15 May 2007


There continues to be life in the old debates about truth.

George Englebretsen, a logician who teaches at Bishop's University, Quebec, has just come out with a book entitled Bare Facts and Naked Truths: A New Correspondence Theory of Truth.

While researching that book, I discovered a similar one that came out a few years back (as long ago as 2000, but much more recent than most of the books and articles on the subject I've ever seen given my old-school habits of mind!) Between Deflationism and Correspondence Theory (2000).

Matthew McGrath at the University of Missouri.

What both books have in common is that they see the chief rivalry in the definition of truth as the one defined in Dr. McGrath's title. Either truth is merely a word of approval, (when you say "the sun is yellow" and I say "that's true," I could as well have nodded my head, or given you a thumb's up signal) OR it is an ontologically significant state of agreement between a proposition and a fact-in-the-world.

Englebretsen takes the side of correspondence. McGrath stays in the middle ground, which he also calls "weak deflationism." His theory is summarized on-line, in this article:


Something else both books have in common: they both accept and in fact turn on the idea of a "proposition." A proposition is the meaning of a sentence. Presumably, a proposition is the commonality we have in mind when we say that two sentences "mean the same thing."

The idea of correspondence inherent in both books is that a true PROPOSITION is one that corresponds to a fact.

But in practice (always my touchstone) the truth bearer is a sentence in some natural language, and if we slice propositions out of the account we can still (a) cope quite well with the fact that some pairs of sentences are equivalent to one another in meaning, while (b) leaving a ghostly pseudo-entity out of our ontology.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.