Truth and Its Nature (if Any)


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The Yahoos, meanwhile, are humanlike in appearance, and a grotesque cartoon of the existentialist understanding of what we truly are — creatures that are a random tumble of irrational drives. The Yahoos and Houyhnhnms are mirror depictions of humanity shorn of its capacity to deceive; yet neither the self-less Houyhnhnm nor the selfish Yahoo is a picture of our true nature — not its source, nor its perfected or authentic state.

It is far from clear, then, that getting beyond the capacity to commit falsehood perfects human nature. Houyhnhnm reason is the purely unimaginative, non-speculative, dispassionate grasping of bare facts. When Gulliver tells the Master Horse where he is from and how he got to their land, the horse replies. He knew it was impossible that there could be a country beyond the sea, or that a parcel of brutes could move a wooden vessel whither they pleased upon water.

He was sure no Houyhnhnm alive could make such a vessel, nor would trust Yahoos to manage it.

What the Houyhnhnm cannot easily imagine must be untrue. Their inability to knowingly lie is identical with their inability to see beyond facts — to imagine, to speculate, and even to have opinions. The Master Horse, for example, claims to know that there could not be a country beyond the sea. And without opinions, they are incapable of genuine and potentially truth-revealing speculation and inquiry. Moreover, not understanding what could be, they cannot even begin to grasp what should be.

To those who never delude themselves, nothing is ever hidden — and therefore truth is not something that need be sought, but rather something that lies always plainly before us. A life devoted to Truth as mere fact is repulsive to human beings. This is nowhere as obvious as when the Houyhnhnms look at death: They are incapable of experiencing loss, because they never abstract themselves from the immediate present and immediate facts. They are animals that have perfected their animal nature, living lives of truth as pure factuality.

It is of course a common human pretension to strive for just such a thing. The truth he seeks is not one of plain facts, plainly stated, but of something else. S o lies, which Swift takes to be part of our essential nature, are not the target of his satire. The enemy of human authenticity and flourishing is pride, the pinnacle of which is the denial of the lies inherent in our nature. After his sojourn with the Houyhnhnms, Gulliver resigns himself to the idea that he and his species are just a bunch of Yahoos, and writes:.

My reconcilement to the Yahoo kind in general might not But when I behold a lump of deformity, and diseases both in body and mind, smitten with pride, it immediately breaks all the measures of my patience. The ultimate form of this vice — fooling ourselves about our capacity to fool ourselves — is what takes us outside the realm of nature; it is the essence of not being who we are.

A prime source of this delusory pride is the detachment of reason from passion and the apotheosis of mere fact-grabbing as the essential nature of reason itself. In the land of the Houyhnhnms and the Yahoos, we see reason and passion precisely separated, housed respectively in these two creatures. In the Houyhnhnms, we see reason without passion, and in the Yahoos, a depiction of our raw nature, absent reason — and that nature is shown as grotesque, suggesting that our reason masks our natural depravity. But in his depiction of the Houyhnhnms, we begin to see that rationality detached from life and feeling would make us strangers to ourselves.

This point is even more obvious in A Modest Proposal , the famous tract in which Swift proposes a decidedly novel solution to the problems poverty and unemployment. The satire in that work rests on the trope of treating human affairs as if they were only factual matters — in this case, questions of economics. The pretense is that moral thought can be reduced to practical calculation. The joke, of course, is that, in earnestly proposing a solution to monstrosity, the author casually proposes one far greater.

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Gulliver begins the story as a man typical of his society, subject to its prejudices and cruelties — and to the pride it shows in having a ready, articulated defense for those prejudices and cruelties. The scene in which he explains those mores to the Houyhnhnm is something of a microcosm of the whole story: in defending his own land in the context of another, Gulliver reveals to the reader its absurdities — and begins to realize them himself.

In a famous dispute, Russell disagreed with Strawson, arguing that the sentence does express a proposition, and more exactly, a false one. What about declarative sentences that refer to events in the future? For example, does the sentence "There will be a sea battle tomorrow" express a proposition? Presumably, today we do not know whether there will be such a battle.

