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Reassessing truth-evaluability in the Minimalism-Contextualism debate

Fisher, S. A. ORCID: (2021) Reassessing truth-evaluability in the Minimalism-Contextualism debate. Synthese, 198 (3). pp. 2765-2782. ISSN 1573-0964

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/s11229-019-02245-2


The debate between Semantic Minimalism and Radical Contextualism is standardly characterized as concerning truth-evaluability – specifically, whether or not sentences require rich contextualization in order to express complete, truth-evaluable contents. In this paper, I examine the notion of truth-evaluability, considering which kinds of mappings it might require from worldly states of affairs to truth-values. At one end of the spectrum, an exhaustive notion would require truth-evaluable contents to map all possible states of affairs to truth-values. At the other end, a liberal notion would require only that truth-evaluable contents map at least one possible state of affairs to at least one truth-value. I show that both Minimalists and Radical Contextualists rely on some intermediate, moderately strict notion of truth-evaluability, falling between these two poles. I consider four ways in which such a notion could be defined. However, I argue that each of these is ultimately implausible, giving us no reason to favour a moderately strict notion of truth-evaluability over the liberal alternative. This suggests that the debate must shift to more moderate ground; rather than concerning the in principle possibility of truth-evaluable contents, it fundamentally hinges on their explanatory value. More generally, paying close attention to the notion of truth-evaluability allows us to tease apart distinct strands in the Minimalism-Contextualism debate, and gain a better appreciation of what is at stake.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > Philosophy
ID Code:83616


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