The Tarskian Turn
Deflationism and Axiomatic Truth
A philosopher proposes a new deflationist view of truth, based on contemporary proof-theoretic approaches.
In The Tarskian Turn, Leon Horsten investigates the relationship between formal theories of truth and contemporary philosophical approaches to truth. The work of mathematician and logician Alfred Tarski (1901–1983) marks the transition from substantial to deflationary views about truth. Deflationism—which holds that the notion of truth is light and insubstantial—can be and has been made more precise in multiple ways. Crucial in making the deflationary intuition precise is its relation to formal or logical aspects of the notion of truth. Allowing that semantical theories of truth may have heuristic value, in The Tarskian Turn Horsten focuses on axiomatic theories of truth developed since Tarski and their connection to deflationism.
Arguing that the insubstantiality of truth has been misunderstood in the literature, Horsten proposes and defends a new kind of deflationism, inferential deflationism, according to which truth is a concept without a nature or essence. He argues that this way of viewing the concept of truth, inspired by a formalization of Kripke's theory of truth, flows naturally from the best formal theories of truth that are currently available. Alternating between logical and philosophical chapters, the book steadily progresses toward stronger theories of truth. Technicality cannot be altogether avoided in the subject under discussion, but Horsten attempts to strike a balance between the need for logical precision on the one hand and the need to make his argument accessible to philosophers.
Hardcover$37.00 S | £29.00 ISBN: 9780262015868 178 pp. | 9 in x 6 in
It is short, very clearly and attractively written (often with a pleasing light touch), and it nicely explains the content of some key formal theories and presents the key results about them, sometimes sketching proofs, but often just pointing to proofs in the literature for enthusiasts to follow up….Overall, I think Leon Horsten has succeeded brilliantly at the task of outlining and so making accessible a range of recent work on theories of truth….a beautifully structured guided tour.
Horsten's book is a success in linking the formal and philosophical issues surrounding truth. The Tarskian Turn is both a valuable pedagogical contribution and an impressive scholarly achievement.
Horsten accomplishes something very important: He bridges the gap between formal investigations on truth and philosophical considerations….manages to present the difficult technical material of axiomatic theories of truth in a very accessible way…without oversimplifying the issues at hand….A valuable contribution to the contemporary literature. With its fluent style, Horsten's book is a must read for anybody interested in truth.
The Bulletin of Symbolic Logic
Horsten's book is a unique, pioneering attempt to connect philosophers' discussions of the intrinsic nature of truth with logicians' results about axiomatic truth theories. Clear and concise, it offers in a brief compass something for everyone who has worked in and around these areas.
John P. Burgess
Professor of Philosophy, Princeton University
Something surprising about The Tarskian Turn is what it doesn't do. It doesn't attempt to 'solve' the liar paradox, or to explain what goes wrong in the paradoxical reasoning. As a deflationist about truth, Horsten doesn't think that the paradox indicates a fissure in the foundation of reason that requires a deep explanation. His aim is therapeutic, rather than diagnostic. He looks for consistent, explicit rules that provide the broadly 'logical' uses of the word 'true' that deflationists recognize as legitimate, and he undertakes the task with remarkable philosophical insight and technical dexterity. It's a book I thoroughly admire.
Professor of Philosophy, MIT, and author of Truth, Vagueness, and Paradox: An Essay on the Logic of Truth