SENIOR SEMINAR: THEORIES OF TRUTH
PHIL 483, Sec. 1001: MW 11:30am-12:45pm Online
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Professor: James Woodbridge
Course Website: http://jwood.faculty.unlv.edu/unlv/Phil483S21.htm
Zoom Office Hours: T 12:30pm-2pm, W 2:30pm-3:30pm, and by appointment
Office: CDC 426
Dept. Phone: 895-3433
I. COURSE DESCRIPTION
This course functions as a capstone course or a culminating Senior Seminar for the Philosophy major. The question at the heart of the course this term 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 issue of 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, assertion, 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, pluralist, and deflationary views. Readings will be taken mainly from contemporary sources, along with a few historical selections.
To demonstrate knowledge about central issues concerning the notion of truth, as it figures in
metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of language.
Upon completion of the course, students should be able to:
Identify central issues or debates pertaining to different theories of truth,
Articulate and, when appropriate, compare or contrast, different views that might be taken with
respect to these issues,
Summarize major motivations or arguments for these alternative positions,
Present significant objections that have or could be raised to these positions,
Assess the relative merits of these arguments and objections.
II. REQUIRED CLASS MATERIALS
Kirkham, R. Theories of Truth: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1992.
Lynch, M., Wyatt, J., Kim, J., Kellan, N. (eds.) The Nature of Truth: Classic and Contemporary
Perspectives, Second Edition. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2021.
The first is available at The UNLV Bookstore. Since the second has not technically come out in print yet, it will be accessible for rent via the publisher's eBook platform. (I will explain how later.)
(Some additional readings will be available through WebCampus/Canvas.)
III. CLASS REQUIREMENTS AND GRADING SCHEME
About the Requirements:
Class Participation--This requirement covers a couple of things. First, there is your contribution during class. Class attendance is thus necessary. However, to do well you must do more than just attend. You are expected to show up having read the assignment for the day and ready to talk about it. Second, everyone must make at least six contributions to the Electronic Discussion Board (accessible through WebCampus/Canvas) during the term: three before March 13 and three after.
The First Paper--There will be a 6-8 page paper due in early-mid March. Paper topics will be distributed 12 days before the paper is due.
The Second Paper--There will be a second 6-8 page paper due in late April. Again, topics will be distributed 12 days before the paper is due.
The Final Exam--There will be a timed (2 hour), in-class final exam given on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 at 10:10am via WebCampus/Canvas. The final will consist of a choice of essay questions.
Note: All course requirements must be satisfactorily completed in order to pass the course. More than 3 unexcused absences reduces your final grade by 1/3 grade, more than 5 by a full letter grade, more than 8 is automatic failure of the course.
IV. ONLINE CLASS FORMAT
While this is an online class, since it is an upper-level philosophy course and is supposed to be a seminar, I expect a substantial amount of student participation during our live Zoom meetings. The course will be semi-synchronous: on Mondays (hopefully by 11:30am) I will make available a prerecorded lecture (in the WebCampus Module for Recorded Lectures) that you should watch by Tuesday morning (to count as having attended). On Wednesdays we will have a live virtual lecture starting at 11:30am. The live meetings are intended as a time for us to discuss the material assigned for the week. I hope that you will all have views about the material, and I want you to express those views whenever possible. You are encouraged to question your classmates (and me) whenever anyone says something you disagree with, keeping in mind that disagreement is not a personal attack. Philosophical discussion aims at reaching some sort of agreement. We probably won't reach agreement every time, but we should aspire towards it.
V. VIRTUAL CLASSROOM ETIQUETTE
For our live meetings, please login to Zoom before the class begins, as having to admit latecomers is disruptive. Once admitted, immediately go to the Chat and type your name and "here". Everyone must also either have their Zoom video on or post a headshot so that we all have faces to react to instead of a black square. Class discussion must be done verbally via your mic, not via the Chat (as I can't see the Chat when sharing my iPad screen as a whiteboard). All the live meetings will also be recorded and posted for re-watching/reviewing at later times.
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, et al. anthology are listed by author, title, and chapter number (or page numbers) in parentheses. Readings from other sources will be available online through WebCampus/Canvas or the course's External Website and are listed by author and title, followed by the label "(online)".
After a general overview, the course consists of 5 main units. The readings for them are as follows.
Frankfurt, On Truth (online)
1. The Correspondence Theory of Truth
Lynch, "Preface" and "Introduction: The Metaphysics of Truth" (pp. ix-xi, 1-6)
Kirkham, Chapter 1 and 2 (pp. 54-72)
Lynch, et al., "Introduction to Part I" (pp. 9-15)
2. Epistemic Theories of Truth
Kirkham, Chapter 4
Russell, "Truth and Falsehood" (1)
David, "Truth as Identity and Truth as Correspondence" (online)
Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (selections online)
Austin, "Truth" (2)
Strawson, "Truth" (17)
Alston, "A Realist Conception of Truth" (3)
Putnam, "Two Philosophical Perspectives" (12)
3. Pluralism about Truth
Lynch, et al., "Introduction to Part II" and "Introduction to Part III" (pp. 103-105, 151-158)
Kirkham, Chapters 2 (pp. 41-54) and 3
Blanshard, "Coherence as the Nature of Truth" (6)
Walker, "The Coherence Theory" (7)
Peirce, "How to Make our Ideas Clear" (8)
James, "Pragmatism's Conception of Truth" (9)
Lynch, et al., "Introduction to Part VII" (pp. 557-566)
4. Deflationism about Truth
Edwards, "Truth, Winning, and Simple Determination Pluralism" (31)
Ferrari, et al., "Austere Truth Pluralism" (32)
Tappolet, "Mixed Inferences: A Problem for Pluralism about Truth-Predicates" and
"Truth Pluralism and Many-Valued Logic: A Reply to Beall" (online)
Wyatt, "Introduction to Part V" (pp. 319-333)
5. The Liar Paradox and Tarski's Definition of Truth
Ramsey, "The Nature of Truth" (16)
Kirkham, Chapter 10
Quine, "Truth" (18)
Grover, "The Prosentential Theory: Further Reflections on Locating Our Interest
in Truth" (20)
Horwich, "A Defense of Minimalism" (21)
Devitt, "The Metaphysics of Deflationary Truth" (online)
Armour-Garb and Woodbridge, "Deflationism as Alethic Fictionalism via a SPIF
Account of Truth-Talk" (23)
Priest, "Paradoxical Truth" (online)
*The instructor of this course reserves the right to change any aspect of the syllabus, with the understanding that any such changes will be announced in class.
Dowden, "Liar Paradox" (entry from Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy) (online)
Lynch, et al., "Introduction to Part IV" (pp. 257-263)
Tarski, "Truth and Proof" (online)
Tarski, "The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundations of Semantics" (14)
Kirkham, Chapters 5 and 6
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