Thu, 16 Dec 1993 11:30:27 CST

A few more remarks on truth, in reply to S. Nelson and D. Yee. We can
ask either how "truth" is defined in ordinary speech, or how it should
be defined for some specified purpose. We answer the first question
with what Hempel calls "descriptive" definitions, the second, with
"stipulative" ones. S. Nelson believes that the semantic conception's
definition of truth is, like Rorty's wise-guy definition, "normative,"
which perhaps means that both definitions stipulate, or suggest, that we
ought to agree to let "truth" mean a certain thing. But this is only
half right. The semantic definition adopted by Tarski and others is
stipulative, but it also is descriptive in that most ordinary usage of
the word "true" conforms to it (probably--this is an empirical
hypothesis). Rorty's wise-guy definition, on the other hand, has shock
value because it contradicts normal usage entirely. Indeed, it seems
perfectly nihilistic in intent, mocking the word's ordinary meaning and
implying that only fools believe in reality or the possibility of
bringing our accounts into correspondence with it. Well, I must leave
D. Yee for a future post. --Bob Graber