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Truth in the Tractatus


Glock, Hans Johann (2006). Truth in the Tractatus. Synthese, 148(2):345-368.

Abstract

My paper takes issue both with the standard view that the Tractatus contains a correspondence theory and with recent suggestions that it features a deflationary or semantic theory. Standard correspondence interpretations are mistaken, because they treat the isomorphism between a sentence and what it depicts as a sufficient condition of truth rather than of sense. The semantic/deflationary interpretation ignores passages that suggest some kind of correspondence theory. The official theory of truth in the Tractatus is an obtainment theory – a sentence is true iff the state of affairs it depicts obtains. This theory differs from deflationary theories in that it involves an ontology of states of affairs/facts; and it can be transformed into a type of correspondence theory: a sentence is true iff it corresponds to, i.e. depicts an obtaining state of affairs (fact). Admittedly, unlike correspondence theories as commonly portrayed, this account does not involve a genuinely truth-making relation. It features a relation of correspondence, yet it is that of depicting, between a meaningful sentence and its sense – a possible state of affairs. What makes for truth is not that relation, but the obtaining of the depicted state of affairs. This does not disqualify the Tractatus from holding a correspondence theory, however, since the correspondence theories of Moore and Russell are committed to a similar position. Alternatively, the obtainment theory can be seen as a synthesis of correspondence, semantic and deflationary approaches. It does justice to the idea that what is true depends solely on what is the case, and it combines a semantic explanation of the relation between a sentence and what it says with a deflationary account of the agreement between what the sentence says and what obtains or is the case if it is true.

Abstract

My paper takes issue both with the standard view that the Tractatus contains a correspondence theory and with recent suggestions that it features a deflationary or semantic theory. Standard correspondence interpretations are mistaken, because they treat the isomorphism between a sentence and what it depicts as a sufficient condition of truth rather than of sense. The semantic/deflationary interpretation ignores passages that suggest some kind of correspondence theory. The official theory of truth in the Tractatus is an obtainment theory – a sentence is true iff the state of affairs it depicts obtains. This theory differs from deflationary theories in that it involves an ontology of states of affairs/facts; and it can be transformed into a type of correspondence theory: a sentence is true iff it corresponds to, i.e. depicts an obtaining state of affairs (fact). Admittedly, unlike correspondence theories as commonly portrayed, this account does not involve a genuinely truth-making relation. It features a relation of correspondence, yet it is that of depicting, between a meaningful sentence and its sense – a possible state of affairs. What makes for truth is not that relation, but the obtaining of the depicted state of affairs. This does not disqualify the Tractatus from holding a correspondence theory, however, since the correspondence theories of Moore and Russell are committed to a similar position. Alternatively, the obtainment theory can be seen as a synthesis of correspondence, semantic and deflationary approaches. It does justice to the idea that what is true depends solely on what is the case, and it combines a semantic explanation of the relation between a sentence and what it says with a deflationary account of the agreement between what the sentence says and what obtains or is the case if it is true.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Philosophy
Dewey Decimal Classification:100 Philosophy
Language:English
Date:2006
Deposited On:08 May 2012 14:11
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 15:20
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:0039-7857
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-004-6226-2

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