Volume 44, Issue 1, Spring 2016
Essays on the Philosophy of Frederick Stoutland
Why an Aristotelian Account of Truth Is (More or Less) All We Need
This paper advances an account of truth that has as its starting point Aristotle’s comments about truth at Metaphysics 1011b1. It argues that there are two key ideas in the Aristotelian account: that truth belongs to ‘sayings that’; and that truth involves both what is said and what is. Beginning with the second of these apparent truisms, the paper argues for the crucial role of the distinction between ‘what is said’ and ‘what is’ in the understanding of truth, on the grounds that it is essential to the distinction between truth and falsity and, indeed, to the very possibility of any critical assessment of statements. However, this distinction cannot be used to ground any account of truth in terms that refer to anything other than truth—there is thus no relation that underlies truth even though truth may be construed (in a certain limited sense) relationally. Returning to the first point, it is argued that while truth should indeed be understood as belonging to statements, it should not be construed as attaching to ‘propositions’, but to uttered sentences. The account of truth advanced is minimalist, and yet not deflationist; objectivist, and yet not independent of actual linguistic practice.