Because of this, some philosophers including Aristotle who toyed with the idea have argued that the sentence, at the present moment, does not express anything that is now either true or false. Another, perhaps more powerful, motivation for adopting this view is the belief that if sentences involving future human actions were to express propositions, i.

To defend free will, these philosophers have argued, we must deny truth-values to predictions. This complicating restriction — that sentences about the future do not now express anything true or false — has been attacked by Quine and others. These critics argue that the restriction upsets the logic we use to reason with such predictions. For example, here is a deductively valid argument involving predictions:. We've learned there will be a run on the bank tomorrow.

The Nature of Truth

If there will be a run on the bank tomorrow, then the CEO should be awakened. Without assertions in this argument having truth-values, regardless of whether we know those values, we could not assess the argument using the canons of deductive validity and invalidity. We would have to say — contrary to deeply-rooted philosophical intuitions — that it is not really an argument at all. For another sort of rebuttal to the claim that propositions about the future cannot be true prior to the occurrence of the events described, see Logical Determinism.

A liar sentence can be used to generate a paradox when we consider what truth-value to assign it. As a way out of paradox, Kripke suggests that a liar sentence is one of those rare declarative sentences that does not express a proposition. The sentence falls into the truth-value gap. See the article Liar Paradox. Do sentences such as "Torturing children is wrong" — which assert moral principles — assert something true or false , or do they merely express in a disguised fashion the speaker's opinions, or feelings or values?

Making the latter choice, some philosophers argue that these declarative sentences do not express propositions. We return to the principal question, "What is truth? It is the goal of scientific inquiry, historical research, and business audits. We understand much of what a sentence means by understanding the conditions under which what it expresses is true. Yet the exact nature of truth itself is not wholly revealed by these remarks.

Historically, the most popular theory of truth was the Correspondence Theory. First proposed in a vague form by Plato and by Aristotle in his Metaphysics , this realist theory says truth is what propositions have by corresponding to a way the world is. The theory says that a proposition is true provided there exists a fact corresponding to it. In other words, for any proposition p,. The theory's answer to the question, "What is truth?

Perhaps an analysis of the relationship will reveal what all the truths have in common. Consider the proposition that snow is white. Remarking that the proposition's truth is its corresponding to the fact that snow is white leads critics to request an acceptable analysis of this notion of correspondence. Surely the correspondence is not a word by word connecting of a sentence to its reference. It is some sort of exotic relationship between, say, whole propositions and facts. In presenting his theory of logical atomism early in the twentieth century, Russell tried to show how a true proposition and its corresponding fact share the same structure.

Inspired by the notion that Egyptian hieroglyphs are stylized pictures, his student Wittgenstein said the relationship is that of a "picturing" of facts by propositions, but his development of this suggestive remark in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus did not satisfy many other philosophers, nor after awhile, even Wittgenstein himself. And what are facts? The notion of a fact as some sort of ontological entity was first stated explicitly in the second half of the nineteenth century. The Correspondence Theory does permit facts to be mind-dependent entities. McTaggart, and perhaps Kant, held such Correspondence Theories.

The Correspondence theories of Russell , Wittgenstein and Austin all consider facts to be mind-independent. But regardless of their mind-dependence or mind-independence, the theory must provide answers to questions of the following sort. A true proposition can't be a fact if it also states a fact, so what is the ontological standing of a fact? Is the fact that corresponds to "Brutus stabbed Caesar" the same fact that corresponds to "Caesar was stabbed by Brutus", or is it a different fact? It might be argued that they must be different facts because one expresses the relationship of stabbing but the other expresses the relationship of being stabbed, which is different.

In addition to the specific fact that ball 1 is on the pool table and the specific fact that ball 2 is on the pool table, and so forth, is there the specific fact that there are fewer than 1,, balls on the table? Is there the general fact that many balls are on the table? Does the existence of general facts require there to be the Forms of Plato or Aristotle?

