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Truth

My research on the nature and value of truth has largely focused on the role that the ordinary use of 'truth' and its cognates play in theories of truth; I have used a variety of empirical methods including questionnaires, epidemiological studies, and corpus linguistics. My studies have shown that people employ different concepts of truth in different linguistic discourses, and they have shown how use of truth varies by context, as well as by gender. Much of my work on the nature and value of truth has been done collaboratively with Robert Barnard, Masaharu Mizumoto, Jonathan Weinberg, Cory Wright, and Jeremy Wyatt.

Books

Truth 

MIT Press (forthcoming; expected late 2024 / early 2025)

with Jeremy Wyatt

A comprehensive overview of the theories of truth and their connection with non-Western perspectives and empirical findings.

Commonsense Pluralism about Truth: An Empirical Defence

Palgrave Macmillan (2017)

Truth is a pervasive feature of ordinary language, deserving of systematic study, and few theorists of truth have endeavoured to chronicle the tousled conceptual terrain forming the non-philosopher’s ordinary view. In this book, the author recasts the philosophical treatment of truth in light of historical and recent work in experimental philosophy. He argues that the commonsense view of truth is deeply fragmented along two axes, across different linguistic discourses and among different demographics, termed in the book as endoxic alethic pluralism. To defend this view, four conclusions must be reached: (1) endoxic alethic pluralism should be compatible with how the everyday person uses truth, (2) the common conception of truth should be derivable from empirical data, (3) this descriptive metaphysical project is one aspect of a normative theory of truth, and (4) endoxic alethic pluralism is at least partially immune to challenges facing the ecological method in experimental philosophy and alethic pluralism.

Edited volumes and special issues

Truth without Borders

Asian Journal of Philosophy (forthcoming; expected late 2024)

Guest editors: Joseph Ulatowski, Jeremy Wyatt, and Masaharu Mizumoto

The Truth Without Borders project seeks to expand the nature of truth debate to non-Western cultures.

Festschrift for Gila Sher

Australasian Philosophical Review (forthcoming; expected late 2024)

Curatorial team: Joseph Ulatowski, Aaron Griffith, Shawn Hernandez, David Kashtan, and Cory Wright

 

In this special issue, Gila Sher's target article "[TITLE]" has three invited commentaries: Filippo Ferrari, "[TITLE]", Gurpreet Rattan, "[TITLE]", and Chase Wrenn, "[TITLE]" and four open peer commentaries: Jamin Asay, "Can't Help Falling in Love with Truth", James Hutchinson, "[TITLE]", Sebastiano and x x, "[TITLE]", and Jeremy Wyatt, "[TITLE]".  has had an illustrious career and in this special volume she has prepared a manuscript for the volume. 

Minimalism about Truth: Paul Horwich's Truth, 30th Anniversary

Synthese (2018)

Guest editors: Joseph Ulatowski and Cory Wright

 

Gila Sher has had an illustrious career and in this special volume she has prepared a manuscript for the volume. 

Articles/Chapters

Rational Cognition and Approximate Truth in the Lvov-Warsaw School

In Rationality of Rationalism(s): On Communicable Truths and Testable Knowledge, edited by Konrad Werner (Springer, forthcoming)

with Cory Wright

The Lvov-Warsaw School’s logistic anti-irrationalism—particularly in the works of Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz, Izydora Dąmbska, and Jan Woleński—offered an intellectually distinct alternative to the logical positivism of the Vienna Circle. However, its attempt to critique the Franco-German currents of mysticism and romanticism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, especially in the works of Henri Bergson, open it up to the question of whether its members fully appreciated the consequences of accepting that rational cognition is abstract and schematic. We argue that the abstract nature of rational cognition provides reasons to countenance approximate truth; but doing so may have revisionary consequences for the conception of scientific knowledge. These consequences point to a new direction for research about the achievability of certain ambitious goals of the Lvov-Warsaw School’s logistic anti-irrationalism.

