Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Paul Horwich

Committee Members

Stephen Neale

Michael Levin

Alex Orenstein

Subject Categories



The aim of my thesis is to defend a deflationary view of truth and meaning. I characterize the view as a doctrine holding that truth is a purely logical notion, and truth-theoretic notions don't play a serious explanatory role in an account of meaning and content. We use truth-terms (e.g. `true') everywhere, from the discourse of ordinary conversation to those of the hard science and morality. The ubiquity of truth-terms gives rise to the impression that truth is a profound notion playing substantive explanatory roles. This impression, say deflationists, is unduly inflated--the ubiquity of truth-terms is not a sign of the richness but thinness of the concept of truth. In my thesis, I aim to defend this view by responding to some of its well-known objections. To defend a view often involves a modification, which is especially relevant to the case of deflationism due to the plethora of its variants. I have chosen two variants--Horwich's and Field's--in order to find out what features are to be had by a well-rounded variant of deflationism. My special interest is on the merits of a deflationary theory of truth as it is applied to an account of meaning and content. The specifics of each chapter are summarized in the following.

In chapter 1, I discuss the background of a deflationary theory of truth by examining the problems with a correspondence theory of truth. I divide a correspondence theory into two kinds: a fact-based theory and an object-based theory. As examples of a fact-based correspondence theory, Russell's and early Wittgenstein's theories are given a critical examination. I then turn to Tarski's semantic definition of truth. I argue that Tarski's definition has offered a way to develop a correspondence theory without invoking a fact or fact-like entity. I argue, however, that even a correspondence theory of a Tarski-style is vulnerable to a certain problem--the problem raised by Field. I then turn to reductive/physicalistic theories of reference--Kripke-Putnam's causal theory of reference, the information theory, and the teleological theory of representation. By arguing against each of these theories, I conclude that the prospect of a correspondence theory of truth is dim. I end this chapter by discussing how the dismal prospect of a correspondence theory of truth has motivated a deflationary theory of truth.

In chapter 2, I embark upon the core project of my thesis--developing and defending a deflationary theory of truth and meaning. I devote chapter 2 mainly to the discussion of Field's pure disquotational theory of truth. According to this view of truth, the concept of truth is at bottom purely disquotational. In this chapter, I try to elaborate and clarify the central ideas underlying this radical version of a deflationary theory of truth. To do so, I focus on some objections leveled against this view: that it cannot accommodate the modal properties of truth and logical derivations involving an attribution of truth to sentences that one does not understand. After criticizing Field's solutions to these problems, I propose my own solutions.

The topic of chapter 3 is the success argument against a deflationary theory of truth, according to which a deflationist cannot make sense of the explanatory role of truth in an account of the success of behavior or theories. In the first half of this chapter, I examine Nic Damnjanovic's supervenience/compatibilist objection to deflationism. I argue that a supervenience approach to truth is incompatible with a deflationary theory of truth. In the second half, I discuss Kitcher's realist objection to deflationism. Drawing upon the role of truth in an account of the success of scientific theories, Kitcher contends that realism requires a non-deflationary--correspondence--concept of truth. I criticize Kitcher's argument on the grounds that it conflates the objectivity requirement with the systematicity requirement. I argue that only the first is needed to accommodate the role of truth in an account of the success of a scientific theory.

In chapter 4, I aim to defend a deflationary theory of meaning and content. To this end, I carry out three projects--first, defending Horwich's use theory of meaning against Kripke's skeptical challenge; second, bringing out the commonalities between Horwich's and Field's views of meaning and content; and third, arguing for Field's deflationary analysis of the role of truth-conditions in psychological explanations. More precisely, I try to bring out the core ideas running through some deflationists' views of meaning and content such as late Wittgenstein, Horwich, and Field. By doing so, I aim to explain what it involves to state that truth-theoretic notions don't play a central role in an account of meaning and content, which is the main thesis of Horwich's and Field's deflationary views. I end this chapter by defending Field's view of truth-conditions--not only truth but also truth-conditions are expressive, not explanatory, devices aiding generalization.


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