What about the negative proposition that there are no pink elephants on the table? Does it correspond to the same situation in the world that makes there be no green elephants on the table? The same pool table must involve a great many different facts. These questions illustrate the difficulty in counting facts and distinguishing them. The difficulty is well recognized by advocates of the Correspondence Theory, but critics complain that characterizations of facts too often circle back ultimately to saying facts are whatever true propositions must correspond to in order to be true.

Davidson has criticized the notion of fact, arguing that "if true statements correspond to anything, they all correspond to the same thing" in "True to the Facts", Davidson []. Davidson also has argued that facts really are the true statements themselves; facts are not named by them, as the Correspondence Theory mistakenly supposes. Defenders of the Correspondence Theory have responded to these criticisms in a variety of ways.

Truth | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Sense can be made of the term "correspondence", some say, because speaking of propositions corresponding to facts is merely making the general claim that summarizes the remark that. Therefore, the Correspondence theory must contain a theory of "means that" but otherwise is not at fault. Other defenders of the Correspondence Theory attack Davidson's identification of facts with true propositions. Snow is a constituent of the fact that snow is white, but snow is not a constituent of a linguistic entity, so facts and true statements are different kinds of entities.

Recent work in possible world semantics has identified facts with sets of possible worlds. The fact that the cat is on the mat contains the possible world in which the cat is on the mat and Adolf Hitler converted to Judaism while Chancellor of Germany.

The motive for this identification is that, if sets of possible worlds are metaphysically legitimate and precisely describable, then so are facts. To more rigorously describe what is involved in understanding truth and defining it, Alfred Tarski created his Semantic Theory of Truth. In Tarski's theory, however, talk of correspondence and of facts is eliminated. Although in early versions of his theory, Tarski did use the term "correspondence" in trying to explain his theory, he later regretted having done so, and dropped the term altogether since it plays no role within his theory.

The Semantic Theory is the successor to the Correspondence Theory. For an illustration of the theory, consider the German sentence "Schnee ist weiss" which means that snow is white. Tarski asks for the truth-conditions of the proposition expressed by that sentence: "Under what conditions is that proposition true? Line 1 is about truth. Line 3 is not about truth — it asserts a claim about the nature of the world. Thus T makes a substantive claim. Moreover, it avoids the main problems of the earlier Correspondence Theories in that the terms "fact" and "correspondence" play no role whatever.

A theory is a Tarskian truth theory for language L if and only if, for each sentence S of L , if S expresses the proposition that p, then the theory entails a true "T-proposition" of the bi-conditional form:. In the example we have been using, namely, "Schnee ist weiss", it is quite clear that the T-proposition consists of a containing or "outer" sentence in English, and a contained or "inner" or quoted sentence in German:.

There are, we see, sentences in two distinct languages involved in this T-proposition. If, however, we switch the inner, or quoted sentence, to an English sentence, e. In this latter case, it looks as if only one language English , not two, is involved in expressing the T-proposition. But, according to Tarski's theory, there are still two languages involved: i the language one of whose sentences is being quoted and ii the language which attributes truth to the proposition expressed by that quoted sentence. The quoted sentence is said to be an element of the object language , and the outer or containing sentence which uses the predicate "true" is in the metalanguage.

Tarski discovered that in order to avoid contradiction in his semantic theory of truth, he had to restrict the object language to a limited portion of the metalanguage. Among other restrictions, it is the metalanguage alone that contains the truth-predicates, "true" and "false"; the object language does not contain truth-predicates. This latter claim is certainly true it is a tautology , but it is no significant part of the analysis of the concept of truth — indeed it does not even use the words "true" or "truth", nor does it involve an object language and a metalanguage.

Tarski's T-condition does both. Tarski's complete theory is intended to work for just about all propositions, expressed by non-problematic declarative sentences, not just "Snow is white. Also, Tarski wants his truth theory to reveal the logical structure within propositions that permits valid reasoning to preserve truth.

