3 Varieties of Correspondence

It takes two to make a truth.

(John Austin, 'Truth', 124)

In this chapter I want to contrast and to assess three fundamentally different ways of conceiving truth as correspondence. So we turn now to Questions 2-7 on our flow chart. 1 In the final section I shall enquire whether a kind of Correspondence Intuition (hinted at in the above epigraph) can be upheld even if the concept of truth cannot be explained, in either of those three ways, in terms of correspondence.

Let it be clear at once that you do not become a partisan of a correspondence conception of truth simply by assenting to the slogan that what somebody thought or said is true if and only if it agrees with reality. 2 It all depends on whether you take the expression 'agrees with' in sentences like 'What Ann said agrees with reality' to be 'seriously dyadic'. 3 A comparison may be helpful. From the premiss 'Ben fell into oblivion', nobody would seriously conclude 'There is something into which Ben fell', but everybody would be ready to infer this from 'Ben fell into the swimming-pool': only in the latter context is 'fell into' seriously dyadic. If you do not allow the step from 'What Ann said agrees with reality' to 'There is something with which it agrees', you have not committed yourself to a correspondence view of truth. But if you accept that inference, then assenting to the slogan is the first step towards adopting such a conception. Let us listen to a famous opponent of any such view:

Eine Übereinstimmung ist eine Beziehung. Dem widerspricht aber die Gebrauchsweise des Wortes 'wahr', das kein Beziehungswort ist. [An agreement is a relation. But this is incompatible with the use of the word 'true', which is not a relation word.] ('Der Gedanke', 59)

I quote this, not because I consider it to be a strong objection, but because I think that it reveals how the correspondence slogan is to be taken if it is to have any


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Conceptions of Truth


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