Polish Journal of Philosophy

Volume 9, Issue 2, Fall 2015

Kai Michael Büttner
Pages 41-57

Truth Conditions and Behaviourism

Quine tries to combine truth conditional semantics with linguistic behaviourism. To this end, he identifies the truth conditions of a sentence with the conditions that prompt speakers to assign truth or falsity to the sentence. The first problem with this conception is that truth conditions determine not when truth-value assignments are made, but when they are correct. This fact vitiates Quine’s account of observation sentences (section 2). A second difficulty pertains only to theoretical sentences. The correctness of truth-value assignments to such sentences depends not on current experiences, but on what can be experienced on other occasions. This observation militates against Quine’s general verification holism and against his account of predications (section 3 and 4). Combining truth conditional semantics and linguistic behaviourism is possible, though, if both these lessons are taken into account (section 5).