Topic: semantic truth; s iff p

topics > philosophy > Group: meaning and truth

natural language

beliefs and propositional attitudes
is a name a literal string or a symbol
Liar's paradox and Russell's paradox
limitations of formalism
natural language translation
self reference
semantics by an abstract machine
sentences, propositions, and truth
what is truth


A theory of meaning or truth identifies when a statement is true, when statements are equivalent, and when they are analytical.

The semantic theory of truth defines 'true' by statements such as 'Snow is white' iff snow is white. This translates the name of the sentence ('Snow is white') into the sentence's truth condition (snow is white). Translation is implicit here, despite the similarity of the sentences, i.e., the quoted sentence is in a different language than the unquoted one. This avoids the Liar's paradox but introduces a hierarchy of 'true in L' and collides with Quine's indeterminacy of translation. Kripke avoids the hierarchy by identifying truth with the fixed point of grounded sentences.

Truth conditions could define a system of meaning. Attempts have not been successful. Furthermore, "means that" defines a referentially opaque context in which you can not substitute equivalents. Let's say you just look at the truth conditions. What set do you pick out of all the possibilities? Do children really go through this? And where is the truth in "Let's go to the movies."? (cbb 4/94)

Subtopic: theory of meaning up

Quote: theory of meaning for recognizing synonymy of linguistic forms and analyticity of statements [»quinWV1_1951]
Quote: need a theory of truth because truth can not be identified with mathematical provability; Godel [»tarsA_1944, OK]
Quote: must be a notation for representing the meaning of sentences independent of word sequence [»woodWA_1975]

Subtopic: metalanguage up

Quote: use vs. mention is like object language vs. metalanguage; first suggested by Russell [»raatP_1998]
Quote: must reform a colloquial language to formalize its semantics with a metalanguage; the process may loss the language's naturalness [»tarsA_1956]

Subtopic: X is true iff p up

Quote: semantic conception of truth--"X is true iff p" where X is the name of sentence p and p is a true sentence of the language [»tarsA_1944]
Quote: any definition of true which is materially adequate must include the semantic conception of truth since that's how it was defined [»tarsA_1944]
Quote: a theory of meaning provides a predicate 'p' in "s means that p" or "s is True iff p" [»daviD_1967]
Quote: the semantic definition of truth says nothing about when a sentence X is true, only that it must correlate with "the sentence "X" is true" [»tarsA_1944]
Quote: a statement of the form '"p" iff p' says that the phrase 'p' can occur in this way; is part of its meaning [»ziffP_1960]

Subtopic: truth conditions up

Quote: give meaning to a sentence by defining its truth conditions; no longer need the meanings of sentences or words [»daviD_1967]
Quote: the theory of meaning needs to relate the underlying structure of a language (e.g., its words) to a sentence's truth conditions [»daviD_1967]
Quote: theory of meaning is the semantic concept of truth only when truth conditions are expressed in the language; also needed for foreign languages [»daviD_1967]
Quote: a declarative sentence gets its meaning by virtue of its truth conditions; basic idea of Tractatus
Quote: a theory of meaning should define meaning by a finite number of applications of a finite number of rules on a finite vocabulary [»daviD_1968]

Subtopic: truth as agreeing with reality up

Quote: the truth of a sentence consists in its agreement with reality; Aristotle [»tarsA_1944]
Quote: few people agree that "true" means "agreeing with reality", while most agree that "it is snowing" is true if and only if it is snowing [»tarsA_1944]
Quote: to explain something, find what provides that trait; e.g., fire, being the hottest, is the reason why other things are hot; a prototype

Subtopic: radical reductionism to immediate experience up

Quote: radical reductionism: every meaningful statement is translatable into a predicate about immediate experience [»quinWV1_1951]
Quote: Carnap in Aufau used mathematics and a parsimonious experiential language to define important additional sensory concepts
Note: Physicalism is that all facts are either physical or mathematical and that scientific claims and concepts are reducible [»tarsA_1944, OK]

Subtopic: problem of translation up

Quote: the sameness of a proposition is translinguistic; e.g., 'It is raining' in English, Italian and German [»martAP_1990]
Quote: indeterminacy of translation--a translation characterizes a truth-predicate, but no choosing between alternative translations with non-synonymous sentences [»daviD_1968]
Quote: translation can't distinguish between wrong translations and speakers with weird beliefs [»daviD_1968]

Subtopic: liar's paradox up

Quote: Tarski's hierarchy of languages is the orthodox approach to the liar's paradox; but it requires many versions of 'true' [»kripS_1975]
Quote: grounded sentences define a fixed point, a language that contains its own truth predicate; liar paradoxes are ungrounded [»kripS_1975]
Quote: truth defined by grounded sentences still places "grounded" and "paradoxical" in a metalanguage, but these are specialized concepts [»kripS_1975]

Subtopic: syntax vs. semantics up

Quote: Chinese room argument -- baskets of Chinese symbols and a rule book do not understand Chinese; symbols vs. meaning [»searJR1_1990]

Subtopic: problems with X is true iff p up

Quote: semantic conception of truth has a precise, rigorous meaning only if a language is exactly specified with axioms and rules of inference [»tarsA_1944]
Quote: prevent Liar's paradox by not using a semantically closed language with 'true' and "X is true iff p"; use metalanguage and object language [»tarsA_1944]
Quote: a theory of meaning can describe a language in terms of an English-like formal language; must be part of English itself [»daviD_1967]
Note: can not define meaning via "s means that p" because "means that" defines a referentially opaque context; needs non-extensional metalanguage [»daviD_1967, OK]
Note: an adequate theory of truth (s iff p) is necessary/sufficient for communication; but which consequence, naive understandings, and beliefs [»daviD_1967, OK]
Quote: while substitutivity is central to grammar, it depends on the context; the context changes the form; what is left invariant?

Related Topics up

Group: natural language   (16 topics, 539 quotes)

Topic: beliefs and propositional attitudes (28 items)
Topic: is a name a literal string or a symbol (23 items)
Topic: Liar's paradox and Russell's paradox (25 items)
Topic: limitations of formalism (93 items)
Topic: natural language translation (8 items)
Topic: reductionism (51 items)
Topic: self reference (27 items)
Topic: semantics by an abstract machine (38 items)
Topic: sentences, propositions, and truth (23 items)
Topic: what is truth
(67 items)

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