To do all this, the theory must work for more complex propositions by showing how the truth-values of these complex propositions depend on their parts, such as the truth-values of their constituent propositions. Truth tables show how this is done for the simple language of Propositional Logic e. Tarski's goal is to define truth for even more complex languages. Tarski's theory does not explain analyze when a name denotes an object or when an object falls under a predicate; his theory begins with these as given.

He wants what we today call a model theory for quantified predicate logic. His actual theory is very technical. The idea of using satisfaction treats the truth of a simple proposition such as expressed by "Socrates is mortal" by saying:. If "Socrates" is a name and "is mortal" is a predicate, then "Socrates is mortal" expresses a true proposition if and only if there exists an object x such that "Socrates" refers to x and "is mortal" is satisfied by x.

If "a" is a name and "Q" is a predicate, then "a is Q" expresses a true proposition if and only if there exists an object x such that "a" refers to x and "Q" is satisfied by x. The idea is to define the predicate "is true" when it is applied to the simplest that is, the non-complex or atomic sentences in the object language a language, see above, which does not, itself, contain the truth-predicate "is true".

The predicate "is true" is a predicate that occurs only in the metalanguage, i. At the second stage, his theory shows how the truth predicate, when it has been defined for propositions expressed by sentences of a certain degree of grammatical complexity, can be defined for propositions of the next greater degree of complexity. According to Tarski, his theory applies only to artificial languages — in particular, the classical formal languages of symbolic logic — because our natural languages are vague and unsystematic. Other philosophers — for example, Donald Davidson — have not been as pessimistic as Tarski about analyzing truth for natural languages.

Davidson has made progress in extending Tarski's work to any natural language. Doing so, he says, provides at the same time the central ingredient of a theory of meaning for the language.

tymetolaje.tk Davidson develops the original idea Frege stated in his Basic Laws of Arithmetic that the meaning of a declarative sentence is given by certain conditions under which it is true—that meaning is given by truth conditions. As part of the larger program of research begun by Tarski and Davidson, many logicians, linguists, philosophers, and cognitive scientists, often collaboratively, pursue research programs trying to elucidate the truth-conditions that is, the "logics" or semantics for the propositions expressed by such complex sentences as:.

Each of these research areas contains its own intriguing problems. All must overcome the difficulties involved with ambiguity, tenses, and indexical phrases. Many philosophers divide the class of propositions into two mutually exclusive and exhaustive subclasses: namely, propositions that are contingent that is, those that are neither necessarily-true nor necessarily-false and those that are noncontingent that is, those that are necessarily-true or necessarily-false.

On the Semantic Theory of Truth, contingent propositions are those that are true or false because of some specific way the world happens to be. For example all of the following propositions are contingent :. The contrasting class of propositions comprises those whose truth or falsehood, as the case may be is dependent, according to the Semantic Theory, not on some specific way the world happens to be, but on any way the world happens to be. Imagine the world changed however you like provided, of course, that its description remains logically consistent [i.

Even under those conditions, the truth-values of the following noncontingent propositions will remain unchanged:. However, some philosophers who accept the Semantic Theory of Truth for contingent propositions, reject it for noncontingent ones. They have argued that the truth of noncontingent propositions has a different basis from the truth of contingent ones. The truth of noncontingent propositions comes about, they say — not through their correctly describing the way the world is — but as a matter of the definitions of terms occurring in the sentences expressing those propositions.

Noncontingent truths, on this account, are said to be true by definition , or — as it is sometimes said, in a variation of this theme — as a matter of conceptual relationships between the concepts at play within the propositions, or — yet another kindred way — as a matter of the meanings of the sentences expressing the propositions. It is apparent, in this competing account, that one is invoking a kind of theory of linguistic truth. In this alternative theory, truth for a certain class of propositions, namely the class of noncontingent propositions, is to be accounted for — not in their describing the way the world is, but rather — because of certain features of our human linguistic constructs.

Does the Semantic Theory need to be supplemented in this manner? If one were to adopt the Semantic Theory of Truth, would one also need to adopt a complementary theory of truth, namely, a theory of linguistic truth for noncontingent propositions? Or, can the Semantic Theory of Truth be used to explain the truth-values of all propositions, the contingent and noncontingent alike?

