chapter  8
34 Pages

Sense and truth: Tarski and Davidson

Recall that in sections 1.7 and 2.5 we introduced the idea of a systematic semantic theory in the formal sense: a theory that delivers, for each well-formed declarative sentence of a particular language, a theorem that gives the meaning or sense of that sentence. Recall also that for Frege the sense of a sentence can be given by stating its truth-condition: "Every [sentence] expresses a sense, a thought. It is determined by what we have laid down under what conditions every such [sentenc9] designates The True. The sense of this [sentence], the thought, is the sense or thought that these conditions are fulfilled."l This is an idea which has been taken up by the influential contemporary American philosopher, Donald Davidson: "To give truth-conditions is a way of giving the meaning of a sentence."2 In this chapter, we explain Davidson's idea that a systematic theory of meaning for a natural language can be provided by a theory that generates, for each declarative sentence, a theorem that states its truth-conditions.