SEP's history of the deflationary theory of truth does not explain the origins of the term Deflationary, but does point to the first people who "explicitly defended it".

The deflationary theory has been one of the most popular approaches to truth in the twentieth century, having received explicit defense by Frege, Ramsey, Ayer, and Quine, as well as sympathetic treatment from many others. (According to Dummett 1959, the view originates with Frege.) The following passages all contain recognizable versions of the doctrine, though they differ on points of detail.

(Note: none of the passages quoted afterwards use the word "deflationary")

Who first said used phrase "deflationary theory of truth"? Was it Frege?

  • I do not think Frege and other forerunners... Maybe form 1970-80s: Field, Horwich,... Nov 23, 2021 at 10:01
  • don't know. I would guess Donald Davidson. Nov 23, 2021 at 10:14
  • A quite early one: H. Field, The Deflationary Conception of Truth (1986) Nov 23, 2021 at 10:27
  • It seems that the different "variants" are: Redundancy theory (Ramsey, 1928), Disquotational theory (Quine, 1970), Deflationary theory (Field, 1986). Nov 23, 2021 at 10:41

1 Answer 1


Yes, none of those authors used the label, not Frege, not Ramsey, not Quine, and not even Dummett writing about Frege. One can see on the Google Ngram how the term "deflationary theory of truth" first appears in 1986 and picks up exponentially from there. The source is not too far to find, it is Hartry Field's The Deflationary Conception of Truth published in Fact, Science and Value volume, where he ascribed the doctrine to a number of past authors. He contrasted it to "inflationary" conceptions, one of which he himself defended back in 1970s, see Gupta, Field on the Concept of Truth. Although Field preferred "conception" to "theory", Putnam felt otherwise. So much so that in a citation in Representation and Reality, ch. 5 (1988) he even "renamed" Field's 1986 essay into Deflationary Theories of Truth.

I should mention that there is non-technical use of "deflationary truth" that predates Field's appropriation, see e.g. Rajan's book on Eliot's poetry, p.78 (1976):"The deflationary truth is that no potential poem came into Eliot's mind and that the poem which eventually shaped itself round the occasion was a by - product of his dramatic interests".

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