You are all invited to attend a talk by Professor Julian Dodd, of Manchester, about the asymmetry of truth (see the abstract below). The talk will take place on Thursday 13 February, at 18.30, in Junior Parlour, Trinity College. There will be wine, cheese and worthwhile intellectual entertainment, as always.
ABSTRACT. Tiddles is a cat. Suppose that <Tiddles is purring> – the proposition that Tiddles is purring – is true. It is true because Tiddles is purring. But it is not the case that Tiddles is purring because <Tiddles is purring> is true. This is an instance of truth’s asymmetry. Not all philosophers believe in truth’s asymmetry. But if we do believe in it, we should explain it. Why is truth in this way asymmetric? A tempting thought is that truth’s asymmetry is underpinned by a metaphysical asymmetry: that is, by the obtaining of a non-causal, asymmetric determination relation between how things are and the truth-values of propositions. On this way of thinking, propositions, if true, are metaphysically determined as true by how things are. But I am sceptical of such an approach. The right kind of metaphysical determination relation is hard to come by and, as I shall try to explain, there is something suspect about the very idea that the asymmetry of truth could admit of such a metaphysically heavyweight explanation. My rival suggestion is that truth’s asymmetry is really a conceptual asymmetry. Outlining a notion of conceptual explanation, borrowed from Wolfgang Künne and Benjamin Schnieder, I propose that the asymmetry can be neatly explained once we treat the ‘because’ in ‘<Tiddles is purring> because Tiddles is purring’ as the ‘because’ of this kind of conceptual, rather than metaphysical, explanation. I end by replying to some objections to this proposal.