[lit-ideas] Re: Try a Logic Problem

  • From: Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 04 Jul 2006 12:56:59 -0700

Phil Enns wrote:

Donal McEvoy wrote:

"1. Whether a statement is true or corresponds with facts depends on,
and only depends on, whether the 'statement' corresponds with the
'facts'. Eg. 'Snow is white' is true if and only if [or 'iff.'] the snow
is, in fact, white."

Since Donal is interested not in the sentence 'Snow is white' but the
statement 'Snow is white', this "theory of truth" must be epistemic.
After all, what is a statement but a sentence asserted to be true?  But
then the problems just pile up.  How does an assertion "correspond" to
anything?  To determine what "fact" is being fixed on by the sentence
'Snow is white', one cannot turn to the sentence itself but rather the
assertion of the sentence.  Yet, Donal's account of Tarski's
T-Convention has the sentence, not the assertion, corresponding to a
fact.  Finally, how is a correspondence between a linguistic phenomenon,
the 'statement', and a presumably non-linguistic entity, the 'fact',
possible?  I would suggest that this is not a helpful approach to a
"theory of truth".

Tarski does not (in the popular paper to which I think you guys are referring), 'The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundations of Semantics' [1944] talk about sentences or 'statements' corresponding to anything. He offers a criterion of truth for sentences which any account of truth must meet. (If your theory of truth makes it possible that 'S is P' is true although S is not P, your theory isn't an adequate theory of truth and perhaps you'll want to think about it some more.

Phil, fastening on the notion of statements and contrasting them with sentences, believes that the Semantic Conception of Truth must be 'epistemic.' This is just a muddle. Tarski is not concerned with how one discovers or comes to believe or knows that e.g. snow is white. The question of how sentences, statements, and assertions can 'correspond' to 'facts' (Tarski does not mention facts) is a strange one. What would count as an answer?

Donal is right that Tarski doesn't invoke 'facts' and 'existence' in setting out his quite general criterion of truth.

Robert Paul
The Reed Institute
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