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I didn’t know how to create a title for this question. I’m talking about how it seems possible one could understand someone saying to you “the sun didn’t set” as a lie vs internalizing as the fact “John said the sun didn’t set”. Maybe call it evaluating vs passing or wrapping. And that this possibility of doing so seems to call into question the status of truth and falsity.

The particles and fields which make up John didn’t lie when he said the sun didn’t set.

So why don’t we humans understand sentences as being “wrapped” by “so and so said __”? Instead, we just “evaluate” the sentence.

It’s certainly simpler. Is a “matter of fact” language possible where we do wrap everything?

I do worry truth and falsity may be “eliminated” if we talked this way, but if our goals changed might we begin to? Or do we know already such language is impossible in practice? Maybe we know talking in such a way wouldn’t change our understanding? But do we really know that?

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  • For anyone curious, I happened to find this by Crispen Sartwell which at least mentions this exact concept. youtu.be/VK9tenA24s8?t=1509 (25:09~26:00) (he is not a deflationist though, this is one piece of a larger view)
    – J Kusin
    May 9, 2022 at 16:38
  • And better to let this question die, but I think the YouTube clip may at least clear up a little of where I’m coming from, but I definitely should’ve asked a clearer question
    – J Kusin
    May 9, 2022 at 17:34

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You are getting at a logical distinction called use-mention distinction. In the first sentence, the predicate "the sun didn't set" is used, and not only used, but asserted. The sentence is true when the truth conditions of that predicate are fulfilled. In the second sentence, the predicate "the sun didn't set" is only mentioned, not used. When a predicate is only mentioned, the truth of the predicate is not at issue.

"The sun didn't set" is a report about the apparent behavior of the sun. The subject is the sun, and the predicate is an astronomical motion. The predicate is true if the subject, "the sun" did what the predicate says it did: "didn't set".

"John said the sun didn't set" is a report about a verbal behavior of John. The subject is John (not the sun) and the predicate is a verbal performance. The predicate is true if the subject, "John", did what the predicates he did: "said the sun didn't set". What the sun did is not relevant in this predicate because the predicate about the sun is only mentioned.

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  • Thanks David for connecting this to a real area of philosophy. But in this depiction, what does it mean for the second sentence to be true? I witnessed John say such? But that is always true. That is my sense experience. And sense experiences are facts not really truth or falsity.
    – J Kusin
    May 8, 2022 at 15:22
  • @J Kusin, can your sense be wrong or mislead you? You would be the first human ever with that experience. Our sense can be wrong. How do you explain illusions? This means there are other ways to gain knowledge. Philosophers don't use the word sentences like you do. They are watering g down the concept of propositions when they use the word sentence or statement. Propositions are neither of those. Philosophers should not be using either term. The proper terminology is proposition. Propositions can be expressed by very different sentences & different languages.
    – Logikal
    May 8, 2022 at 16:16
  • @JKusin, why would you have to witness John saying it? Does the sun not set if you don't witness it? Was Lincoln not assassinated if you didn't witness it? I really don't see where that is coming from. "John said the sun didn't set" is true if and only if John said the sun didn't set, whether you witnessed him saying it or not. (I'm not asserting a disquotational view of truth here, just noting something that pretty much all philosophies of truth would agree to). May 8, 2022 at 23:19
  • Say it’s John and me in a room and John says, “the sun didn’t set”. From that observation, I could internalize John told a lie, John told the truth, or just John said the sun didn’t set. The first two involve truth and falsity. The third is just a report of my observation. What principle is forcing these sentences or our language to be a evaluated for truth or falsity then? Maybe I just want to go around cataloguing what I observe as in the third case.
    – J Kusin
    May 8, 2022 at 23:46
  • @Logikal In a certain sense our senses are never wrong though. Take the famous blue and white dress-that’s really what they saw. It seems possible language could mimic this aspect of experience: Jane said she sees blue, Alan said he sees white, the dress is measured to be 490nm wavelength and is thus blue. Alan is wrong, if he is making a claim about the world. If he is just saying what he sees, he is not wrong or right. We could speak this way if we wanted no?
    – J Kusin
    May 9, 2022 at 0:09

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