Comments on Soames' Understanding Truth

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 65 (2):418-421 (2002)
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I’ll use an extension of the “smidget” example Soames sets out on pages 165-172 to bring out the point. Groups A and B are disjoint and satisfy certain regularity conditions. Recall that the extension and anti-extension are specified by a pair of sufficient conditions. We specify: every member of group A is a smidget and every member of group B is not a smidget. No decision is made about persons that are outside groups A and B. It is, of course, crucial that the smidgethood of the indeterminate cases is genuinely left open. What is the cash value of the difference between leaving a case unsettled and settling a case as indeterminate? Here is one difference: when a case is left unsettled, speakers of the language can resolve it later, if there is some reason to do so. This provides a simple model of key features of legal stipulations, at least in circumstances like U.S. constitutional law, where a single body can introduce an expression and stipulate how it is to be interpreted.



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Jamie Tappenden
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

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