Minimalisms about Truth 1

Richard Holton
Writing in 1927, Russell said: There is a tendency to use "truth" with a big T in the grand sense, as something noble and splendid and worthy of adoration This gets people into a frame of mind in which they are unable to think. (An Outline of Philosophy p.265) The pendulum has swung. Minimalism is in vogue. The tendency now is to use 'truth' with a small 't' as something trivial and, once understood, unworthy of attention. I'll leave to others the question of whether this has rendered people
more » ... rendered people more able to think. So what is minimalism? There are a number of things that the label evokes. In the first place a minimal theory might be a simple one. Secondly it might make minimal metaphysical commitments: to things, to properties, to relations. Thirdly, it might be uncontentious; that is, it might be minimally revisionary of our existing beliefs. In short, a theory might be minimally complex, minimally committing, or minimally revisionary. Which of these three qualities are the qualities of minimalist theories of truth? In fact there are a number of different theories that have gone under that banner, and they have these qualities to different degrees. My main task here is first to distinguish, and then to map out possibilities. I won't be concerned to argue for a certain position as much as to argue that various combinations of positions are consistent. In particular, I want to argue that a commitment to minimalism about truth does not bring an automatic commitment to what has been called a minimalist theory of truth-aptitude: the claim that every assertoric sentence which is used in a systematic way will be either true or false. 1 I am grateful for conversations with Frank Jackson, Michael Smith and Graham Oppy, whose paper 'Minimalism and Truth Aptness' argues for conclusions very similar to mine.