Preface

This book is organized around a set of conceptual questions about truth which are charted in the introductory chapter, and it argues for what I take to be the most reasonable answers. It is partly due to my philosophical upbringing in Gadamer's Heidelberg, I suppose, that the history of philosophical reflections on the key questions I have selected will play a far larger role in these pages than it does in books on truth from the pen of other analytical philosophers. I am deeply convinced that, as Strawson once put it, 'the progress of philosophy, at least, is dialectical: we return to old insights in new and, we hope, improved forms'. A more specific reason why I have gone to some lengths to trace answers to my key questions is that I cannot help thinking that nowadays too many analytical philosophers neglect even the English classics of their own tradition. (As the reader will soon notice, I take this tradition to have originated already in the early nineteenth century in Prague, in the heart of what my Anglophone colleagues tend to call 'the Continent'.) I hope that, as a result of my scholarly ambitions, this book will also serve as a reliable guide to the vast literature, both 'ancient' and contemporary, on its topic(s). As to the questions I shall go into, a confession at the outset might spare my prospective readers at least one disappointment: I have nothing enlightening to say about, let alone to contribute to, the debate on the semantic antinomies. Bracketing this deep problem about truth, apart from a few asides and a brief guide to the literature, might well be the most glaring of the omissions from which this book suffers. (But then, there is also something to be said in favour of not entering this arena: in antiquity, at least one philosopher died prematurely because he had worried too much about the 'Liar'.)

The book is based on courses of lectures, and I have deliberately retained some features of those lectures: the use of tables and flow charts, a certain amount of rhetorical emphasis and recapitulation, the prodigality of examples, and even one or two serious attempts at making a joke. I hope all this will make for greater readability. The very rich supply of sometimes fairly extensive quotations is meant to give the reader a chance to assess my interpretations of other philosophers on the spot. The book has been long in the making. Various earlier versions of my lectures were delivered at my home university. The first (more or less) English versions of my Hamburg lectures were presented in the mid-1990s in Oslo and in Venice. It was on those occasions that I began thinking

-vii-

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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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