Pascal Engel
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 186
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Engel argues that, although the minimalist conception of truth is basically right, it does not follow that truth can be eliminated from our philosophical thinking, as is claimed by some radical deflationists. In particular, he shows that some deflationist views have a definitively relativist and "postmodernist" ring and should be rejected. Even if a metaphysically substantive theory of truth has little chance to succeed, he argues, truth plays a central role as a norm or guiding value of our rational inquiries and practices in the philosophy of knowledge and in ethics.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8172-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: Truth lost?
    (pp. 1-8)

    Truth is a central philosophical notion, perhapsthecentral one. Many other important philosophical notions depend upon it or are closely tied to it: thought; belief (to believe something is to believe that it istrue); knowledge (if one knows a proposition, then it istrue); reality (reality is what ourtruestatements, beliefs and theories are about); existence or being (can we talktrulyabout non-existents?); fact (facts are what make our statementstrue); possibility and necessity (can one say somethingtrueabout what is merely possible? Are there propositions which can betruein all possible worlds?); and...

  5. 1 Classical theories of truth
    (pp. 9-40)

    Before examining various classical philosophical conceptions of truth, let us try to characterize the main features of our naive, commonsensical conception of it. We have a predicate, “true”, in all languages¹(wahr, vrai, verum, alethes, pravdy,etc.), which we apply to all sorts of items - thoughts, beliefs, judgements, assertions, ideas, conceptions, views, theories, and so on - which seem to refer to the contents of our thoughts, which are abstract, or a least nonconcrete, entities. We apply, however, this predicate also to concrete things, such as pictures, artefacts, pieces of currency, or even living animals. For instance we say...

  6. 2 Deflationism
    (pp. 41-64)

    In this chapter, I shall discuss various views on truth that have been calleddeflationist. They reject the idea that truth can be defined as a “robust” or “substantive” metaphysical notion, and claim that truth is not a genuine property: it is a simple, formal or logical,device of assertion, which does not amount to much more than the truism thatpandit is true that pare equivalent. In other words, we empty the right-hand side in our (DefT) schemas of any genuine content, to keep only their bare logico-linguistic form, which is just:

    Xis true iff...

  7. 3 Minimal Realism
    (pp. 65-98)

    We have reached a sort of impasse. Our review of the various classical theories of truth has led us to suspect either that truth is indefinable or that there is no “substantive” definition of it, hence that only a deflationist account of truth can be given. But deflationism is inadequate and has unwelcome potential consequences. There is thus a tension between the fact that there does not seem to bemuchmore to say about truth than what the equivalence or disquotational schema tell us, and the fact that these obviously do not tell usenoughabout the concept. But...

  8. 4 The realist/anti-realist controversies
    (pp. 99-124)

    Minimal realism, like Wright’s minimalism, implies that the realist/anti-realist issues will be distinct from domain to domain. In a sense, it is obvious. For the fact that one is, say, a realist in mathematics who takes numbers to be abstract entities belonging to a separate realm does not imply that one has to be a realist in ethics, for instance - by contrast with the purity of Cantor’s paradise, the realm of human feelings might seem to us such a messy place that it does not allow us to take values as real entities - and an expressivist in ethics...

  9. 5 The norm of truth
    (pp. 125-146)

    We have been dealing mostly with what truth is, or is not, but we have not yet said very much about thepointof the concept of truth, what truth isfor,and what role it plays in our lives. Nobody, not even a deflationist, disagrees that it plays a role, and that the concept of truth is useful. If we look at the function of truth in a naturalist setting, there is no doubt that it has been important for our evolutionary histories that we were creatures able to have true rather than false beliefs, able not only to...

  10. Conclusion: Truth regained
    (pp. 147-150)

    The question from which we started was: can truth be defined? In Chapter 1, we departed from the substantive theories that give a positive answer to this question. In Chapter 2 we resisted the deflationist move that attempts to empty truth of any substance. In Chapters 3 and 4, we took the minimal realist line that allows our concept of truth to keep slim, without preventing us from accepting realism about truthaptness.This led us to a reinflation, or resubstantialization, of the concept of truth and of the property that it denotes. But the “substance” that was thus reintroduced is not...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 151-160)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 161-172)
  13. Index
    (pp. 173-177)