Revision theory of truth, contextualism, and the liar paradox

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2013-05

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Abstract

Most philosophers agree that Contextualism and Revision Theory of Truth are incompatible. My suggestion, however, is that what many people take to be important differences between these theories are merely the result of a verbal, and non-substantial, disagreement between writers like C. Parsons and M. Glanzberg, on the side of Contextualism, and A. Gupta and N. Belnap, on the side of Revision Theory of Truth. By carefully analyzing these theories, we will three things: (1) Though Contextualists openly reject the Tarski-biconditional and Revision Theorists claim to accept all the principles of classical logic, careful analysis shows that both manipulate the Tarski-biconditional so as to demonstrate the same feature of ideal reasoning – a recognition of the fact that the Liar sentence is true at some steps in reasoning, or hierarchical levels, but false on others. (2) The Contextualist solution involves a step that the Revision Theorist of Truth solution does not – a step which is the result of an assumption Contextualists make about the semantic status of L when it is analyzed from the same hierarchical level that it is interpreted in. And, (3) Contextualists suggest that shifts from one hierarchical level to another are the result of a change in the domain of the truth predicate, while Revision Theorists of Truth suggest that this change is the result of our changing our interpretation of the truth predicate – a difference that is merely the result of Revision Theorists of Truth assuming that the ideal reasoner will begin with hypotheses regarding each and every sentence in his language. The only substantive differences between Contextualism and Revision Theory of Truth, then, are these two background assumptions regarding the semantic status of L and what things the ideal person makes hypotheses about. But, even with these differences in mind, we are able to conceive of a theory that both Contextualists and Revision Theorists of Truth would approve of – one that brings to light the theory of the Liar Paradox buried within both theories.

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Keywords

Contextualism, Revision Theory of Truth, Paradox, Liar Paradox, Logic, Philosophy

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