The Elusive Nature of Truth


  • Michael Lynch Connecticut College



In this essay, I present a new argument for the imposszbility of defining truth by specifying the underlying structural property all and only true propositions have in common. The set of considerations. I use to support this claim take as their inspiration Alston's recent argument that it is impossible to define truth epistemically—in terms of justification or warrant. According to what Alston calls the "intensional argument", epistemic definitions are inconsistent with the T-schema or the principle that it is true that p if, and only if, p. Since the T-schema has great intuitive appeal, this is a powerful indictment of epistemic theories. But the basic argument that Alston employs, and the constellation of considerations which prosecute that argument, work against a much broader range of views than he considers. While this implies that a traditional conceptual analysis of truth rnay be impossible, it opens the door to a pluralist approach to truth.

Author Biography

Michael Lynch, Connecticut College

Michael Lynch holds both an M.A. and a Ph.D. from Syracuse University and is an Associate Fellow at the ARHB Arche Research Center at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. He is the author most recently of True to Life (MIT, 2004), selected by the New York Times as an “Editor’s Choice” in 2004, and is also the author or editor of four additional books: Truth in Context (MIT, 2001); The Nature of Truth (MIT, 2001); Perspectives on the Philosophy of William P. Alston (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005; with H. Battaly); and Truth and Realism (Oxford, forthcoming 2006; with P. Greenough). Lynch has taught at Connecticut College and the University of Mississippi, and has had visiting appointments at the University of Cambridge and the University of St. Andrews. In 2003 he was awarded a Bogliasco Fellowship at the Liguria Study Center in Italy.