Looking Across Languages: Anglocentrism, Cross-Linguistic Experimental Philosophy, and the Future of Inquiry about Truth

Asian Journal of Philosophy (forthcoming): 1-25

with Jeremy Wyatt

Analytic debates about truth are wide-ranging, but certain key themes tend to crop up time and again. The three themes that we will examine in this paper are (i) the nature and behaviour of the ordinary concept of truth, (ii) the meaning of discourse about truth, and (iii) the nature of the property truth. We will start by offering a brief overview of the debates centring on these themes. We will then argue that cross-linguistic experimental philosophy has an indispensable yet underappreciated role to play in all of these debates. Recognising the indispensability of cross-linguistic experimental philosophy should compel philosophers to significantly revise the ways in which they inquire about truth. It should also prompt analytic philosophers more generally to consider whether similar revisions might be necessary elsewhere in the field.

Intralinguistic Motivation for Pluralism about Truth

Studia BBB Philosophia (2024) 69.1: 69-84

Critics of the scope problem that motivates pluralism about truth have argued that it is a pseudo-problem. If the criticism is correct, then truth pluralism is left unmotivated and potentially bankrupt. In this paper, I argue that closely related to the scope problem is another problem, which I call “the scalar problem.” If the property of truth is sensitive to how an agent expresses the truth predicate

within a single linguistic discourse and different agents or groups of agents express truth differently within that discourse, then there are different ways of being true within the same linguistic discourse. Given this possibility, even if the scope problem fails, truth pluralism remains fully motivated.

Is Correspondence Truth One or Many?

Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia (2023) 79.3: 1003-1022

On the correspondence theory of truth, a proposition is true if and only if it corresponds to fact. Criticisms of the correspondence theory of truth have argued that such a strict interpretation of the correspondence relation will not be able to account for the truth of statements about fiction or mathematics. This challenge has resulted in the introduction of more permissive correspondence relations, such as Austin’s correspondence as correlation or Tarski’s correspondence as reference satisfaction. Recently, some mediated correspondence theorists of truth have proposed that the correspondence relation holds not only between thought and world but also between thought and language. In this paper, I argue that correspondence truth, direct or mediated, is not a monistic theory of truth, the view that there is one and only way for a proposition to be true. To argue for this position, I will have to show that each of the correspondence theories accept direct and indirect ways of understanding the correspondence relation as well as address potential objections to the view that correspondence theory is not singular and monolithic.

From Infants to Great Apes: The Empirical Adequacy of Primitivism about Truth

In Experimental Philosophy of Language: Perspectives, Methods, and Prospects, edited by David Bordonaba-Plou (Springer, 2023), pp. 263-286.

with Jeremy Wyatt

There is a growing body of empirical evidence which shows that infants and non-human primates have the ability to represent the mental states of other agents, i.e. that they possess a Theory of Mind. We will argue that this evidence also suggests that infants and non-human primates possess the concept of truth, which, as we will explain, is good news for primitivists about truth. First, we will offer a brief overview of alethic primitivism, focusing on Jamin Asay’s conceptual version of the view. Next, we will survey relevant work on Theory of Mind which indicates that children younger than two and non-human primates are able to attribute false beliefs. Then, we will bring these false-belief data to bear on Asay’s form of primitivism, arguing that the data support two of the four distinctive theses of this view and offering some remarks about the empirical evaluability of the two remaining theses. We hope that our discussion will help to bridge the gap between psychological and philosophical inquiry and that it will encourage further empirical research on the cognitive significance of the concept of truth for humans and other thinking creatures.

Horwich's Epistemological Fundamentality and Folk Commitments

Axiomathes (2022) 32.Suppl 2: S575-S592.

