[hist-analytic] Deflationary Truth and Syncategoremata

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Sun Dec 12 14:41:58 EST 2010

Thanks, Landspeedrecord (?), whoever you are! Much appreciated. Let me just add a clarifying remark and a question or two. We can always go back to some of the details. First, on "syncategorematic." 

X can be a poor violinist without being poor; so Quine's thinking here is that 'x is a poor violinist' does not imply that 'x is poor' on the syncategorematic reading. However, on the categorical reading 'x is a poor violinist' implies that x is both poor and a violinist. He stands in front of the Harvard Coop playing Mozart for quarters. When I used 'modify' my intent was to restrict this to the case where 'poor' in 'poor violinist' modifies x; that is, attributes to the violinist the property of being poor (impoverished) although, maybe, a terrific violinist. My reading of 'poor violinist' on the syncategorematic reading is that 'poor' cannot stand alone as modifying that to which 'poor violinist' is attributed; whereas, in the categorematic reading 'poor' can stand alone to "modify" the "subject" viz. 'violinist', which in such cases can always stand alone. I can't get a sense of 'poor' in your example, 'poor Arnold', of the same sort that I can get in 'Arnold was a poor violinist'. 

My remarks on truth may be senseless. But I'm not sure that the deflationary theory is senseless. It is to say that ''S' is true' says nothing more than would an assertion of 'S'. Now I'm not prepared to either accept or reject this theory, but it does seem to me to make sense. 

Best wishes 


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Landspeedrecord" <landspeedrecord at gmail.com> 
To: Baynesr at comcast.net, hist-analytic at simplelists.co.uk 
Sent: Sunday, December 12, 2010 12:49:51 PM 
Subject: Re: Deflationary Truth and Syncategoremata 

I don't understand this. I don't understand deflationary theories of truth in general and this cuts nicely to the heart of the matter for me. 

'Poor', in the "syncategorematic" sense is modifying, not another word in the sentence but the referent. So is violinist. They refer in parallel to the referent but not to each other. 

On the other hand, 'poor Arnold' is different. Here 'Arnold' is a proxy/stand-in of the referent - and I am not speaking of rigid designation here. 'Arnold' stands FOR the (hypothetical) person who we refer to as "Arnold". So 'poor' IS modifying 'Arnold'. The property of being poor is added to the mental list (temporarily at least) we are keeping about the properties of 'Arnold'. This is particularly clear in the case where it is understood that there is NO person being referred to, where the name is just being used demonstratively, as it is by me in this case. 

So 'true sentence' is nothing like 'poor violinist' - a much better analogy is 'poor person' or 'poor human'. That is to say, poor is a putative property of the putative person, and true is a putative property of the putative sentence. Until the actual sentence is provided, then yes, in a trivial sense, the term 'truth' is just an emphatic declaration, truth has been deflated - but really what is going on is that truth isn't being deflated... it is being suspended - as is 'poor' when it modifies 'human' - once the referent is given the suspension is OVER. And hence deflation of truth is merely a disguised form of suspended/imaginary truth. 

And so deflationary theories make literally NO sense to me, as I can never get past this issue. 

On Fri, Dec 10, 2010 at 2:33 PM, < Baynesr at comcast.net > wrote: 

Recall Quine's example of syncategoremata: 

'poor violinist' 

Where 'poor' does not modify 'violinist', i.e. in the sense that the violinist may be wealthy. We 

may suppose 'poor violinist' is predicated of 'Jack'. 

Now consider 

'true sentence' 

where 'true' does not modify 'sentence', and where we suppose the true sentence is 'p' (cf. 


So we have it that we might assert ambiguously, either: 

'The violinist is poor' 

'The sentence is true' 

A deflationary theory of truth is consistent with the syncategorematic reading of 'true' in 

'true sentence'. We may assert 

'p is true 

and no more commit ourselves to property attribution that we do when predicating 'poor' of 

the 'violinist' when we say, 

The violinist is poor. 


STeve Bayne 

Pentabarf #5: A Discordian is Prohibited from Believing What he reads. 
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