Jared Henderson

Philosophy, etc.

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Deflating the Determination Argument

This article argues for the compatibility of deflationism and truth-conditional semantic theories. I begin by focusing on an argument due to Dorit Bar-On, Claire Horisk, and William Lycan for incompatibility, arguing that their argument relies on an ambiguity between two senses of the expression ‘is at least.’ I go on to show how the disambiguated arguments have different consequences for the deflationist, and argue that no conclusions are established that the deflationist cannot accommodate. I then respond to some objections and gesture at a more general defense of the compatibility claim.


Under Review

Truth and Gradability

I argue for two claims: that the ordinary English truth predicate is a gradable adjective and that truth is a property that comes in degrees. The first is a semantic claim, motivated by the linguistic evidence and the similarity of the truth predicate’s behavior to other gradable terms. The second is a claim in natural language metaphysics, motivated by interpreting the best semantic analysis of gradable terms as applied to the truth predicate. In addition to providing arguments for these two claims, I draw out consequences for debates about deflationism and truth-based analyses of notions such as assertion and logical consequence. I argue that deflationism is incompatible with the gradability of truth, but that with some minor modifications, degrees of truth theorists can retain standard accounts of assertion and logical consequence, including the full resources of classical logic.

Formulating Strong Alethic Pluralism

In this reply to some recent work by Pedersen, I show that his formulation of strong alethic pluralism is not simply unstable, as he argues, but self-undermining. The formulation of strong alethic pluralism employs a universal truth predicate — which shows that strong alethic pluralism is false. I propose a revised formulation of strong alethic pluralism which is not self-undermining.

Absoluteness and Alethic Pluralism

Pluralists about truth take a liberal attitude toward truth: there are many truth properties, all united by some common features. One way to identify the truth properties is to come up with a list of platitudes and see which properties satisfy those platitudes; those properties are the truth properties. I argue against the inclusion of the Absoluteness platitude in a pluralist theory of truth. Given other things pluralists say about truth, they should be open to the idea that some truth properties are non-absolute and come in degrees.

Semantics Deflated

This paper argues for the compatibility of truth-conditional semantics and deflationary theories of truth. I argue that we can utilize a deflated notion of truth and truth-conditions in our semantics without loss of explanatory power, as ‘is true’ plays a dispensable role in semantic explanations. I address how deflationists should accommodate truth-conditions in their semantic theory, and I show how non-alethic paraphrases of common lexical entries can be given. I conclude by offering a reassessment of the assumption that truth-conditional semantics and deflationism are incompatible: while deflationism is incompatible with philosophical truth-conditional theories of meaning, it is perfectly compatible with truth-conditional semantics as practiced in linguistics.

In Progress

Truth as Modal Closeness

I present a novel degree theory of truth: the modal measurement theory. I argue that ‘true’ behaves like a graded modal, measuring the closeness the nearest world that makes a sentence true. I show that the modal measurement theory of truth has the resources to respond to common objections to degree theories of truth: logical consequence is still classical, sentences are non-linearly ordered, a sentence is false when not fully true, and the metaphysics of degrees of truth is all done in terms of well-understood metaphysical notions such as possible worlds and worldly similarities.

There Are No Generics

Bare plural sentences, e.g. Ravens are black and Mosquitos carry West Nile, are often assumed to have an underlying semantic structure – in particular, they are often assumed to have a tripartite, quantificational structure with a Gen quantifier – and are collectively called generics. These sentences have proven resistant to a satisfying semantic analysis. This is due to the truth-conditional diversity of bare plural sentences. One strategy is pursued by Liebesman, who argues that bare plurals have a uniform semantics but have a non-quantificational, Gen-less structure. Another strategy is pursued by Leslie, who argues that bare plurals have a quantificational semantics in terms of Gen but lack uniform truth-conditions. I pursue a third strategy. Bare plurals have a quantificational structure, but there is no Gen. Instead, the bare plural is ambiguous between a plurality of quantificational readings. I argue that this proposal has advantages over both the Liebesman and Leslie semantics.