PHIL 402, Sec. 003: W 2pm-4pm in 1164 Angell Hall
The University of Michigan
Winter 2005

Instructor: James Woodbridge
email address: jwood@umich.edu
Course Webpage: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jwood/umich/Phil402.htm
Office Hours: T 2pm-3:30pm, W 1pm-2pm, and by appointment
Office: 2200 Angell Hall
Office Phone: 615-6537
Dept. Phone: 764-6285


The question at the heart of this course is, “What is truth?” In contrast with the question, “What is true?”--an issue addressed by inquiry in general--our query focuses on the nature of truth itself. 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 sources.

This class is structured to fulfill the LS&A upper-division writing requirement. You must activate this option as an additional step when you register for the course. Questions about how to do this can be directed to the Sweetland Writing Center at 1111 AH.


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

The book for the course is available at Shaman Drum Bookstore located upstairs at 313 South State Street.

(It is also on reserve at the Undergraduate Library.)


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

Class Contribution.....................................................15%
Reaction Essays.........................................................20%
First Paper..................................................................15%
Second Paper..............................................................20%
Final Paper.................................................................30%

About the Requirements:

Class Contribution--One thing this requirement covers is your class attendance (surprisingly, if you don't attend class you don't contribute to it). However, to get an "A" for class contribution you must do more than just show up; you have to contribute frequently to class discussion. This requirement also involves posting contributions on the Electronic Discussion Board (available through CourseTools). Everyone must make at least six entries on the EDB during the term, three before Break and three after.

The Reaction Essays--Each Monday by 3pm you will hand in a 2 page (typed) reaction paper dealing with (one of) the reading(s) assigned for that week. You will be expected to identify and reconstruct some central point and/or argument from the reading and offer some critical reaction to it (including posing a question or challenge). These papers will occasionally be used for in-class presentations, and as samples for peer writing analysis and discussion of writing technique.

The First Paper--There will be a 5-7 page paper due in early February. 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 substantial grade reduction.

The Second Paper--In late March 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 mid March to discuss ways of extending his or her paper. Late submission of papers is still not a good idea.

The Final Paper--On the last day of class you will submit a 12-15 page revision of and expansion on your Second Paper. This expansion must include the use of an article that is not part of the assigned reading for the course. Everyone must meet with me by mid April to discuss how he or she plans to extend his or her paper. Papers are due at the beginning of class on April 20th.

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


This is a seminar course, so our class meetings should be geared mainly toward student discussion. I hope that you will all have views about the theories and related issues 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 differ. You are encouraged to question your classmates (and me) when anyone says something you disagree with, but while this is going on everyone should always keep in mind that 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 toward it.


The readings for the course are mainly from a single text, so they are listed below by author, title, and chapter number (or page numbers) in parentheses, in the order they will be assigned. Readings from other soruces will be available on-line through the course Webpage and are listed by author and title, followed by the label "(on-line)".

A note about the readings: Philosophical writing is often subtle and difficult. Do not be fooled by the shortness of an assignment into thinking that it will take little time. Most of these readings should be read at least twice. I recommend a first time straight through and then a second pass taking notes. Of course, you might find the opposite works better for you.

The course will be divided into 4 main parts. These units and the readings for them are as follows.

1. The Correspondence Theory of Truth
Lynch, "Realism and the Correspondence Theory: Introduction" (pp. 9-15)
Russell, "Truth and Falsehood" (1)
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)
Putnam, "Two Philosophical Perspectives" (11)
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)
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)
Miller, "Tarskian Truth-Theories" (on-line)
Quine, "Truth" (20)
4. Deflationism about Truth
Lynch, "Deflationary Views and Their Critics: Introduction" (pp. 421-431)
Ramsey, "The Nature of Truth" (18)
Devitt, "The Metaphysics of Truth" (25)
Field, "Correspondence Truth, Disquotational Truth, and Deflationism" (21)
Gupta, "A Critique of Deflationism" (23)
Horwich, "A Defense of Minimalism" (24)
Woodbridge, "Deflationism and the Generalization Problem" (on-line) and
        "Truth as a Pretense" (on-line)