2 A Bogus Predicate?

Truth, to coin a phrase, isn't a genuine predicate.

(Grover et al., 'A Prosentential Theory of Truth', 94)

The noun 'truth' was not to John Austin's liking. At the beginning of his contribution to the famous debate with Strawson, he remarked: 'In vino, possibly, “veritas”, but in a sober symposium “verum”.' 1 Bearing this advice in mind, let us glimpse only at the different uses of the noun 'truth', lest we get drunk. When Jane Austen writes, 'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife', she uses 'truth' as a count noun. When you comment upon a lecture, 'There was not much (some, a lot of) truth in what he said', you use the noun as a mass term, the pertinent 'mass' consisting of truths. When somebody declares, 'Improbability does not exclude truth', he uses 'truth' as a singular term: truth in this sense seems to be a property (quality, attribute, characteristic, feature) shared by all truths. 2 One seems to ascribe this property to thinkables and sayables when one calls them 'true'. (At last we have arrived at the adjective the Oxford symposiast wants us to concentrate upon.) If grammatical appearances are not deceptive, we can now go on and ask: is the property of being true relational, is it epistemically constrained? etc.

But perhaps appearances are deceptive: some philosophers squarely deny that truth is any kind of property. They pursue what Kotarbiński and Tarski called 'the nihilistic approach to the theory of truth'. 3 This conception is registered under the left branch of Question 1 on the flow chart in Figure 1.1 . A. J. Ayer, who took his cue from Frank Ramsey, 4 presented truth-theoretical

-33-

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Conceptions of Truth
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Conceptions of Truth iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • 1: Some Questions About Truth 1
  • 2: A Bogus Predicate? 33
  • 3: Varieties of Correspondence 93
  • 4: In and Out of Quotation Marks 175
  • 5: Propositions, Time, and Eternity 249
  • 6: Two Pleas for Modesty 317
  • 7: Truth and Justifiability 375
  • Bibliography 455
  • Name Index 481
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