Philosophy ETDs

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The most widely acknowledged conceptions of truth take some kind of relation to be at truths core. This dissertation attempts to establish that an adequate conception of this relation begins with an investigation of the entanglement of the formal and the material as set forth in the model theoretical development of set theoretical mathematics. Truth concerns first and most crucially a certain commerce across the border between the formal and the material, between the ideal and the real. The entanglement of the formal and the material must be thought in itself, apart from or prior to any assimilation into philosophical schemas committed to larger metaphysical claims. This is accomplished in model theory. The twentieth century witnessed two attempts at bringing model theoretical mathematics to bear on accounting philosophically for the concept of truth: that of Alfred Tarski, and that of Alain Badiou. In order to investigate the relevance of model theory to the task of working out a philosophical conception of truth, this dissertation investigates, through comparative work, these two thinkers. It is necessary to see where their projects converge in important ways, as well as where their projects diverge in equally important ways. What brings their work into close proximity is their shared conviction that truth must be thought in light of model theory. Nonetheless, the two do not agree about exactly how model theory sheds light on truth. Comparative study thus reveals both a shared site for thinking and a struggle over the significance of that site. Agreement between Tarski and Badiou concerns the excess of the purely formal over itself, marked by the generation of an undecidable statement within formal systems of a certain level of complexity. Both thinkers determine that this formal excess touches on the material, and both further determine that the consequent entanglement of the formal and the material provides the basic frame for any philosophical consideration of truth. The point of disagreement is ultimately rooted in a difference of opinion about the adequacy of thinking the concept of truth independently of an account of what philosophers of science call theory change.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Thomson, Iain

Second Committee Member

Becker, Kelly

Third Committee Member

Martin, William

Project Sponsors

Dean of Graduate Studies, Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship




Truth, Model Theory, Formalism, Alain Badiou, Alfred Tarski, Set Theory, Materialism

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