Minimalism

paul-horwich-2.JPG

Paul Horwich’s minimal theory of truth consists of all propositions of the form:

<p> is true iff p.

As was pointed out by Anil Gupta (Philosophical Perspectives 1993), Horwich’s minimal theory does not logically imply certain general facts about truth. Horwich (Truth, 2nd ed.) acknowledged Gupta’s point, but he thought that those general facts nevertheless are non-logically implied by the theory. What is involved, he thinks, is the following non-logical but truth-preserving rule:

If S is a set of premises all which attribute a certain property P to a proposition, such that every proposition is attributed that property by one of the premises, then S non-logically entails that every proposition has P.

panu-2.JPGPanu Raatikainen (Analysis 2005) assumed that what Horwich had in mind is the omega-rule, but he correctly points out that the omega-rule would not be of help to Horwich, because it is only applicable to a denumerable infinity of premises. But there are far more propositions than natural numbers.

Panu is right about the usefulness of the omega-rule. But doesn’t his point provide clear evidence that the rule Horwich alludes to just isn’t the omega-rule? Instead, it is the rule stated above; that rule requires for its application more premises than there are natural numbers (and as many premises as there are propositions). So, it is not the omega-rule, and the rest of Panu’s criticism somehow misses its target.

To see whether the generalization-problem can be solved by Horwich, one should forget about the omega-rule and instead focus directly on the rule above. The crucial questions are: Is the rule truth-preserving? And can it explain how finite minds arrive at the required generalizations starting from Horwich’s theory?

Posted by Benjamin.

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3 comments

  1. Dear Benjamin

    Thanks for the interest in my paper. Let me try to explain my strategy:

    The generalization problem is a problem for all sorts of deflationist views, not just for Horwich’s special brand of it; many deflationists find his metaphysics of non-denumerably many propositions implausible.

    Therefore, I first wanted consider his suggestion independently of the latter. In the case of only (potentially) denumerably many truth-bearers, one can at least make relatively clear sense of it (i.e., it amounts to the omega-rule). I then go on arguing that even in that case, it does not really help.

    But I then add that given Horwich’s particular metaphysics of propositions, it is even difficult to see what his suggested rule is supposed to mean. But it must certainly be an infinitary rule too, and so it shares all the problems of the omega-rule. Thus, I think the situation for him is even worse.

    Best, Panu

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