Is there a Commonsense Semantic Conception of Truth?
Received: 25 April 2017 / Accepted: 11 December 2017 /
Published online: 15 December 2017
Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017
Abstract Alfred Tarski’s refinement of an account of truth into a formal system that
turns on the acceptance of Convention-T has had a lasting impact on philosophical
logic, especially work concerning truth, meaning, and other semantic notions. In a
series of studies completed from the 1930s to the 1960s, Arne Næss collected and
analysed intuitive responses from non-philosophers to questions concerning truth,
synonymy, certainty, and probability. Among the formulations of truth studied by
Næss were practical variants of expressions of the form Bp’ is true if and only if p’.
This paper calls attention to a series of experimental results Næss overlooked in his
original study. These data collectively suggest that acceptance of expressions of the
form Bp’ is true if and only if p’ varies according to what kind of statement p is.
Alfred Tarski’s refinement of the concept of truth into a formal system that turns on the
acceptance of Convention-T has had a lasting impact on philosophical logic, especially work
concerning truth, meaning, and other semantic notions. While many have tried to fully
unpack the formal elements of Tarski’s semantic theory of truth (Asay 2013;David2008;
Etchemendy 1988;Field1972; Heck 1997; McGee 1993;Sher1999; Vaught 1986),
relatively few people have focused upon how he treats the features of the ordinary concept
of truth and how it tends to operate in natural language (Barnard and Ulatowski 2013, 2016).
Of course, a reason for this omission has been articulated by Tarski himself: natural
language is too ambiguous for progress to be made with respect to an appreciation of the
semantic conception of truth operating in ordinary discourse and natural language (cf.
Tarski 1936, 1944). But, if a theory of truth seeks to argue for a concept of truth that both
Philosophia (2018) 46:487–500
* Joseph Ulatowski
Philosophy Programme, University of Waikato, Postal Bag 3105, Gate 1, Knighton Road,
Hamilton 3240, New Zealand