[hist-analytic] Horwich and Minimalism and Normativity

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Fri Oct 15 15:52:56 EDT 2010

Paul Horwich defends a version of "minimalism." One objection he must address is one by Dummett with respect to the "redundancy" theory. Think of the redundancy theory as implied by the minimalist theory on Horwich's account. Dummett's objection was (1959) that redundancy will not explain the desirability of truth. Horwich has an answer. 

"...it is easily seen why I should wanbt it to be the case, for example, that I *believe* that if I run I will escape, only if I will escape if I run. I want this because, given a desire to escape, that belief would lead to a certain action (running), and that action would satify my desire if indeed it implies escape. This is why I wold like it to be that I believe that I will escape if I run, only if I will indeed escape if I run." 

This account cannot be generalized without facing a couple of problems. One problem is that Horwich has taken propositions as the basic bearers of truth, although there is some wiggle room with respect to utterance. There is a scopal problem however; also, a problem with cherrry picking examples such as the one, above, which he provides. Let's look at a couple of sentences where there is a contrast in scope. 

1. I want that if I believe something, then it is true. 
2. If I believe something, I want it to be true. 

But now instantiate with another example: 

1'. I want it to be the case that if I believe war is inevitable, then it is true that war is inevitable. 

2'. If I believe war is inevitable, then I want it to be true that war is inevitable. 

I don't believe Horwich wants either of these. But look at his example. What in it EXCLUDES these examples. Again: on the basis of HIS examples, etc. Clearly we don't wish to say that I want to believe only the truth. This may in fact be false! Here, I think, we must consider that it is neither sentences nor utterances that are the basic bearers of truth but, rather, beliefs. Thus, 

3. I want it to be the case that if I have a belief that war is inevitable, then that belief is true. 

4. If I have a belief that war is inevitable, then I want that belief to be true. 

Now compare (4) and (2'). I find a contrast. (2') is closer to (3) than (3) is to (1'). If we accept this semantic/grammaticality judgment, then we need an explanation. At least I think we can say that what is suggested is that belief is more suitable to sentences or utterances in explaining the normativity and desirability of belief. Anyway, Horwich overlooks the scopal difference with I take to be significant. 

(Horwich ""The Minimalist Conception of Truth" in _Truth_ ed. by Simon Blackburn and Keith Simmons, Oxford, 1999, p. 256) 

Steve Bayne 
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