THEORIES OF TRUTH

PHIL 352, Sec. 1001: TTh 1pm-2:15pm in BEH 120
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Spring 2012


Professor: James Woodbridge
email address:
Course Webpage: http://faculty.unlv.edu/jwood/unlv/Phil352S12.htm
Office Hours:  T 4pm-5pm, W 12:30pm-2pm, 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.)

III. CLASS REQUIREMENTS AND GRADING SCHEME

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

Class Participation......................................................10%
First Paper...................................................................30%
Second Paper...............................................................30%
Final Exam..................................................................30%

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) during the term: three before March 31 and three after.

The First Paper--There will be a 6-8 page paper due in early 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 Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 1pm in our regular classroom. The final will consist of a choice of essay questions.

Note: All course requirements must be satisfactorily completed in order to pass the course. Anyone who misses 25% or more of the classes will fail 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.





V. CLASSROOM ETIQUETTE

In recent years it has become necessary to make a further comment about classroom etiquette. Engaging in activities like text messaging, surfing the web, checking Facebook, tweeting, IMing, playing WoW, etc. during class is entirely inappropriate. In fact, it is extremely rude and highly disrespectful of our joint enterprise of teaching and learning. Whether you are sitting in the back and presume you are not interfering with anyone else is irrelevant. It is not a question of what you are caught doing; it is a matter of what you do, noticed or not. I expect everyone to behave appropriately during class, engaging with our cooperative project and refraining from inappropriate activities at all 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 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)
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" (online) and
        "Truth as a Pretense" (online)