Senior Literature Review Fall 2018

Paskalina’s First Presentation


Paskalina gave us an overview of the contending theories of truth, drawn from the first part of Simon Blackburn’s book On Truth (Blackburn 2018).

Correspondence theories of truth hold that the truth consists in correspondence of what someone thinks or says with the way things are. As Blackburn sees it, correspondence theories are not wrong, but they are uninteresting. The reason why is hard to express, however. I think the idea is that the correspondence theory assumes that there are thoughts on one side, facts on the other, and that truth consists in the correspondence of items on one side of the line with items on the other side. The problem, as I understand it, is that the only access we have to facts is through our beliefs. So the correspondence between belief and fact never really gets going.

In any event, the flaws with correspondence theories motivate the alternative theories of the nature of truth that Blackburn considers: pragmatism, coherence, and deflationism. At the same time, the idea behind the correspondence theory keeps poking through: the facts are what they are apart from our coherent thoughts about them or what thoughts work for us. Deflationism, is Blackburn’s favored view. Its central insight is that there is no meaningful difference between asserting a proposition and asserting that the proposition is true.

A way to raise problems for deflationism is to come up with cases in which the concept of truth does add something. For instance, when I say “Einstein’s theories are probably true,” that is not the same thing as my asserting Einstein’s theories because I don’t know what Einstein’s theories are. I just think Einstein is a really smart guy and that what he said was probably true. On the face of it, you can’t capture what I said just by listing Einstein’s theories; you need the concept of truth. Blackburn tries to show how cases like this can be accommodated by deflationism.

Bay raised an interesting challenge towards the end of class. She noted that we sometimes say things that look like assertions but really are not. “You look good in that” is sometimes meant as encouragement more than a truth about fashion. The idea is that you would need the concept of truth to distinguish sentences that make assertions that are true or false from those that do something else.


Blackburn, Simon. 2018. On Truth. Oxford: Oxford University Press.