false propositions in previous science or primitive society as knowledge. Those propositions, which are false from the perspective of the latest science and modern society, can be counted as knowledge by historians of science and anthropologists because those are also epistemic products obtained by seeking truth, based on the resources and standards at that time.  Even though we may think that their methods of approximating truth are far from efficient or accurate according to our current resources and standards in science or society. In addition, this framework also helps us to realize the huge differences between epistemic inquiry such as academic research, which has abundant resources and extremely high standards, and ordinary epistemic inquiry in our daily life.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Reconsidering Jamin Asay’s Primitivist Theory of Truth. Ineffability of truth, effability of the correspondence relation

Marco Simionato (University Ca' Foscari of Venice)

Abstract: Jamin Asay (see 2013; 2018) proposed a primitivist theory of truth, namely, the view that truth is a fundamental and un-analyzable concept (let’s say: TRUTH), combining this primitivist approach to the concept of truth with a deflationary approach to the (metaphysical) property of being true. The aim of this talk is a review of Asay’s primitivist theory to consistently include the primitiveness of our pre-theoretical correspondence relation alongside the primitiveness of TRUTH, where ‘pre-theoretical correspondence’ refers to a relation between - broadly speaking - our language and thought from one hand, and something worldly on the other hand.

 

First, I summarize some key points of Asay’s primitivism, and I highlight the commonsensical strength (in a Moorean-fashion) of the pre-theoretical correspondence intuition (that “grasps” the above-mentioned pre-theoretical correspondence relation) – especially referring to Lynch (2009)’s arguments about the “folk concept” of truth, and Ingthorsson (2019)’s thesis according to which the correspondence of beliefs to facts (broadly construed) can occur with no commitment to a correspondence theory of truth. Second, I argue that, if we assume the primitiveness of the pre-theoretical correspondence relation, then the Asay’s primitivist theory - as it stands – might not be consistent, as far as it could not consistently hold together the primitiveness of TRUTH and the primitiveness of the pre- theoretical correspondence relation.

 

Asay’s primitivism, indeed, holds or should hold all these main tenets:

(A1) The concept TRUTH is primitive

(A2) The (pre-theoretical) correspondence relation is primitive

(A3) The concept TRUTH is omnipresent

(A4) The (pre-theoretical) correspondence relation is analyzable in terms of the concept TRUTH,

 

where (A4) is entailed by (A3). 

 

This entailment can be unfolded as follows:

(i) If a notion X is a truth-apt content, then X is analyzable in terms of TRUTH [by (A3)];

(ii) The pre-theoretical correspondence relation is a truth-apt content [ASSUMPTION];

Therefore, (iii) The (pre-theoretical) correspondence relation is analyzable in terms of the concept TRUTH [by Modus Ponens (1); (2)], 

 

where it is clear that the conclusion (iii) is precisely (A4).

 

The inconsistency lies in the fact that (A2) and (A4) are mutually exclusive, given that the primitiveness occurring in (A2) excludes the analyzability occurring in (A4).

 

To offer a potential corrective to the Asay’s primitivist theory, I will use a suggestion by André Kukla (see 2005), concerning the possible entailment between an ineffable insight and the effable consequences such an insight might generate,2 so that the primitiveness of the concept of truth and the primitiveness of the pre-theoretical correspondence relation can be consistently held together within a sort of reviewed primitivist theory of truth. In doing so, my proposal is that the concept TRUTH is ineffable, i.e., it defies any expression in our language (see Kukla 2005; Shaw 2013),3 but it entails (broadly speaking) some effable consequences within the same language, among which there is the pre-theoretical correspondence relation, grasped by the (pre-theoretical) correspondence intuition. In other words, the correspondence relation is our effable device to access the ineffable concept TRUTH.

2 <<Does it make any sense to talk about the effable consequences of an ineffable insight? At least with respect to the lower and weaker grades of ineffability, it surely does. Consider the lowest grade of ineffability: inexpressibility in a given language. It’s clearly possible to take a language L, remove from it all sorts of expressive devices until we get a fragment of L - call it L' - such that there are propositions in L which are (1) not expressible in L', but which (2) have consequences that are expressible in L'. Here’s a concrete example: let L' be obtained from L by excizing all ways of negating sentences, and let (PvQ)&-P be a sentence of L. This sentence is ineffable in L', but it has consequences (e.g., Q) that may very well be expressible in L' >> (Kukla 2005, pp. 109-110).

3 [...] I define something to be ineffable in a particular fixed, interpreted language L as follows. A concept or a proposition is ineffable in L if there is no expression of L which expresses that concept or proposition (2013, pp.2- 3).

MINIMAL BIBLIOGRAPHY

Asay, J. (2013). The Primitivist Theory of Truth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Asay, J. (2018). "TRUTH: A Concept Unlike Any Other", Synthese, https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229- 017-1661-z

Ingthorsson, R.D. (2019), “There's no Truth-Theory like the Correspondence Theory", Discusiones Filosoficas, 20/34: 15-41. DOI: 10.17151/difil.2019.20.34.2

Kukla, A. (2005), Ineffability and Philosophy, London and New York: Routledge. 

Lynch, M.P. (2009), Truth as One and Many, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Shaw, J.R. (2013), "Truth, Paradox, and Ineffable Propositions", Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 86/1. DOI: 10.2307/41721270

Understanding Frege’s Treadmill

Nathan Hawkins (University of Cambridge)

 

Abstract:

Frege presents two versions of an argument for the indefinability of truth. This argument has become known as ‘The Treadmill’. The Treadmill has been much debated. The point of agreement is that it is insufficient to carry its grand conclusion. The disagreement regards how to interpret it. I divide the interpretations into two broad approaches: vicious infinite regress interpretations and a problem of circularity interpretations. The early sections in this paper criticise the interpretations given, arguing they are neither faithful to the text nor successful in their own terms. The later sections proceed to offer my own interpretation. One that draws on the context in which the argument is made. I claim that the argument is valid given the conception of logic Frege outlines in the opening paragraphs of the relevant texts.

 
 

Truth as an incomplete symbol

María José Frápolli (University of Granada / University College London)

Abstract: As a higher-level concept with an expressive function, the meaning of truth escapes the semantic constraints of the standard representationalist and truth-conditional framework. The systematic mismatch between the linguistic meaning of truth terms and their contribution to the content expressed by the sentences in which they occur is evidence of the semantic complexity of the concept. I propose to understand truth terms as incomplete symbols in Russel´s sense. Truth terms, like descriptions, do not correspond to any isolable component of the logical form of the sentences in which they occur. Moreover, as C. J. F. Williams has forcefully argued (Williams 1976), there is a quantifier hidden in the surface grammar of truth ascriptions. Understanding truth terms as incomplete symbols would give a precise meaning to the sometimes vague claim that truth is expressive.

Alternative truth?  Linguistic diversity of the use of truth predicates and morality’s role in it. 

Masaharu Mizumoto (Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology)

Abstract: In this paper, we will report a series of cross-linguistic studies about the truth predicates of English and Japanese, which will show a significant influence of moral-political factor on the use of truth predicates only in Japanese. We first show such effect in the truth judgments on an utterance containing “but”, and then on an utterance containing a pejorative. Finally, we will show that even the simplest utterance like “he is short” can affect the Japanese truth predicates when there is a moral-political issue involved. Then we will discuss whether this effect is linguistic or psychological, and present at the end three hypotheses, semantic hypothesis, pragmatic hypothesis, and error theory hypothesis, to account for the data, which we leave open for future study.