Syntactic Interpretations of Truth and Semantic Underdetermination

Timothy G McCarthy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


I shall discuss part of William Lycan's vigorous defense of Davidson's semantic program in Logical Form in Natural Language. In particular, I will consider Lycan's response to Stich's (1976) attempted trivialization of Davidson's constraints on semantic theory. Lycan's response to Stich's example seems apt, but I will argue that it does not apply to another sort of example which I shall develop. An example of this kind takes the form of a skeptical hypothesis pitted against an assumed correct description of an object language in Tarskian terms; the skeptical hypothesis ascribes a syntactically characterized truth predicate to the object language. I will go on to consider some responses to such examples which are based on general considerations about the explanatory role of a theory of logical relations in a natural language. It is argued that the desired explanations are forthcoming on the basis of the suggested syntactic interpretations. I shall conclude that either Lycan's reconstruction of Davidson's framework does not afford an adequate conception of evidence in semantics, or semantic structure is empirically underdetermined in a particularly radical way.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-50
Number of pages14
JournalPhilosophical Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Philosophy


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