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A Priori Truth in the Natural World : A Non-referentialist Response to Benacerraf's Dilemma

The main question addressed in this thesis is how we can best conceive the contrast between a priori and empirical truths.

Zsolt Novák
23 June 2010

The author's response is realist and naturalist in character: The author suggests that the essential feature of a priori truths is that they consist in the obtaining of some realistically understood conditions in the domain of representations within human heads, rather than in the obtaining of those conditions that they typically purport to be about. This representationist constual cannot be reconciled with the received referentialist understanding of truth. Accordingly, this thesis can be seen as a case against standard referentialism about truth.

After a detailed exposition and appropriate generalisation of Benacerraf’s dilemma about mathematical truth, the author argues for two major claims. First, the author demonstrates that among the most striking characteristics of our paradigm a priori beliefs about causally inert entities there are some, which cannot be suitably explained from a referentialist perspective, so that perspective must be wrong. Second, he argues that if we adopt an alternative, use-theoretic notion of truth, then the suggested representationist construal of apriority can meet all major explanatory adequacy conditions, and thus qualifies as a viable characterisation of the subject. 

Supervisors: prof.dr. B.G. Sundholm and dr. J.W. McAllister

Cum laude

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