Tuesday, November 09, 2004

minimalist truth schema

Tell me what you think of my initial intuition of the minimalist truth schema:

'P' is true iff P. It seems like any further explication of this schema will smuggle in an inflationary theory of truth. And without any further explication this theory is very vague. The compatibility this schema has with all other theories of truth is obvious but it seems like each theory of truth will explain what this schema means in a different way. So when Horwich wants to leave the theory of truth as merely this schema without any inflation, it seems cloudy to me...
Of course this is just off the top of my head and this is why i'm submitting it to the lions. Go at it...if i even explained it good enough. ha! Disregard below post....I just figured out how to edit these.


6 Comments:

At 2:15 PM, November 09, 2004, Blogger Andrew said...

okay... here's the truth schema since I apparently can't use the symbols I used in my original post. "P" is true iff P.

 
At 9:52 AM, November 10, 2004, Blogger Pogue Mahone said...

Hmmmm... are you saying, for instance, that the statement "Snow is white" is true iff snow is white? Because this seems accurate, but doesn't seem to get us far in the direction of justification or knowledge. But then, you said nothing about striving for either one, so that may not be a problem.

 
At 11:21 AM, November 10, 2004, Blogger Andrew said...

Well that truth schema is Horwich's theory of truth. It has all the explanatory power that any other theory of truth has without any infationary concepts such as correspondence or coherence. My worry is that when Horwich explicates this truth schema he falls into some sort of correspondence theory. It seems the interpretation of this schema is left up for grabs and once a theorist attempts to pin it down he is cornering himself into an inflationary theory.

 
At 12:11 PM, November 10, 2004, Blogger Chris said...

The other day my mind lapsed and I had trouble trying to flesh out Horwich's position while conversing with Andy and Jonah. Here's another attempt:

Horwich's theory of truth, the 'minimalist theory', differs from the standard 'correspondence theory' because of how it conceives the word 'truth'. The correspondence theory attempts to analyze truth as a predicate--that is to say, truth is something that a certain proposition can have (in some sense of the word 'have'). How does a proposition come to have this predicate? By corresponding to a certain state of affairs in the world. Now, we need only analyze this correspondence relation, and our conceptual analysis of truth will be complete.

The minimalist thinks this is philosophical overkill. We need not posit some sort of robust inflationary theory of truth; all that is needed is the simple truth schema, ie for every p, [p] (the bracketed phrase is the proposition) is true iff p. In other words, the proposition [snow is white] is true iff and only if the stuff in our world 'snow' actually is the color 'white', [the sky is blue] is true iff the sky actually is the color blue, and on and on for the infinite amount of sentences that take this form. You may be saying, "Minimal theory of truth!? Doesn't seem very minimal to me!" Keep in mind, however, that all theories of truth admit to this truth schema, but only the deflationary minimalist theory thinks that this is all there is to truth.

Now, the concern that many have been having is simply this: How are we to understand the truth schema unless there is some sort of relation between the proposition and the state of affairs. My attempt to defend its minimalism the other day fell short because I invoked causal relations. But since then I have seen the light. [p] isn't true because of p. It's true iff p. Can you see the distinction? Two dialogues to illustrate the difference:

(1)
a: Is [p] true?
b: Yes.
a: What makes you say that?
b: [p] is true iff p. So, because p is a state of affairs that obtains, [p] is true.
(This is some sort of correspondence theory; it leaves us with an analysis of the causal relations between the two items of equivalence.)

(2)
a: Is [p] true?
b: Yes.
a: What makes you say that?
b: [p] is true iff p. p, therefore [p] is true.
(This is minimalist theory; nothing is left to be explained.)

It's like this. We know that all creatures with hearts are creatures with kidneys. So, this creature has a heart iff this creature has a kidney. In this case of material equivalence, we can clearly see that one side of the 'iff' isn't causing the other side. It isn't necessarily true that all creatures with hearts also have kidneys. But nonetheless the material equivalence holds.

Witness the parallel dialogues:

(1)
a: Does this creature have a kidney?
b: Yes.
a: What makes you say that?
b: All creatures with hearts are creatures with kidneys. This creature has a heart. Because of that, this creature has a kidney.
(Once again we are left with further analysis.)

(2)
a: Does this creature have a kidney?
b: Yes.
a: What makes you say that?
b: All creatures with hearts are creatures with kidneys. This creature has a heart, therefore this creature has a kidney.
(Nothing more need be said.)

Whew...Sorry for the long post. I hope it does its job.

 
At 2:09 PM, November 14, 2004, Blogger cocodrylo said...

Chris -

I'm not in the Realism Seminar, but I think there is something wrong with what you are saying. It seems that both accounts of truth (Minimalist and correspondence) are left in the same boat. I think I might charge you with some sort of equivocation. Regarding (1), the "because" is not being used as an explanation indicator. This would require an assumption that [p] is already true. But it seems as if a is trying to convince b that [p] is true, not trying to explain why [p] is true. So, the "because" in instance (1) is only being used as a premise indicator, in which case it is not a part of the premise itself, and can be removed and still maintain the same meaning.

Likewise, it seems that in (2) we could easily add a "because" to 'p, therefore [p] is true,' since we are trying to convince one that something is true. It only indicates a premise. It seems to me that both instances are attempts at an inference relation, so the "because" is not being used causally. If one were trying to explain why [p] is true (note the implicit assumption of its truth at this point and not an argument for its truth), then the because would be a causal relation.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I really don't see a difference between the two.

Also, the claim that all creatures with hearts are creatures with kidneys does not imply that all creatures with kidneys are creatures with hearts (categorically invalid - pun intended). I get what you mean anyway, but you're still wrong :)

Crustaceans have hearts, but they do not have kidneys. They have neurogenic hearts (require a signal, while human hearts pump without signals), which operate in an open circulatory system (no arteries). So you might claim that its not the same type of heart. Anyway, they don't have kidneys, although they have a digestive tract that performs many functions of intestines, kidneys etc.

Andy -

I think you're right. "p" is true iff p seems to beg the question, "what do you mean by p?" If you mean that p is a state of affairs that obtains, then what do they mean by "obtains"? The minimalist truth schema provides a minimal amount of explanation of the nature of truth, which probably won't satisfy many (including me)

q

 
At 3:04 PM, November 14, 2004, Blogger Chris said...

Quentin:

You said: "Regarding (1), the "because" is not being used as an explanation indicator." You're right, it's being used as a correspondence indicator. I couldn't think of a better word to use than 'because.'

"Likewise, it seems that in (2) we could easily add a "because" to 'p, therefore [p] is true,' since we are trying to convince one that something is true." Sure, we could add a ton of things, but why should we? p iff [p] is true--why add any sort of correspondence relation between the two? (As someone who tends to Quine away every unscientific inflationary concept, I find it strange that you believe in some sort of weird relation between propositions like [snow is white] and the stuff that falls from the sky on cold winter days. How are we to interpret such a relation?)

"Also, the claim that all creatures with hearts are creatures with kidneys does not imply that all creatures with kidneys are creatures with hearts (categorically invalid - pun intended). I get what you mean anyway, but you're still wrong :)" You're right, that's an embarrassing slip-up. Of course I meant that a creature has a heart iff it has a kidney, not simply 'all creatures with hearts are creatures with kidneys' which is only a unidirectional implication. Regarding the empirical truth of that matter--I'm not trying to claim that's actually the case, I was just using Quine's famous example which proves that sameness of extension does not equal sameness of intension.

 

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