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The Trouble with Tarski

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As a result of thinking (pace Tarski, wrongly) that it is propositions, not sentences, that are true or false, it has been supposed (also wrongly) that propositions such as that ‘Snow is white’ is true if and only if snow is white are necessarily true. But changing the rules for the use of the words in a sentence has no effect on the truth of the proposition, only on what proposition it formulates. Many similar statements, e.g., that ‘plus’ does not mean plus, are only pragmatically contradictory: if this were true, it would be impossible to say so in these words. One should distinguish between sentences that express necessary truths, and sentences that necessarily express truths. It follows that many well known accounts of necessity are wrong, that the truth of an analytic proposition does not follow from the definitions of the words in the sentence that expresses it, that it is not helpful to define meaning in terms of truth, that truth is not relative to language, and that conventionalism is false. This paper is a move in the direction of establishing the eternity of truth.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Cambridge

Publication date: 1998-01-01

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