Truth and the Past

Truth and the Past

MICHAEL DUMMETT
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 136
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/dumm13176
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  • Book Info
    Truth and the Past
    Book Description:

    Michael Dummett's three John Dewey Lectures -- "The Concept of Truth," "Statements About the Past," and "The Metaphysics of Time" -- were delivered at Columbia University in the spring of 2002. Revised and expanded, the lectures are presented here along with two new essays by Dummett, "Truth: Deniers and Defenders" and "The Indispensability of the Concept of Truth."

    In Truth and the Past, Dummett clarifies his current positions on the metaphysical issue of realism and the philosophy of language. He is best known as a proponent of antirealism, which loosely characterizes truth as what we are capable of knowing. The events of the past and statements about them are critical tests of an antirealist position. These essays continue and significantly contribute to Dummett's work.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50645-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Akeel Bilgrami

    When I arrived as an undergraduate in Oxford in the seventies, philosophers would meet in tournament, as though to break lances in Michael Dummett’s honor, especially in the face of what seemed like an invasion of Davidsonian doctrine. To imagine Oxford in those years without Dummett would be to think of eighteenth-century England without Samuel Johnson. There would still have been the Boswells, the Burkes, and the Reynoldses, but no commanding influence. Some years later, I came to the University of Chicago as a graduate student, where Donald Davidson was presiding, and here Dummett surfaced somewhat differently—in the faded...

  4. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Michael Dummett
  5. 1 THE CONCEPT OF TRUTH
    (pp. 1-28)

    The distinction between linguistic utterances and what they express is borne in on us by many common experiences, for instance, that of finding out how to say something in another language, and that of rephrasing something we have said to make it clear to our hearer. What a sentential utterance expresses is a proposition. Is “true” to be taken as predicated primarily of sentences or of propositions? Although a number of type sentences, such as “Eels swim to the Sargasso Sea to mate,” qualify as true or as false without relativization to any particular occasion of utterance, it is well...

  6. 2 THE INDISPENSABILITY OF THE CONCEPT OF TRUTH
    (pp. 29-40)

    The first chapter ended by claiming that the proponent of a truth-conditional theory of meaning must argue that use cannot be described without appeal to the conditions for the truth of statements, and that anyone who has mastered the use of expressions of a language must have acquired an implicit grasp of the concept of truth. To an important degree, such an argument would be correct. It was maintained that an adequate theory of meaning must yield an account of what difference the assertion of a statement makes, actually or potentially, to what subsequently happens. This includes the difference that...

  7. 3 STATEMENTS ABOUT THE PAST
    (pp. 41-56)

    Our problem is to fashion a theory of meaning that yields an account of use. The most obvious way in which to do this is to adopt a theory whose central notion is itself a feature of use, and this means either a justificationist theory or a pragmatist one. Since, as I have argued, nothing hangs upon the choice between them, because they will come to the same in the end, I shall concentrate upon the justificationist theory. What is the conception of truth appropriate to a justificationist theory of meaning? Plainly, it must turn on the notion of our...

  8. 4 THE SEMANTICS OF THE PAST TENSE
    (pp. 57-72)

    At the end of the last chapter it was acknowledged that reflection upon our understanding of statements about what states of affairs obtain, or what events are occurring, in other places forces the justificationist a certain distance in the direction of realism. The grasp of such a statement falls into two parts: one is an understanding of what it is for a state of affairs of the type in question to obtain or an event of the type in question to occur; the other is our knowledge of how to locate it on the grid which serves to particularize the...

  9. 5 THE METAPHYSICS OF TIME
    (pp. 73-96)

    Disagreements about how we understand statements in the past and future tenses reflect, or generate, disagreements about the metaphysics of time. There are four possible metaphysical positions concerning the reality of the past and the future: either both are real, or neither, or one but not the other. These four views are usually expressed as if “present,” “past,” and “future” were absolute notions; although we know that they are not, I will formulate them in this manner. The four metaphysical models are, then, as follows.

    Model (I) Only the present is real. All that constitutes reality is how things are...

  10. 6 TRUTH: DENIERS AND DEFENDERS
    (pp. 97-116)

    Very early in his book, Truth and Truthfulness: An Essay in Genealogy (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2002, pp. 4—5), Bernard Williams speaks of those philosophers whom he calls “deniers” of truth. He characterizes them very broadly, as adopting “a style of thought that extravagantly, challengingly or … irresponsibly denies the possibility of truth altogether, waves its importance aside, or claims that all truth is ‘relative’ or suffers from some other such disadvantage.” They are, he says, “disposed to dismiss the idea of truth as the object of our inquiries altogether, or to suggest that if truth is...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 117-118)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 119-124)