If so, how? To see how one can argue that the Semantic Theory of Truth can be used to explicate the truth of noncontingent propositions, consider the following series of propositions, the first four of which are contingent, the fifth of which is noncontingent:. Each of these propositions, as we move from the second to the fifth, is slightly less specific than its predecessor. Each can be regarded as being true under a greater range of variation or circumstances than its predecessor. When we reach the fifth member of the series we have a proposition that is true under any and all sets of circumstances.

Some philosophers — a few in the seventeenth century, a very great many more after the mid-twentieth century — use the idiom of "possible worlds", saying that noncontingent truths are true in all possible worlds [i. On this view, what distinguishes noncontingent truths from contingent ones is not that their truth arises as a consequence of facts about our language or of meanings, etc. Contingent propositions are true in some, but not all, possible circumstances or possible worlds. Noncontingent propositions, in contrast, are true in all possible circumstances or in none.

There is no difference as to the nature of truth for the two classes of propositions, only in the ranges of possibilities in which the propositions are true. An adherent of the Semantic Theory will allow that there is, to be sure, a powerful insight in the theories of linguistic truth. But, they will counter, these linguistic theories are really shedding no light on the nature of truth itself. Rather, they are calling attention to how we often go about ascertaining the truth of noncontingent propositions.

While it is certainly possible to ascertain the truth experientially and inductively of the noncontingent proposition that all aunts are females — for example, one could knock on a great many doors asking if any of the residents were aunts and if so, whether they were female — it would be a needless exercise.

We need not examine the world carefully to figure out the truth-value of the proposition that all aunts are females. We might, for example, simply consult an English dictionary. How we ascertain , find out , determine the truth-values of noncontingent propositions may but need not invariably be by nonexperiential means; but from that it does not follow that the nature of truth of noncontingent propositions is fundamentally different from that of contingent ones. On this latter view, the Semantic Theory of Truth is adequate for both contingent propositions and noncontingent ones.

In neither case is the Semantic Theory of Truth intended to be a theory of how we might go about finding out what the truth-value is of any specified proposition. Indeed, one very important consequence of the Semantic Theory of Truth is that it allows for the existence of propositions whose truth-values are in principle unknowable to human beings. And there is a second motivation for promoting the Semantic Theory of Truth for noncontingent propositions.

How is it that mathematics is able to be used in concert with physical theories to explain the nature of the world? On the Semantic Theory, the answer is that the noncontingent truths of mathematics correctly describe the world as they would any and every possible world. The Linguistic Theory, which makes the truth of the noncontingent truths of mathematics arise out of features of language, is usually thought to have great, if not insurmountable, difficulties in grappling with this question.

The Correspondence Theory and the Semantic Theory account for the truth of a proposition as arising out of a relationship between that proposition and features or events in the world. Coherence Theories of which there are a number , in contrast, account for the truth of a proposition as arising out of a relationship between that proposition and other propositions. Coherence Theories are valuable because they help to reveal how we arrive at our truth claims, our knowledge.

We continually work at fitting our beliefs together into a coherent system. For example, when a drunk driver says, "There are pink elephants dancing on the highway in front of us", we assess whether his assertion is true by considering what other beliefs we have already accepted as true, namely,. In short, the drunk's claim fails to cohere with a great many other claims that we believe and have good reason not to abandon.

We, then, reject the drunk's claim as being false and take away the car keys. For example, one Coherence Theory fills this blank with "the beliefs of the majority of persons in one's society". Another fills the blank with "one's own beliefs", and yet another fills it with "the beliefs of the intellectuals in one's society".

The major coherence theories view coherence as requiring at least logical consistency. Rationalist metaphysicians would claim that a proposition is true if and only if it "is consistent with all other true propositions". Some rationalist metaphysicians go a step beyond logical consistency and claim that a proposition is true if and only if it "entails or logically implies all other true propositions".

