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Truth and cognition

  • Author(s): Wright, Cory D.
  • et al.

Recent work on truth has taken the overarching theoretical endeavor to be explanation. A central claim of deflationism, for instance, is the minimalist thesis that all the facts involving truth can be explained with very minimal explanatory resources (e.g., biconditional T- schemas). Plainly though, what counts as an adequate explanation depends on what the explanandum consists in. The aforementioned minimalist thesis, after all, is only plausible given antecedent commitments to the insubstantivist view that there is little to explain in the first place. I argue that minimalist theories are derived from an implausible form of explanatory conservatism. This result suggests the need for a more substantive theory of a wide array of alethic and semantic phenomena. Some of these phenomena are cognitive processes --a claim that runs counter to the traditional regard of cognition as being orthogonal to the explanation of the facts involving truth. With a pair of determination arguments for the thesis that truth is cognitively mediated, I show that this traditional disregard is a mistake. According to this thesis, cognitive processes directly co-determine the truth-values of truth-bearers. To elaborate on the nature of those processes, which include focal adjustments of attention, selection, scanning, scope, scale, perspective, and viewpoint, I invoke some of the theoretical constructs of cognitive grammar. Particular emphasis is given to judgment, which is a special case of the more general ability of comparison. Moreover, the oft-held view that theories like cognitive grammar or cognitive semantics are highly compatible with deflationary theories of truth is, I think, a mistake. After defending the correspondence theory of truth against several objections, some of the constructs from cognitive grammar are then parlayed into a version of that theory which characterizes truth as a multi-place structural relation of maximal veridicality. Accordingly, truth holds of fully sanctioned constructions whose semantic values are judgments. In a Kantian fashion, judgments are characterized as assemblies of cognitive models about situations that are conceived according to speakers' cognitively structured ontological categories. All told, this suggests a happy confluence of cognitive linguistics and inflationary alethic theories

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