Nothing but the truth. María J. Frápolli Department of Philosophy University of Granada. The blind men and the elephant. It was six men of Indostan To learning much inclined, Who went to see the Elephant (Though all of them were blind), That each by observation Might satisfy his mind.
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María J. Frápolli
Department of Philosophy
University of Granada
It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant (Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind
The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl: “God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!
The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”
The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”
The Fourth reached out an eager hand,And felt about the knee.“What most this wondrous beast is likeIs mighty plain,” quoth he;“ ‘Tis clear enough the ElephantIs very like a tree!”
The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”
John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887) based this poem, "The Blind Men and the Elephant", on an Indian fable
Truth is our elephant
Tarski’s and Quine’s disquotational approach
Quine’s characterization as a mechanism for semantic ascent,
Horwich’s explanation of truth as a denominalizer,
Strawson’s characterization as marker of illocutionary force
Grover’s definition of truth as a former prosentences
Peirce’s view of truth as a limit of research
Davidson’s, Hornsby’s, Dodd’s, Engel’s, Puntel’s, Künne’s ….
All these views correctly explain particular aspects of truth
Informed common sense
(My explanation is descriptive in Greimann’s sense)
The view I will defend is a development of the Aristotelian dictum
To say of what is that it is, or of what is not that it is not, is true
and of the Ramseyian Insight
What is the meaning of “true”? It seems to me that the answer is really perfectly obvious, that anyone can see what it is and that difficulty only arise when we try to say what it is.
Seeing the diversity of proposals, many have thought that truth was indefinable or even a contradictory notion. No wonder…
Pragmatism, putting the focus on actions, is a way of explaining meaning and content as part of the natural world
Human communicative actions, what we do with words, are our point of departure
AsHaack, I belief that
“There is one truth, but many truths: I.e., one unambiguous, non-relative truth-concept, but many and various propositions, etc., that are true. One truth-concept: to say that a claim is true is to say (not that anyone, or everyone, believes it, or that it follows from this or that theory, or that there is good evidence for it, but) simple that things are as it says”. (Haack, Putting Philosophy to work, pp. 59-60)
And against davidson’s advice, I will commit “The folly of trying to define truth”.
Syntax describes a structure, a skeleton, that is later fleshed out with semantic features.
Expressions with their syntactic and semantic features are tools that can be used in communicative actions
Syntax Semantics Pragmatics
Rational behaviour, of which linguistic behaviour is a distinguished part, does not come into portions. Human life is a reality that is continuous, and understanding it requires a global stance. Pragmatics is the foundational level of analysis.
The order of the enquiry should be:
Beginning with what speakers do with truth ascriptions
Then, continue with the semantic features that permit the use of truth for the purposes studied in 1., and then
Looking for the formal features that give support to the semantic properties
(Pragmatics Semantics Syntax
To understand how truth works in natural languages one has to look at the actions performed by the speakers when they use truth ascriptions.
Truth ascriptions are the paradigmatic sentences in which truth appears. In them, somebody attributes truth to what some body else has said or to propositions in a class
It is true that Brazil is very much like Spain in some aspects
“Brazil is bigger than Spain” is a true sentence
Darwin’s is a true picture of how life evolve on Earth
She said nothing but the truth
He spoke truly
Everything Benedictus XVI says is true
Truth can appear in language as a predicate “is true”, as a sentential operator “it is true that”, as an adverb “truly”, as a substantive “the Truth”. The grammatical form does not have any effect in the job performed by the notion.
The syntactic perspective has to determine the status of terms and their combinatorial rules. The truth predicate works as a denominalizer. (Tarski’s and Quine’s disquotationalism touch upon this point)
Proposition (expressed by Victoria’s utterance “I do not like Mondays”):
[Victoria does not like Mondays]
Designation of the proposition (exhibitive):
[“Victoria does not like Mondays”]
Designation of the proposition (blind):
[What Victoria said]
Expression of the proposition (exhibitive):
[“Victoria does not like Mondays” is a true sentence]
Expression of the proposition (blind):
[What Victoria said is true].
Truth is syntactically a mechanism to convert designations of propositions into expressions of them. This is its combinatorial function.
In this sense, Horwich is right in saying that the truth predicate is a denominalizer.
(Disquotationalism also says something right: that truth can be a mechanism to remove quotation marks.)
(this syntactical explanation is true, but it is not the whole truth)
The “elementary proposition” of truth is a truth ascription.
Fregean Principle of context
Truth ascriptions of all kinds are propositional variables, i.e. pro-forms of the sentential kind
Pro-forms are natural language variables.
The best known kind of pro-forms are pro-nouns.
Pronouns require a two-factor theory of meaning
(Kaplan’s, for instance, that distinguished between character and content)
Pronouns accomplished three tasks:
1.They are vehicles of direct reference
[This is my car]
2.They are vehicles of anaphoric reference
[I heard about this car, and I bought it]
3. They allow nominal generalization
[When I own a car, I take care of it]
The rest of pro-forms work as pronouns do. They also accomplish tasks analogous to the three mentioned, although that applied to the different semantic categories.
