Two broad conceptions

  1. Truth as “correspondence with reality”
  2. Truth as “what is best in the way of belief”

The former is a modern, representationalist rendering of Aristotle’s “saying of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not”. The latter is associated with James and Rorty sees no conflict between the two (because the former is a platitude).

Pragmatists see philosophy’s lack of success in convincingly finding a non-platitudinous way of making sense of the first conception, and thus we should move on and change the subject. They deny truth has an essence.1

With Declarativism about truth,2 the latter has consequences that statements in all vocabularies are true in the very same sense as OED statements can be. They are no less true than true scientific claims.

Truth vs assertability

Rather than truth being a property of statements, it is better to think of the pragmatics of calling something truth as you taking a normative stance towards it - you are doing something (endorsing) that is not describing. This is expressivism about truth. This is giving an expressivst reading to “best” in the second conception of truth.

However, we have an intuition that one means something different by saying that ” is true” and “I endorse ”. One is justified in asserting the first statement iff one is justified in asserting the second. Rorty encourages us to get over this intuition, but Brandom believes it can be salvaged while still adhering to pragmatist scruples.

  • “Jones believes
    • Pragmatically, we are attributing commitment: “Jones is committed to , e.g. can be asked for justification and use it as a premise of other claims.”
  • “Jones is justified in believing
    • Pragmatically, we are attributing entitlement; “Jones can provide a justification when asked.""
  • “Jones knows that ” (i.e. the above +“and is true”)
    • Pragmatically, we (the speaker) are taking a commitment to .
    • This is not clear from the grammar (“true” being an adjective is misleading).

So in the interpersonal case it is more clear that there is a difference in being assertable and being true.

In the personal case, the assertability conditions are the same, but they also come apart when we look downstream (what we can infer from each statement:

  • I plan to finish writing this book
  • I will write this book These have the same assertability conditions, but it’s clear they don’t mean the same thing because different consequences can be extracted from each.

Pragmatically one is merely endorsing regradless of whether one says or ” is true.” But they mean different things.3

Deflationary theories of truth need to address the Frege-Geach argument in explaining embedded uses of truth.

External resources


  1. This is why Rorty says calling something true is paying it an empty compliment.

  2. I.e. there are not different kinds of truth

  3. This seems important in blocking some argument that semantics can be cleanly/functorially read off of the pragmatics.