Forms of Truth Skepticism

Scott Soames

in Understanding Truth

Published in print January 1999 | ISBN: 9780195123357
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199872114 | DOI:
 Forms of Truth Skepticism

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Five different forms of truth skepticism are examined and defused: the view that truth is indefinable, that it is unattainable and unknowable, that it is inextricably metaphysical and hence not scientifically respectable, that there is no such thing as truth, and that truth is inherently paradoxical, and so must either be abandoned or revised. An intriguing formulation of the last of these views is owing to Alfred Tarski, who argued that the Liar paradox shows natural languages to be inconsistent because they contain defective, and ultimately incoherent truth predicates. Here, it is argued in response that on a plausible interpretation of his puzzling notion of an inconsistent language, Tarski's argument is, though logically valid, almost certainly unsound, since one of its premises is highly problematic. Similar results are achieved for other forms of truth skepticism.

Keywords: inconsistent language; indefinability; Liar's paradox; skepticism; Tarski; truth

Chapter.  24369 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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