Year of Publication

2012

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Philosophy

First Advisor

Dr. Brandon Look

Abstract

I argue that satisfaction and reference—and therefore, truth—are multiply realizable properties. I advocate a novel approach motivated by a commitment to the robustness and fruitfulness of truth-theoretic approaches to natural language semantics.

DEFLATIONISM: Philosophers keen on deflating the metaphysical pretensions of truth theories claim that we need not appeal to a substantive truth-property. Recently, however, some philosophers have sought to combine deflationism about truth with the view that our concept of truth or the truth-predicate can play an important role in natural language semantics.

TRUTH-THEORETIC SEMANTICS: The goal of a formal semantic theory of a natural language is to provide both the semantic values of that language’s lexically primitive items as well as the semantically significant modes of combining those basic elements into meaningful and more complex expressions. Most approaches have in common a commitment to finite stateability and compositionality as well as a commitment to something like Davidson’s “Convention T.”

PLURALISM: Pluralists about truth argue that different areas of discourse have different truth-properties. Can pluralism successfully be combined with a commitment to truth-theoretic semantics?

OPEN SEMANTIC FUNCTIONALISM: The pluralist approaches to truth are unsatisfactory for a variety of reasons. The only option, I argue, is to regard truth as multiply-realizable. Specifically, we should view the set of truth’s realizers as possessing non-actual members—as being “open.” Truth is defined in the usual way in terms of reference and satisfaction, but these latter two relations are to be understood as multiply realizable but open. The property of truth can be specified using the Ramsey/Lewis method. My final view—Open Semantic Functionalism—respects compositionality and finite stateability, avoids triviality, handles plurality, and fits with robust, explanatorily significant natural language semantic theories.

Included in

Metaphysics Commons

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