There are many variants of deflationism about truth, but one of them, Paul Horwich’s minimalism, stands out because it accepts as axiomatic practical variants of the equivalence schema: ⟨p⟩ is true if and only if p. The equivalence schema is epistemologically fundamental. In this paper, I call upon empirical studies to show that practical variants of the equivalence schema are widely accepted by non-philosophers. While in the empirical data there is variation in how non-philosophers and philosophers talk about truth and how they judge that a sentence is true, a significant amount of data collected over the years reveal that the ordinary or folk view of truth is compatible with the epistemological fundamentality of alethic minimalism. This, I take it, suggests that people share in the same intuitions that form the bedrock of Horwich’s minimalism.

Prosentential Theory of Truth in Dorothy Grover (1936-2017)

Encyclopedia of Concise Concepts in Women Philosophers (2022).

with Diane Proudfoot and Jeremy Wyatt

A concise encyclopedia article on the prosentential theory of truth in the works of Dorothy Grover.

"Schema" in Theories of Truth

Academia Letters (2021).

This brief summary of "schema" aims to help novices better appreciate what a schema is, how it is used, and why it is important for theories of truth. The summary is not meant to replace original work on "schema"; rather, it serves as a primer for students who are unfamiliar with schema in philosophy of mathematics.

The Objectivity of Truth, A Core Truism?

Synthese (2021) 198.Suppl 2: S717-S733.

with Robert Barnard

The familiar principle that: “truth is objective” can be understood in several ways. According to one interpretation of truth’s objectivity, judging whether an assertion is true or false depends upon how things are in the world rather than how some individual or some community understands it to be. Our project employs empirical studies to elicit people’s responses to questions about the objectivity of truth. These studies suggest the following: (1) overall, individuals tend to endorse claims that are consistent with the objectivity of truth; (2) individuals’ conceptions of the objectivity of truth can be importantly different from one another; (3) philosophers and non-philosophers both endorse the objectivity of truth, but the apparent commitment of philosophers is stronger.

Do People Really Think That ⸢φ⸣ is true if and only if φ?

In Advances in Experimental Philosophy of Logic and Mathematics (Bloomsbury, 2019), edited by Andrew Aberdein

with Robert Barnard

Tarski’s distillation of a rigorous account of truth into a system that turns on the acceptance of the so called Convention-T and its various instances has had a lasting impact on philosophical logic, especially work concerning truth, meaning, and other semantic notions. In a series of studies completed from the 1930s to the 1960s, Arne Næss collected and analyzed intuitive responses from non-philosophers to questions concerning truth, synonymy, certainty, and probability. Among the formulations of truth studied by Næss were practical variants of expressions of the form: ⸢φ⸣ is true if and only if φ.  This paper calls attention not only to Næss’ early findings but to a series of experimental results we’ve collected that suggest people respond affirmatively to the synonymy of a statement and its alethically quantified counterpart when the statement has content, but people are reluctant to do affirm the generalization from instances to a more abstract rendering that includes free variables.

Is There a Commonsense Conception of Truth?

Philosophia (2018) 46.2: 487-500.

Alfred Tarski’s refinement of an account of truth into a formal system that turns on the acceptance of Convention-T has had a lasting impact on philosophical logic, especially work concerning truth, meaning, and other semantic notions. In a series of studies completed from the 1930s to the 1960s, Arne Næss collected and analysed intuitive responses from non-philosophers to questions concerning truth, synonymy, certainty, and probability. Among the formulations of truth studied by Næss were practical variants of expressions of the form Bp’ is true if and only if p’. This paper calls attention to a series of experimental results Næss overlooked in his original study. These data collectively suggest that acceptance of expressions of the form Bp’ is true if and only if p’ varies according to what kind of statement p is.

The Messy Truth of Yablovian If-Thenism

Australasian Philosophical Review (2017) 1.2: 206-211.

This commentary on Stephen Yablo’s ‘If-Thenism’ challenges whether the remainder, ρ, is an inaccurate representation of the conditions that are supposed to complete the enthymeme from φ to ψ. Whilst inaccuracies shouldn’t set off any alarm bells, the truth of ρ is too inexact. The content of ρ, a partial truth, must be sensitive to contextual background conditions for subtraction to work properly in Yablo’s view. Using a toy example, I argue that Yablo’s subtraction model may yield partial truths as remainders that fail to rule out inaccurate expressions that may prove to be problematic for it.

