[lit-ideas] Re: "Snow Is White": Tarski's Heritage Revisited

  • From: Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 20 Jan 2013 19:22:38 -0800

Regarding philosophical pets like


"Snow  is white" and "Grass is green".

alla Boas's alleged refutation,  rephrased:

"Eskimos have DOZENS, or even HUNDREDS, of words for [what  Tarski calls

So we may need a redefinition.

I'm not sure what we may need a 'redefinition' of. 'Snow'? 'White'? Tarski nowhere asserts that snow is white. It isn't even clear that he thinks that in some cases it might be.

Tarski says, on his way to doing something more complicated and, to semanticists and logicians more interesting, that

* 'Snow is white' is true iff snow is white.

This seems quite reasonable.

Surely one could not believe that it could be true that snow was white, even though snow wasn't white. This sounds like G. E. Moore, on a bad day.

This simple formula works for any intelligible sentence in any natural language. 'Kepler died in misery' is true iff Kepler died in misery. (I owe this example to my late colleague, G. Frege.)

As for temporal markers: What's apparently at stake is Donal's pointing out that of course P and -P need not contradict each other if they're sufficiently far apart in time. Hobbes may have been JL's favourite philosopher at one time, but later, Locke becomes his favourite. I'm taking the part of common sense though and assuming that since JL presented his commentary in one go, one would expect that it was meant to be read as a whole, viz. that it would be unfair to JL for others to ascribe temporal markers to his list. The Gricean rule is that assertions do not change their meaning as things the person asserting them asserted, until, an act of Parliament rules what had been asserted false.

This would take us further out in the seas of language than I'm prepared to go.

Robert Paul

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