Modality, invariance, and logical truth

Timothy McCarthy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Let us sum up. We began with the question, "What is the interest of a model-theoretic definition of validity?" Model theoretic validity consists in truth under all reinterpretations of non-logical constants. In this paper, we have described for each necessity concept a corresponding modal invariance property. Exemplification of that property by the logical constants of a language leads to an explanation of the necessity, in the corresponding sense, of its valid sentences. I have fixed upon the epistemic modalities in characterizing the logical constants: to be a logical constant in the language of a population is to be invariant over a modality describing complete possible epistemic states of that population (or an idealized analogue thereof). The grounds for this characterization are these: (1) It leads, I believe, to an extensionally reasonable demarcation of the logical constants, including clear cases and excluding clear non-cases. It gives a principled criterion for deciding unclear cases. (2) It provides an analysis of the topic-neutrality of logic. (3) It leads to an explanation of the epistemic necessity of the logical truths in terms of the topic-neutrality of the logical constants. All the same, it is reasonable to ask, even if the suggested demarcation of logic is extensionally correct, whether it can reasonably be expected to be fundamental. The epistemic invariance of an expression is a rather striking property, one which we should want to explain. What is missing, then, is an explanation of the distinguishing epistemic properties of the constants in terms of more fundamental properties involving their understanding and use. It would be these that properly define the nature, not just the extent, of logic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-443
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Philosophical Logic
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1987


  • invariance property
  • epistemic state
  • clear case
  • logical truth
  • logical constant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Logic
  • Philosophy


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