Deflationism about Truth

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2021)
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Deflationism about truth, what is often simply called “deflationism”, is really not so much a theory of truth in the traditional sense, as it is a different, newer sort of approach to the topic. Traditional theories of truth are part of a philosophical debate about the nature of a supposed property of truth. Philosophers offering such theories often make suggestions like the following: truth consists in correspondence to the facts; truth consists in coherence with a set of beliefs or propositions; truth is what is acceptable in the ideal limit of inquiry. According to deflationists, such suggestions are mistaken, and, moreover, they all share a common mistake. The common mistake is to assume that truth has a nature of the kind that philosophers might find out about and develop theories of. The main idea of the deflationary approach is (a) that all that can be significantly said about truth is exhausted by an account of the role of the expression ‘true’ or of the concept of truth in our talk and thought, and (b) that, by contrast with what traditional views assume, this role is neither metaphysically substantive nor explanatory. For example, according to deflationary accounts, to say that ‘snow is white’ is true, or that it is true that snow is white, is in some sense strongly equivalent to saying simply that snow is white, and this, according to the deflationary approach, is all that can be said significantly about the truth of ‘snow is white’. Philosophers looking for some underlying nature of some truth property that is attributed with the use of the expression ‘true’ are bound to be frustrated, the deflationist says, because they are looking for something that isn’t there. Deflationism comprises a variety of different versions, each of which have gone by different names, including at least the following: disquotationalism, minimalism, prosententialism, the redundancy theory, the disappearance theory, the no-truth theory. There has not always been terminological consensus in the literature about how to use these labels: sometimes they have been used interchangeably; sometimes they have been used to mark distinctions between different developments of the same general approach. The actual variety of deflationary views has not always been clear in discussions of this approach, especially in the earlier literature, where important differences are occasionally missed. To help clear this up, we will use ‘deflationism’ to denote the general approach we want to discuss and reserve other names for specific versions of that approach.



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Author Profiles

Daniel Stoljar
Australian National University
James Woodbridge
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Bradley Armour-Garb
State University of New York, Albany

References found in this work

Philosophical Investigations.Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1953 - New York, NY, USA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Word and Object.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1960 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
On the Plurality of Worlds.David K. Lewis - 1986 - Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell.
Truth and objectivity.Crispin Wright - 1992 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

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