Coherence Theories have their critics too. The proposition that bismuth has a higher melting point than tin may cohere with my beliefs but not with your beliefs. This, then, leads to the proposition being both "true for me" but "false for you". But if "true for me" means "true" and "false for you" means "false" as the Coherence Theory implies, then we have a violation of the law of non-contradiction, which plays havoc with logic. Most philosophers prefer to preserve the law of non-contradiction over any theory of truth that requires rejecting it.

Consequently, if someone is making a sensible remark by saying, "That is true for me but not for you," then the person must mean simply, "I believe it, but you do not. A second difficulty with Coherence Theories is that the beliefs of any one person or of any group are invariably self-contradictory. A person might, for example, believe both "Absence makes the heart grow fonder" and "Out of sight, out of mind. Thus most propositions, by failing to cohere, will not have truth-values. This result violates the law of the excluded middle. And there is a third objection.

What does "coheres with" mean? For X to "cohere with" Y, at the very least X must be consistent with Y. All right, then, what does "consistent with" mean? It would be circular to say that "X is consistent with Y" means "it is possible for X and Y both to be true together" because this response is presupposing the very concept of truth that it is supposed to be analyzing. Some defenders of the Coherence Theory will respond that "coheres with" means instead "is harmonious with". Opponents, however, are pessimistic about the prospects for explicating the concept "is harmonious with" without at some point or other having to invoke the concept of joint truth.

A fourth objection is that Coherence theories focus on the nature of verifiability and not truth. They focus on the holistic character of verifying that a proposition is true but don't answer the principal problem, "What is truth itself? In recent years, one particular Coherence Theory has attracted a lot of attention and some considerable heat and fury. Postmodernist philosophers ask us to carefully consider how the statements of the most persuasive or politically influential people become accepted as the "common truths".

Although everyone would agree that influential people — the movers and shakers — have profound effects upon the beliefs of other persons, the controversy revolves around whether the acceptance by others of their beliefs is wholly a matter of their personal or institutional prominence. The most radical postmodernists do not distinguish acceptance as true from being true ; they claim that the social negotiations among influential people "construct" the truth.

The truth, they argue, is not something lying outside of human collective decisions; it is not, in particular, a "reflection" of an objective reality. Or, to put it another way, to the extent that there is an objective reality it is nothing more nor less than what we say it is. We human beings are, then, the ultimate arbiters of what is true. Consensus is truth. The "subjective" and the "objective" are rolled into one inseparable compound.

These postmodernist views have received a more sympathetic reception among social scientists than among physical scientists. Social scientists will more easily agree, for example, that the proposition that human beings have a superego is a "construction" of certain politically influential psychologists, and that as a result, it is to be regarded as true.

In contrast, physical scientists are — for the most part — rather unwilling to regard propositions in their own field as somehow merely the product of consensus among eminent physical scientists. They are inclined to believe that the proposition that protons are composed of three quarks is true or false depending on whether or not it accurately describes an objective reality. They are disinclined to believe that the truth of such a proposition arises out of the pronouncements of eminent physical scientists. In short, physical scientists do not believe that prestige and social influence trump reality.

A Pragmatic Theory of Truth holds roughly that a proposition is true if it is useful to believe. Peirce and James were its principal advocates. Utility is the essential mark of truth. Beliefs that lead to the best "payoff", that are the best justification of our actions, that promote success, are truths, according to the pragmatists. The problems with Pragmatic accounts of truth are counterparts to the problems seen above with Coherence Theories of truth. First, it may be useful for someone to believe a proposition but also useful for someone else to disbelieve it. For example, Freud said that many people, in order to avoid despair, need to believe there is a god who keeps a watchful eye on everyone.

According to one version of the Pragmatic Theory, that proposition is true. However, it may not be useful for other persons to believe that same proposition. They would be crushed if they believed that there is a god who keeps a watchful eye on everyone. Thus, by symmetry of argument, that proposition is false. In this way, the Pragmatic theory leads to a violation of the law of non-contradiction, say its critics. Second, certain beliefs are undeniably useful, even though — on other criteria — they are judged to be objectively false. For example, it can be useful for some persons to believe that they live in a world surrounded by people who love or care for them.