Thinking about the Liar, Fast and Slow

In Reflections on the Liar

with Robert Barnard and Jonathan Weinberg

The liar paradox is widely conceived as a problem for logic and semantics. On the basis of empirical studies presented here, we suggest that there is an underappreciated psychological dimension to the liar paradox and related problems, conceived as a problem for human thinkers. Specific findings suggest that how one interprets the liar sentence and similar paradoxes can vary in relation to one’s capacity for logical and reflective thought, acceptance of certain logical principles, and degree of philosophical training, but also as a function of factors such as religious belief, gender, and whether the problem is treated as theoretical or practical. Though preliminary, these findings suggest that one reason the liar paradox resists a final resolution is that it engages both aspects described by so-called dual process accounts of human cognition.

Ordinary Truth in Tarski and Næss

In Uncovering Facts and Values 

 

Alfred Tarski seems to endorse a partial conception of truth, the T-schema, which he believes might be clarified by the application of empirical methods, specifically citing the experimental results of Arne Næss (1938a). The aim of this paper is to argue that Næss’ empirical work confirmed Tarski’s semantic conception of truth, among others. In the first part, I lay out the case for believing that Tarski’s T-schema, while not the formal and generalizable Convention-T, provides a partial account of truth that may be buttressed by an examination of the ordinary person’s views of truth. Then, I address a concern raised by Tarski’s contemporaries who saw Næss’ results as refuting Tarski’s semantic conception. Following that, I summarize Næss’ results. Finally, I will contend with a few objections that suggest a strict interpretation of Næss’ results might recommend an overturning of Tarski’s theory.

Tarski's 1944 Polemical Remarks and Næss' 'Experimental Philosophy'

Erkenntnis (2016) 81.3: 350-382

with Robert Barnard

Tarski identifies two primary conditions for a successful definition of truth: formal correctness and material (or intuitive) adequacy. Material adequacy requires that the concept expressed by the formal definition capture the intuitive content of truth. Our primary interest in this paper is to better understand Tarski's thinking about material adequacy, and whether components of his view developed over time. More precisely, we are concerned with how Tarski's understanding of the content of the common-sense, every-day usage of truth may have developed over time. We distinguish this concern from the character of the extensional criterion of adequacy Tarski proposes: that a materially adequate definition must entail all instances of Convention T. We will develop our reading of Tarski as follows: first, we will review the "Polemical Remarks," focusing primarily on §§14 and 17, and Tarski's references to Naess' empirical research. Next, we will provide a summary and discussion of Naess' work, especially his findings with respect to Tarski's definition of truth and his research that suggests there is no single common or everyday concept of truth. Third, we will consider several possible objections to our interpretation of the Tarski-Naess dialectic. We will conclude that Tarski's conception of what the material adequacy requirement develop over time, potentially because of what he had learned through his interactions with Naess.

Review: Joshua Rasmussen, Defending the Correspondence Theory of Truth (Cambridge University Press, 2013)

Polish Journal of Philosophy (2015) 9.2: 83-87

A book review of Joshua Rasmussen's Defending the Correspondence Theory of Truth.

Truth, Correspondence, and Gender

Review of Philosophy and Psychology (2013) 4.4: 621-638

with Robert Barnard

Philosophical theorizing about truth manifests a desire to conform to the ordinary or folk notion of truth.  This practice often involves attempts to accommodate some form of correspondence.  We discuss this accommodation project in light of two empirical projects intended to describe the content of the ordinary conception of truth.  One, due to Arne Naess, claims that the ordinary conception of truth is not correspondence. Our more recent study is consistent with Naess’ result.  Our findings suggest that contextual factors and respondent gender affect whether the folk accept that correspondence is sufficient for truth.  These findings seem to show that the project of accommodating the ordinary notion of truth is more difficult than philosophers had anticipated because it is fragmentary.

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