Part 1B Knowledge, Language and World: Truth


This is the web page for the Philosophy Part 1B lectures on Truth given by Richard Holton as part of the Knowledge, Language and World paper at the University of Cambridge, Michaelmas term 2019. This page provides links to papers and other texts that may be useful and to pdf versions of the handouts. The faculty reading list can be found here.

I will be focussing on what are there called the ‘correspondence’ and ‘deflationary’ theories. Coherence theories are rarely advocated nowadays (if they ever were), but we shall be looking at some pragmatic accounts that respond to some of the same concerns.

To give a flavour of the direction of recent formal work, we will conclude with a brief look at the way that Tarski wanted to avoid the paradoxes, and at Kripke's alternative. A good overview, with links to many other resources, can be found in Michael Glanzberg’s Stanford Encyclopedia entry on truth. Note though, that, as he says there, this is really just for orientation: the arguments are largely omitted. An excellent recent guide, which does have plenty of arguments, is Burgess and Burgess Truth (Princeton University Press 2011). Email me with any questions at rjh221@cam.ac.uk

Lectures


Coherence, correspondence (11th October)

Handout


Varieties of deflationism and their difficulties (18th October)

Handout

Primary reading

An influential defence of what he calls minimalism is given by Paul Horwich in his book Truth.

Secondary reading


Tarski’s projects (25th October)

Handout

Primary reading

Tarski’s main piece on truth ‘The Concept of Truth in Formalized Languages’ is formidably long and difficult. But you can get a good introduction to the philosophical motivation from ‘The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundations of Semantics’ PPR 4 (1944). ‘Truth and Proof’ from The Scientific American, is also helpful.

Secondary reading

There are many introductions to Tarski’s formal method. The first sections of Chapter 2 of Burgess and Burgess are very clear, as is Chapter 3 of Scott Soames Understanding Truth. Field’s complaint about Tarski’s unrealized reductive project occurs in ‘Tarski’s Theory of Truth’ Journal of Philosophy 1972.


Kripke and other responses to the paradoxes (1st November)

Handout

Primary reading

S. Kripke ‘Outline of a Theory of Truth’. This isn’t quite as hard going as it might first seem. You should be able to read at least the first half. For an introduction, try the section in Burgess and Burgess:

Secondary reading

Burgess and Burgess have a good introductory discussion

Christopher Gauker, Kripke's Theory of Truth, is as straightforward a presentation of the formalism as you can get, with some useful criticisms at the end.