Realism Minus Truth
Horwich (Paul)
Source: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 56, No. 4 (Dec., 1996), pp. 877-881
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction1

  1. The aim of Crispin Wright's Truth and Objectivity is to clarify the dispute between realists who maintain that there exist objective facts which are independent of human thought, and anti-realists who suppose on the contrary that the facts are in some sense merely human creations. Instances of this type of disagreement have arisen with respect to many areas of discourse, including scientific theorizing, aesthetic judgment, mathematics, morality, and ordinary talk of tables, trees, and toothaches; and it is quite possible to sympathise with realism in some domains and anti-realists in others. Thus one might feel that the composition of electrons is whatever it happens to be, independently of whether or not we have the ability to discover it, but, in contrast, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One might hold it to be an objective fact that lying is wrong, yet think that the realm of numbers is merely a mental construction. Philosophy is replete with such theses, but it is unclear exactly how they are to be understood – especially the pivotal notions of 'independence', 'objectivity', and 'mental construction' – and it is unclear how the disagreements over them are to be settled. What precisely is the point at issue between instances of realism and anti-realism?
  2. Wright's answer is that the central question here is: which concept of truth is appropriate for the domain under consideration? He calls himself a "pluralist", holding that different 'truth predicates' are deployed in different areas, some expressing realist concepts and others not. All of them must obey the principle: "Attributing truth to a statement is equivalent to simply making that statement"; this, he maintains, is the minimal qualification for being a concept of truth; but they differ from one another in further substantive respects. What makes the concept of truth deployed in some area a realist one is having some number of the following four features, roughly speaking:
    1. that, in this area, there may be truths we cannot discover,
    2. that the truth of our assertions does not consist in our justification for making them,
    3. that disagreements can be explained as involving untrue representation, and
    4. that true assertions are frequently caused by the facts asserted.
    We can sustain the realist perspective within a given domain, he suggests, to the extent that we can show that the concept of truth in that domain has these characteristics.
  3. Wright's approach is best appreciated by contrasting it with an account he rejects, known as the deflationary theory of truth. …

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In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Somewhat arbitrarily truncated!


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