Let us assume that 'truth' is a construct of the human mind. In this case truth is defined as some product of the mind's 'verification', and nothing else. What 'makes' a statement true is simply the verification offered for the truth, and not the reasons the mind believes are existent 'out there' for believing the truth to be true. In this case, the definition of 'truth' is assuming within itself a definition of 'mind'.

Now, we might ask what makes the definition of 'mind' true, or what makes such an outlook on what 'truth' is as a whole true. Applying this definition of truth we would find that what makes this understanding of truth true is the verification offered for it as constructed by the mind. But this obviously raises the same problem of assumption mentioned before, never actually answering what makes our understanding of the 'mind' or the general theory of truth true. Instead, we find ourselves in a (supposedly) vicious regress.

Now let us assume that truth is deflationary, so that what makes a statement 'true' is simply the saying of it. Thus, 'the sun is hot' is true equates to simply 'the sun is hot'. One might then ask what makes this theory itself true, to which the proper response is that such a theory is true in its being said, so as to be 'truth is deflationary'. But since whether or not 'truth is deflationary' is precisely what is being brought into question, it is clear that truth does not consist in the mere saying of the statement, nor its value merely in the statement itself. What makes the statement true, in other words, is independent of the statement itself.

Now we could hold such a 'reason' to be mind-dependent, as we did in the first account of 'truth' as a construct of the human mind. But as shown, this brings us into a vicious regress.

We can ultimately avoid this regress in holding that what makes a given statement 'true' is its correspondence to something that simply is in itself, independent of our thinking it to be so. This would terminate the regress, but at the cost of submitting to both realism and the correspondence theory of truth. My question is as follows: is it a price worth paying?

Disclaimer: This string of wordage is not necessarily reflective of the writer's own views. Rather, what is presented is an argument for the sake of garnering an anti-realist and anti-correspondence-theory objector's response to such a specific argument. More than being an argument, it is a question about what possibly is wrong with the argument and why such is (or is not) the case.

2 Answers 2


Ironically, Frege (1918) has argued against the correspondence theory of truth (and any other attempt at a definition of truth) in quite the same spirit:

We should have to inquire whether it were true that an idea and a reality, perhaps, corresponded in the laid-down respect. And then we should be confronted by a question of the same kind and the game could begin again. So the attempt to explain truth as correspondence collapses. And every other attempt to define truth collapses too. For in a definition certain characteristics would have to be stated. And in application to any particular case the question would always arise whether it were true that the characteristics were present. So one goes round in a circle.

He then concludes:

Consequently, it is probable that the content of the word "true" is unique and indefinable.

This is a problematic argument and there's quite a bit of literature on it. See, for example, Heck (2002) 'Meaning and Truth Conditions'.

  • I'm not sure how a correspondence theory would be subject to the regress though. For example, if we say 'truth is said of a thing if it corresponds to the thing about which it speaks' we would ask what makes this assertion 'true' and find that it terminates in a thing that requires no further explanation (at least in this context). So long as the definition of truth has a variable requiring explanation in regards to truth it shall never actually account for what truth is.
    – Bombadil
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 15:08

I think that you misrepresent deflationary theories of truth. You say that according to such theories

"that what makes a statement 'true' is simply the saying of it".

But that is absurd. I cannot, in general, make a statement true by simply saying it, and deflationary theories of truth are not committed to that claim. Rather, according to them truth is not a property of anything and so nothing makes anything true. If you want to boil down deflationary theories of truth to a slogen, it would rather be something like the following:

Saying that something is "true" is simply saying it.

Of course, this holds of "theories of truth" (which are, according to deflationists, not really theories of anything) as of anything else that you might say. This has consequences for your argument, because deflationary accounts of "true" show us an alternative way how the (supposed) regress that anti-realist definitions of truth run into can be avoided.

  • The deflationist seems to avoid the regress by abandoning the whole pursuit itself, which seems to me just as nonsensical as being caught in the regress. It just is obvious that there are truth-makers; it just is obvious that there are reasons a thing is 'true' rather than 'false'. The deflationist thus isn't really takling about 'truth' at all; they are choosing to ignore truth, and such absurdity is easily identified when one asks the simple question 'why does the deflationist choose to believe that truth is deflationary?'. If they can offer no reason what reason is there to believe them?
    – Bombadil
    Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 0:55

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