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How Could Truth be Plural?

June 18 - June 19

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It has been nearly thirty years since Crispin Wright’s Truth and Objectivity was published, and in these thirty years alethic pluralism has established itself as a strong contender in the current debate on truth. Yet, while various intricate versions of alethic pluralism have been developed over the years, many philosophers are still hesitant to buy into the very idea that truth is plural.
Our conference, “How Could Truth Possibly Be Plural?”, offers the alethic pluralist the opportunity to face their critics and defend their views.

Schedule (all times are in UTC+1)

Day 1 (18th of June):

14:45 – 15:00 Crispin Wright (NYU/Stirling)  Introduction
15:00 – 16:15 Mark Jago (Nottingham)  On Ways of Being True
16:30 – 17:45 Cheryl Misak (Toronto)  Ramsey’s Unified Pragmatist Concept of Truth
18:00 – 19:15 María José Frápolli (Granada)  Semantic Pluralism and the Complex Meaning of Truth
19.30 – 20:45 Chase Wrenn (Alabama) — Blindspots and Brightspots in Alethic Pluralism

Day 2 (19th of June):

15:00 – 16:15 William Gamester (Leeds) A Place and Purpose for Pluralism
16:30 – 17:45 Douglas Edwards (Utica) & Nikolaj J. L. L. Pedersen (Yonsei) Moderate Pluralism: Doubly Grounded?
18:00 – 19:30 Douglas Edwards, Nikolaj J. L. L. Pedersen, Crispin Wright  Panel Discussion


If you would like to attend the conference, please register by emailing Tom Kaspers (tk70@st-andrews.ac.uk) or Niccolò Aimone Pisano (nap6@st-andrews.ac.uk). The conference is free and open to all.


Jago — On Ways of Being True

There are many ways for truths to be true. How should we understand that idea? One is that there are different kinds of truth: the ways are different properties of truth. Another understanding is that a truth can be made true in different ways, by different kinds of entities. The former understanding supports alethic pluralism. But the latter can be understood as a kind of monism: truth is the existential property of having some truthmaker or other. On this view, the differences reside in how a truth is made true, but not in its being true. I’ll discuss how these two understandings differ, and what the potential advantages of each might be.

Misak — Ramsey’s Unified Pragmatist Concept of Truth

F.P. Ramsey is sometimes taken to be a proponent of the redundancy theory of truth. Sometimes he is taken to be on the same page as the Vienna Circle or Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, where the truth predicate only applies to something like simple elementary perceptual propositions. I will argue that both these interpretations are wrong. Ramsey offered a promising account of truth on pragmatist lines, where truth is the aim of belief, and each domain of belief or inquiry must answer, for its own subject matter, the question What is true? His project was to offer a unified account of how various kinds of beliefs might aim at truth, including logic, ethics, and perhaps even aesthetics.

Frápolli — Semantic Pluralism and the Complex Meaning of Truth

Truth ascriptions are sophisticated linguistic tools of endorsement and generalisation over propositions. Their complex meaning can only be unravelled in a pluralistic semantic framework that makes room for a distinction between an aspect of meaning that is stable, i.e. linguistic meaning, and an aspect that is contextually modulated, i.e. the content that they help to assert. The focus on the use of truth ascriptions accommodates the intuition that different terms (different sentences) can act as truth predicates (truth ascriptions). This does not imply, nevertheless, that there are different truth conceptsthat apply to different kinds of contents. Ramsey is my main inspiration. Frege, Kaplan, Strawson, C. F. J. Williams and Brandom have also had an essential impact on my proposal, which combines philosophical aspects, taken from pragmatics, and technical aspects, taken from the linguistic analysis of proforms.

Wrenn — Blindspots and Brightspots in Alethic Pluralism

Alethic pluralists often stake their position on the claim that truth-attributions involve marking claims with a special normative status. We can understand that status as fitness to believe or fitness to assert. I argue that truth-attributions can’t necessarily involve attributing any such status. The problem comes from true-belief (or true-assertion) blindspots (Sorensen; Bykvist & Hattiangadi) and brightspots. The former are claims such as ‘It’s raining and no one believes it’, which can be true but not truly believed. The latter are claims such as ‘2 is prime and no one believes it’, which can be false but not falsely believed. The basic shape of the problem is this: If something is fit to believe, then, were you to believe it, your belief would be alethically fitting (or correct or good or whatever). No state of believing a blindspot is alethically fitting, even though blindspots can be true. So, being true does not entail fitness to believe. For similar reasons, falsehood doesn’t entail unfitness to believe. Consequently, it can’t be part of the content of TRUE that what is true is fit to believe. After laying out the problem, I explore some of the likeliest pluralist responses to it.

Gamester — A Place and Purpose for Pluralism

This talk takes up a suggestion made independently by Wright (“Comrades Against Quietism”, 1998) and Lynch (“Expressivism and Plural Truth”, 2013): that truth pluralism and metaethical expressivism are natural allies. I explore one way in which expressivists stand to benefit by endorsing a substantive, but non-representational, theory of truth for ethical judgements: with regards to the notorious Frege-Geach Problem. I argue that such a theory can play a critical role in earning the right to a truth-conditional semantics for ethical discourse, by explaining that in virtue of which ethical sentences have truth-conditions (namely, in virtue of expressing judgements that can be true or false). The expressivist can hereby silo her distinctive commitments to the metasemantics of ethical discourse and the nature of ethical judgement, while endorsing an utterly orthodox, truth-conditional semantic theory. While this does not, by itself, suffice to solve the Frege-Geach Problem – we still need a compositional story about what mental states are expressed by logically complex sentences – it constitutes a major step forwards. Moreover, I suggest how we can complete the solution by appealing to a kind of logical expressivism – an independently motivated and well-developed theory that is already employed by some truth pluralists (Ferrari, Moruzzi, and Pedersen, “Austere Truth Pluralism”, 2021).

Edwards & Pedersen — Moderate Pluralism: Doubly Grounded?

Moderate truth pluralists (such as Lynch 2009, Edwards 2018) hold that truth itself is distinct from properties such as correspondence and superassertibility that nevertheless play a significant role in explaining the truth of sentences in different domains. A significant challenge for moderate pluralists is to explain the relationship between truth itself and these domain-specific properties. In this talk we explore the idea (due to Pedersen 2020, MS) that grounding can be used to account for this relation. We do this in two ways. We first show how the truth of particular sentences can be explained through grounding, before going on to explore whether grounding can also be used to account for the general relation between truth and the domain-specific properties.




June 18
June 19


A virtual Conference – by Zoom