According to this criticism, the Pragmatic Theory of Truth overestimates the strength of the connection between truth and usefulness. Truth is what an ideally rational inquirer would in the long run come to believe, say some pragmatists.

Aeon for Friends

Truth is the ideal outcome of rational inquiry. The criticism that we don't now know what happens in the long run merely shows we have a problem with knowledge, but it doesn't show that the meaning of "true" doesn't now involve hindsight from the perspective of the future. Yet, as a theory of truth, does this reveal what "true" means?

What all the theories of truth discussed so far have in common is the assumption that a proposition is true just in case the proposition has some property or other — correspondence with the facts, satisfaction, coherence, utility, etc. Deflationary theories deny this assumption. Frege expressed the idea this way:. It is worthy of notice that the sentence "I smell the scent of violets" has the same content as the sentence "It is true that I smell the scent of violets. Frege, When we assert a proposition explicitly, such as when we say "I smell the scent of violets", then saying "It's true that I smell the scent of violets" would be redundant; it would add nothing because the two have the same meaning.

Today's more minimalist advocates of the Redundancy Theory retreat from this remark about meaning and say merely that the two are necessarily equivalent. Where the concept of truth really pays off is when we do not, or can not, assert a proposition explicitly, but have to deal with an indirect reference to it.

For instance, if we wish to say, "What he will say tomorrow is true", we need the truth predicate "is true". The truth predicate "is true" allows us to generalize and say things more succinctly indeed to make those claims with only a finite number of utterances. In short, the Redundancy Theory may work for certain cases, say its critics, but it is not generalizable to all; there remain recalcitrant cases where "is true" is not redundant.

Advocates of the Redundancy Theory respond that their theory recognizes the essential point about needing the concept of truth for indirect reference. The theory says that this is all that the concept of truth is needed for, and that otherwise its use is redundant.


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The Performative Theory is a deflationary theory that is not a redundancy theory. The Performative Theory of Truth argues that ascribing truth to a proposition is not really characterizing the proposition itself, nor is it saying something redundant. Rather, it is telling us something about the speaker's intentions. The speaker — through his or her agreeing with it, endorsing it, praising it, accepting it, or perhaps conceding it — is licensing our adoption of the belief in the proposition.

Instead of saying, "It is true that snow is white", one could substitute "I embrace the claim that snow is white. The case may be likened somewhat to that of promising. When you promise to pay your sister five dollars, you are not making a claim about the proposition expressed by "I will pay you five dollars"; rather you are performing the action of promising her something. Similarly, according to the Performative Theory of Truth, when you say "It is true that Vancouver is north of Sacramento", you are performing the act of giving your listener license to believe and to act upon the belief that Vancouver is north of Sacramento.

Critics of the Performative Theory charge that it requires too radical a revision in our logic. Arguments have premises that are true or false, but we don't consider premises to be actions, says Geach. Other critics complain that, if all the ascription of "is true" is doing is gesturing consent, as Strawson believes, then, when we say. The Prosentential Theory of Truth suggests that the grammatical predicate "is true" does not function semantically or logically as a predicate.

All uses of "is true" are prosentential uses. When someone asserts "It's true that it is snowing", the person is asking the hearer to consider the sentence "It is snowing" and is saying "That is true" where the remark "That is true" is taken holistically as a prosentence, in analogy to a pronoun.

A pronoun such as "she" is a substitute for the name of the person being referred to. Similarly, "That is true" is a substitute for the proposition being considered. Likewise, for the expression "It is true. Because these latter prosentential uses of the word "true" cannot be eliminated from our language during analysis, the Prosentential Theory is not a redundancy theory.

Critics of the theory remark that it can give no account of what is common to all our uses of the word "true," such as those in the unanalyzed operators "it-will-be-true-that" and "it-is-true-that" and "it-was-true-that". For generations, discussions of truth have been bedeviled by the question, "How could a proposition be true unless we know it to be true?

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