THEORIES OF TRUTH

PHI 352, Sec. 001: MW 1pm-2:15pm in CBC C215
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Fall 2007


Professor: James Woodbridge
email address:
Course Webpage: http://faculty.unlv.edu/jwood/unlv/Phil352F07.htm
Office Hours:  T 12am-1:30pm, W 2:30pm-4pm, and by appointment
Office: CDC 426
Office Phone: 895-4051
Dept. Phone: 895-3433


I. COURSE DESCRIPTION

The question at the heart of this course is, “What is truth?” In contrast with the question, “What is true?” (or “What is the truth?”)--an issue addressed by inquiry in general--our query focuses on the nature of truth itself (i.e., what being true involves). The notion of truth is a central philosophical concept. Truth is said to be the aim of inquiry, a criterion of knowledge, and the paramount relation between thought or language and the world. The concept of truth is intertwined with, and often said to explain, other important philosophical ideas, such as realism, objectivity, fact, belief, representation, and rationality. But truth itself is an enduring philosophical enigma, as it remains controversial what truth itself is. Is it an objective property whose applicability is independent of any opinions? Is truth a property that applies only relative to some belief system or worldview? Is truth a property at all? In this course we will examine the strengths and weakness of the main philosophical accounts of truth, including correspondence, coherence, pragmatist, and deflationary views. Readings will be taken mainly from contemporary sources, along with a few historical selections.


II. REQUIRED CLASS MATERIALS

Kirkham, Richard L. Theories of Truth: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press,
        1992.

Lynch, Michael P. (ed.) The Nature of Truth: Classical and Contemporary Perspectives. Cambridge,
        MA: The MIT Press, 2001.

The books for the course are available at The UNLV Bookstore.

(Some additional photocopied readings will be available through the course webpage.)

There is also a recommended (but not required) book:

Truth: A Guide, by Simon Blackburn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)


III. CLASS REQUIREMENTS AND GRADING SCHEME

Requirements.............................................Percent of Final Grade

Class Contribution.....................................................15%
Reading Quizzes........................................................20%
First Paper..................................................................15%
Second Paper..............................................................20%
Final Paper.................................................................30%

About the Requirements:

Class Contribution--One thing this requirement covers is your class attendance. However, to get an "A" for this unit you must do more than just show up; you have to contribute frequently to class discussion.

The Reading Quizzes--There will be 6-8 short Reading Quizzes during the term, each dealing with (one or more of) the more recent reading(s). Each Quiz will take a half hour at the beginning of class. While the dates of the Quizzes are up to me, there will be at least one for each subject unit of the course (see below). You will be expected to identify and explain certain key ideas and central points from readings.

The First Paper--There will be a 5-7 page paper due in early October. Topic suggestions will be posted on the course Webpage 12 days before the paper is due, and all papers are due at the beginning of class on the due date. Late papers will be subject to a grade reduction as described on the Paper Requirements and Policies handout.

The Second Paper--In mid November you will submit an 8-10 page paper that is a revision of and expansion on your First Paper. Everyone must meet with me by late October to discuss ways of extending his or her paper. Late submission of papers is again subject to penalty.

The Final Paper--By 3pm on the scheduled exam day for the class (Dec. 10th), you will submit a 12-15 page revision of and expansion on your Second Paper. Everyone must meet with me by early December to discuss how he or she plans to extend his or her paper.

Note: All assigments must be satisfactorily completed in order to pass the course.


IV. CLASS FORMAT

This is an upper-level philosophy course, so while I will present some material, our class meetings should be geared mainly toward student discussion rather than just lectures. I hope that you will all have views about the theories we are going to examine, and I want you to express and explore those views whenever possible. It is typical of philosophical topics that people's views on them will differ. You are encouraged to question your classmates (and me) whenever anyone says something you disagree with, but on either side of this, everyone should always keep in mind that expressing disagreement is not a personal attack. Philosophical discussion thrives under this kind of interaction and often stems from disagreement. At the same time, philosophical discussion aims at reaching some sort of agreement. We probably won't reach agreement every time, but we should aspire towards it.


VI. TOPICS AND READINGS

The readings from Kirkham's book are listed by author, chapter, and page numbers (in parentheses). The articles from the Lynch anthology are listed by author, title, and chapter number (or page numbers) in parentheses. Readings from other sources will be available on-line through the course Webpage and are listed by author and title, followed by the label "(on-line)".

After a general overview, the course consists of 4 main units. The readings for them are as follows.

0. Overview
Lynch, "Introduction: The Mystery of Truth" (pp. 1-6)
Kirkham, Chapter 1 and 2 (pp. 54-72)
1. The Correspondence Theory of Truth
Lynch, "Realism and the Correspondence Theory: Introduction" (pp. 9-15)
Kirkham, Chapter 4
Russell, "Truth and Falsehood" (1)
Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (selections; photocopy)
David, "Truth as Identity and Truth as Correspondence" (29)
Austin, "Truth" (2)
Strawson, "Truth" (19)
Alston, "A Realist Conception of Truth" (3)
2. Epistemic Theories of Truth
Lynch, "Coherence Theories: Introduction" (pp. 99-102)
Kirkham, Chapters 2 (pp. 41-54) and 3
Blanshard, "Coherence as the Nature of Truth" (5)
Walker, "The Coherence Theory" (6)
Peirce, "How to Make our Ideas Clear" (8)
James, "Pragmatism's Conception of Truth" (9)
Putnam, "Two Philosophical Perspectives" (11)
Rorty, "Is Truth a Goal of Inquiry? Donald Davidson versus Crispin Wright" (12)
3. Tarski's Definition of Truth
Lynch, "Tarski's Theory and Its Importance" (pp. 323-329)
Tarski, "The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundations of Semantics" (15)
Field, "Tarski's Theory of Truth" (16)
Kirkham, Chapters 5 and 6
4. Deflationism about Truth
Lynch, "Deflationary Views and Their Critics: Introduction" (pp. 421-431)
Ramsey, "The Nature of Truth" (18)
Kirkham, Chapter 10
Quine, "Truth" (20)
Horwich, "A Defense of Minimalism" (24)
Gupta, "A Critique of Deflationism" (23)
Devitt, "The Metaphysics of Truth" (25)
Woodbridge, "Deflationism and the Generalization Problem" (on-line) and
        "Truth as a Pretense" (on-line)