, Volume 160, Issue 3, pp 445-453
Date: 01 Sep 2011

Richard on truth and commitment

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The twentieth century has left us with abundant tools for theorizing about the meanings of sentences that can be used to represent states of affairs—sentences that are “truth apt.” But what do we do, Mark Richard wonders, when “truth gives out”? How should we think about the aspects of our thought, talk and reasoning that are not straightforwardly representational: pejoratives, for example, or taste-related evaluatives like “cool”? In When Truth Gives Out, Richard develops two theoretical tools for dealing with such discourse. One is a form of expressivism, which I’ll call “commitment semantics.” The other is a form of truth relativism. In what follows, I’ll discuss both of these tools, and the uneasy relation between them.

Commitment semantics

Commitment semantics starts from the idea that many apparently assertoric utterances are best understood not as assertions (commitments to the truth of a proposition), but as other kinds of commitments. Saying that a red leather cape is cool, for ...