The Epistemic Lightness of Truth

Using my hefty discount at the CUP shop, I bought a copy of The Epistemic Lightness of Truth: Deflationism and its Logic by Cezary Cieśliński when it came out at the very end of last year. I mentioned it briefly here, saying that first impressions were very good. I then read some more;  but, life being as it is, I got distracted, and I never returned to say more about what struck me as an excellent book — a must-read if you are tempted by/interested in a broadly deflationist approach to truth.

In fact, I’ve not been keeping up quite closely enough with the literature here to give a fully informed judgement of Cieśliński’s achievement without more homework than I have had time for. However, Leon Horsten is in as good a position as anyone to assess the state of play. And he has now written an extensive and detailed review for Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. His summary judgement? “I cannot praise this book too highly. I predict that it will constitute indispensable reading for any researcher in the field (professional or postgraduate) for years to come.” So read the very helpful review. Order the book for your library. And let’s hope that CUP issue a more modestly priced paperback sooner rather than later.

1 thought on “The Epistemic Lightness of Truth”

  1. Peter,

    Hi. I read the NDPR review. I have to ask for your help. (I’m an interested amateur in such matters, my only advanced degree is in law, and my only law school philosophy course mostly concerned Rawls v. Nozick).

    Anyway, I find in the Horsten review the following sentence: “Cieslinski does not accept semantic conservativeness as a precondition for an axiomatic truth theory being deflationist.”

    Can you help me unpack that? I understand that a “deflationist” truth theory is one that separates the quality of truth from issues of warrant. Pontius Pilate asked “what is truth” in connection with the charge that Jesus was a rebel against Rome. It might have deflated Pilate a bit to get the response, “It is true that ‘Jesus is a rebel against Rome’ if and only if Jesus is a rebel against Rome.”

    I’m not sure what an “axiomatic truth theory” is here. I think it means a theory that doesn’t require a distinction between language and meta-language. To one sort of theory, “Jesus is a rebel against Rome” is one kind of proposition and “Truths about Jesus can be known, despite the passage of a lot of time” is another kind of proposition. But “axiomatic” theories allow them to co-exist on the same level. Am I right so far?

    At any rate, what I gather so far s that (1) Cieslinki wants an axiomatic theory of truth, and (2) he wants a deflationist theory of truth, and (3) there is some controversy over whether getting both of those is consistent with something else called “semantic conservativeness.” As to the third point, Cieslinki apparently doesn’t care about that controversy, because he doesn’t think he needs semantic conservativeness.

    So: just two questions!

    Do I have any of that right? and
    What is semantic conservativeness?

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