[lit-ideas] Dummettiana

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 13 Jan 2012 19:59:44 -0500 (EST)

Dummett's  Truth



(The whole  interview contains commentary on voting, Tarot, etc.).  



quoted text:

Q: Could you describe your work in philosophy?

DUMMETT:  Well, I’ll do my best. I have a kind of side interest in the 
philosophy of time.  One of the first things I published was an article arguing 
that backwards  causation (where the cause comes after the effect) was not 
logically impossible.  I suppose that the principal interest I’ve had, and 
certainly what I’m best  known
for, is a critique of realism and the truth-conditional theory of  meaning 
that underlies it. That is, the theory that the MEANING of a statement  
consists in the condition for it to be true. Now, what we learn when we learn a 
language is what counts as establishing a statement as true. Not, in 
general, by  observation but, more usually, by inference from premisses 
established by  observation. We also learn what you’re committed to by 
accepting a 
statement as  true. That is the practice of speaking a language. But the 
Realist position  normally involves the Principle of Bivalence: that every 
unambiguous statement  is determinately either true or false. On that position, 
being true of the  statement can go beyond what we are capable of 
recognizing. But what we are  capable of recognizing consists in our ability to 
recognize whether the  statement is established as true. The simplest possible 
example is this. It is  normally assumed -- a realist assumption -- that the 
magnitude of any physical  quantity is absolutely determinate and exact, that’
s to say that it would be  given in terms of some suitable unit, by a real 
number which might be rational  or irrational. We can never discover that. 
We can only measure to within a  margin of error. So, there is a statement 
which is true but which we are  incapable ever of recognizing as true. There 
are plenty of such statements, and  I want to question, I have questioned, 
how we can come by such a notion as that  of a statement as being true, 
independently of our being able to recognize it as  true? And how can we 
possession of such a concept, and in any case, in  what does it consist? It 
seems to me that there is a circularity. You explain  what it is to grasp 
the proposition expressed by a statement, in terms of your  grasp of another 
proposition; namely that it would be true under such and such  conditions. 
That can’t be manifested in the actual practice of using the  language, 
because all that manifests is your capacity to recognize it, to  recognize the 
statement as true in favourable cases. So, if you reject this  realist account, 
this truth-conditional theory of meaning, you have to have a  DIFFERENT 
theory of meaning which I call justificationist (to understand a  statement is 
to know what would justify you in asserting it, in other words  being able 
to recognize it as true). And if you take that as your account of  meaning, 
you have to jettison this principle
of bivalence because there are  statements for which we have no means of 
whether they’re true or  false, so you can’t assume that every statement 
is either true or false. I mean,  you’re now identifying truth with the 
existence of something whereby we could  recognize a statement as true. That 
means that you have to reject classical  logic in favour of what’s usually 
called intuitionist logic. So, now, I’ve never  actually identified myself with 
denial, a rejection of realism, I’ve been  concerned simply to pose a 
challenge to the Realist standpoint and ask how it  can answer these questions 
that I’ve posed about how do we get the concept of  being true, and also to 
work out the implications of denying realism and  adopting the 
justificationist theory of meaning. What effect does that have on  metaphysics 
Is it coherent? I mean: are there problems which show  it to be untenable? 
So: that has been my major interest. I’ve written a great  deal also about 
the philosophy of Frege, I’ve retained my admiration for and  interest in his 
work, so that is exegesis. It is exegesis which brings you to  the 
frontiers of the subject, I think."

Q: Would it be fair to say then  that the intuitionism in a sense underpins 
the anti-realism?"

Dummett:  Yes.

Q: So, would your take be something along the lines of Quine, who  never 
that there are other possible logics—in fact nothing was ever  sacrosanct 
in his view—but just basically that you were stuck with bivalence  because it 
got you the results that you required in science, and it was  simplicity 
that was at stake? And are you saying in a sense that we shouldn’t  just draw 
boundaries, and we shouldn’t be so quick and content to retain  boundaries. 
That maybe we should just look a little bit further forward to see  what we 
might come up with if we put the full support towards something other  than 
bivalence? Is that a fair position of where you stand?



Q: Of course you recognize bivalence and its power in what  it does in
mathematics, but what would happen  if?



Q: Another possibility to deny  bivalence would be to accept multivalence.


Yes. But that  is not the way that I’ve gone actually. In Intuitionist 
Logic you can’t assert  of any statement that it is neither true nor false, 
would be for the  intuitionist a contradiction. What you cannot do is to 
assume that it is  determinately one or the other.

Q: It is "P or not P" what is  rejected."


Right. And you can’t ever close off the  possibility that something will be 
shown to be true. It may be very unlikely  that it is, but there could 
always be evidence that would turn up. So you can’t  close it off."
--- end quoted text.
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