Truth Conditions (ch 2)

Truth-conditions of a sentence are those conditions which would make it true. For example, 'Snow is white' is true if and only if snow is white. Knowing the meaning of a sentence may be just a matter of knowing its truth-conditions; if so, then in the sentence '"Snow is white" means that snow is white,' 'means that' may be substituted by 'if and only if'. (This is the view proposed by Donald Davidson; see semantics)

A problem arises with sentences involving ascriptions of beliefs, e.g. 'Oedipus believed that he married his mother.' This is false, even though the sentence 'Oedipus believed that he married Jocasta' is true and the truth conditions for 'he married his mother' and 'he married Jocasta' are the same (since 'Jocasta' and 'Oedipus's mother' are coreferential). In such contexts, the theory of meaning as truth-conditions fails to explain how the individual parts of a sentence contribute to the meaning of the sentence as a whole.



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