Pronouns refer: they are singular terms. But sentences, for instance, are not referential devices. Sentences are appropriate to express propositions not to refer to them
Two kinds of pro-sentences:
Nominal pro-sentences (expressions with the grammatical category of singular terms that have as their contents complete propositions)
Sentential pro-sentences: expressions with the grammatical category of sentences that act as propositional variables.
(NP) I reject what she said
(NP) Victoria declared that she had not been there, but I did not believe it
(SP) It is true
(SP) What is said is false
I love being here
2. Anaphoric reference:
I will go back to Spain, and I’ll be there until September
Everywhere I go, I find nice people there
1.1 It is true that Poland is very much like Spain in some aspects
1.2 “Poland is bigger than Spain” is a true sentence
2. Anaphoric reference:
2.1 Victoria said that the they have had a good time, and Joan denied it
2.2 A: It is hot here
B: What A says is true
3.1 If President Bush says something, Condoleeza ratifies it
3.2Everything the Pope says is true
First, Truth “bearers”:
Propositions and not sentences are contents of truth-ascriptions. Sentences are the “bearers” of meaning. But what is inherited by a truth ascription is a content.
A: It is hot here
B: Poland is a bigger than Spain
C: Disquotationalism is a poor theory
D: I have never been in Russia
This is true
A: This is not true
B: What A says is true
If there is no proposition inherited, A’s act is contentless. And is B’s act, in which B should have been inherited the content of A’s act. The whole series is ungrounded
It does help talking of sentences, for sentences are only derivatively true or false. They are true or false insofar as they express a true or false proposition
Disquotationalists focus on sentences with quotation marks
(“Snow is white” is a true sentence)
Reduntantists focus on sentences that include a truth sentential operator
(It is true that Spain is a Parliamentary monarchy)
Pro-sententialists focus on sentences whose subject is a description…
(What the Pope says is true)
A classification is called for …
- A.2.a His claim was true
- A.2.b She is telling the truth
- A.2.c It is true what she says
B.1.a The theory of evolution is a true theory
B.1.b Naturalism is true
B.2 Blind: Truth-ascriptions that don’t display their general content. Examples:
I: All truth ascriptions present an expressive character
Expressivism (+): Making something explicit
Expressivism (–): some terms don’t contribute a component to the proposition expressed by the sentences in which they appear.
Logical constants in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus
Terms of conventional implicatures in the Gricean Project]
Expressivism is the general idea under which Strawson’s characterization of truth as marker of illocutionary force falls.
Besides expressivism, besides showing the kind of speech act involved, speakers perform some other tasks when they use truth-ascriptions.
Different kinds of ascriptions are suitable for different kinds of pragmatic tasks
1.c “Rio is south from Portoalegre” is a false sentence,
explicitly takes out a content from the realm of acceptable knowledge.
Blind ascriptions permit a content’s endorsement by assuming the commitments of an assertive act that has this particular content, and by deferring the entitlements to the agent of the latter. As entitlements and commitments are context dependent and the scope of a truth ascription is contextually restricted, a non-lazy blind truth ascription extends its scope to a new context.
It is a way of moving a content across contexts, from the context referred to to the context of the ascription. The movement of entitlements and commitments from context to context, and the corresponding displacement of the content, is marked by the presence of blind truth ascriptions. We call this pragmatic function the “horizontal role” of pro-sentences.
General truth ascriptions, both exhibitive and blind, add to the vertical and horizontal roles, all the pragmatic functions linked to generality.
(Natural language quantifiers are binary operators)
They, as the rest of quantified sentences, do not express propositions but transitions to make some moves between propositions. They are rules to assert something once something else has been asserted.
General truth ascriptions are thus permissions to assert
and they add in the two pragmatic functions that we have related to singular ascriptions. They possess expressive character, for they make explicit the assertive character of the act at issue, and they have the dynamic character proper of anaphoric movements
The pragmatic role of general truth ascriptions is thus complex. They are expressive devices that involve semantic anaphoric links. Ascriptions of the blind kind also include pragmatic anaphoric links, links that bind acts of assertion. In both cases, generality indicates permission, i.e. entitlement: in one kind of ascription it is the permission to assert any member of a class of propositions, actually asserted or not, and in the other one, it is a permission to transfer the content and the conditions of an act to a new context.
Redundancy: some uses are redundant and some uses are not
The alleged epistemic character of truth. Truth is not an epistemic notion although the ascription of truth to a content presupposes that some epistemic tests have been passed.
Truth in mathematics, Truth in Ethics. Recall that truth-ascriptions are variables and can inherited any content whatsoever…
As Ramsey said in his posthumous paper, “The Nature of Truth”, everybody knows what the word truth means, the problem is to explain it.
Maybe, a difficulty has been to disregard the notion’s complexity and the use speakers make of it.
Thanks for your attention