, Volume 195, Issue 3, pp 1103–1125 | Cite as

The value of minimalist truth

  • Filippo Ferrari
S.I.: Minimalism about Truth


Since the publication of Truth, Paul Horwich’s ‘Minimalism’ has become the paradigm of what goes under the label ‘the deflationary conception of truth’. Despite the many theoretical virtues of Horwich’s minimalism, it is usually contended that it cannot fully account for the normative role that truth plays in enquiry. As I see it, this concern amounts to several challenges. One such challenge—call it the axiological challenge—is about whether deflationists have the theoretical resources to explain the value of truth. Some philosophers (e.g. Michael Lynch and Bernard Williams) have argued that they do not. The thought is that by being valuable in the way it is, truth plays a non-trivial explanatory role with respect to core phenomena of enquiry. In order to account for this aspect of truth, the challenge goes, we need to inflate truth’s nature to an extent incompatible with core tenets of the minimalist conception. In this paper, I first provide some clarifications of what we mean exactly when we say that truth is valuable. By borrowing important distinction from the current debate in axiology, I elaborate a framework within which to conduct investigations into the value of truth. With reference to Horwich’s discussion of the issue, I then discuss the link between questions concerning the explanatory role of truth and the issue of its metaphysical inflation. I conclude by briefly exploring a few strategies on behalf of minimalists to address the axiological challenge.


Truth Minimalism Horwich Lynch Intrinsic/extrinsic value Finale/instrumental value Conditional/unconditional value 



This paper has quite a long history—so it would be impossible to list all the philosophers from whom I’ve benefited in the past few years. However, this paper couldn’t have been written without the invaluable help and feedback of Elke Brendel, Douglas Edwards, Patrick Greenough, Paul Horwich, Michael Lynch, Sebastiano Moruzzi, Nikolaj Pedersen, Joseph Ulatowski, Chase Wrenn and Cory Wright. Special thanks to Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins, Eva Picardi, and Crispin Wright for their extraordinary support and supervision. Thanks also to three anonymous referees from Synthese for their precious comments. A first version of this paper was written during my tenure of a Jacobsen full Scholarship and a second version was completed during my tenure of a postdoctoral fellowship in the Leverhulme Trust funded project, “Relativism and Rational Tolerance”—both fellowships were held at the former Northern Institute of Philosophy in Aberdeen—I would like to thank everybody at NIP for the many occasions in which they have helped me and supported my research. This final version has been carried out during my tenure of a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Bonn, within the project “Disagreement in Philosophy”, sponsored by the German Research Foundation (DFG—BR 1978/3–1). I gratefully acknowledge the support of these funding bodies.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BonnBonnGermany

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