2.59 Truth

Category: Logic and Mathematics

Keywords: tarski, liar, snow, truth, paradoxes, falsity, paradox, sentences, sentence, correspondence, semantical, false, schema, true, sen

Number of Articles: 454
Percentage of Total: 1.4%
Rank: 16th

Weighted Number of Articles: 536.8
Percentage of Total: 1.7%
Rank: 8th

Mean Publication Year: 1984.7
Weighted Mean Publication Year: 1978.9
Median Publication Year: 1989
Modal Publication Year: 2002

Topic with Most Overlap: Verification (0.036)
Topic this Overlaps Most With: Vagueness (0.062)
Topic with Least Overlap: Liberal Democracy (0.00024)
Topic this Overlaps Least With: Psychology (0.00083)

A scatterplot showing which proportion of articles each year are in the truthtopic. The x-axis shows the year, the y-axis measures the proportion of articles each year in this topic. There is one dot per year. The highest value is in 2002 when 3.8% of articles were in this topic. The lowest value is in 1891 when 0.0% of articles were in this topic. The full table that provides the data for this graph is available in Table A.59 in Appendix A.

Figure 2.138: Truth.

A set of twelve scatterplots showing the proportion of articles in each journal in each year that are in the Truthtopic. There is one scatterplot for each of the twelve journals that are the focus of this book. In each scatterplot, the x-axis is the year, and the y-axis is the proportion of articles in that year in that journal in this topic. Here are the average values for each of the twelve scatterplots - these tell you on average how much of the journal is dedicated to this topic. Mind - 2.1%. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society - 1.1%. Ethics - 0.3%. Philosophical Review - 1.0%. Analysis - 4.1%. Philosophy and Public Affairs - 0.1%. Journal of Philosophy - 1.5%. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research - 1.2%. Philosophy of Science - 1.0%. Noûs - 2.3%. The Philosophical Quarterly - 1.7%. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science - 1.0%. The topic reaches its zenith in year 2002 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 3.5% of the articles. And it hits a minimum in year 1891 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 0.0% of the articles.

Figure 2.139: Truth articles in each journal.

Table 2.144: Characteristic articles of the truth topic.
Table 2.145: Highly cited articles in the truth topic.


The graphs by journal do not make this look like a particularly big topic, but the numbers at the top show, it’s the eighth biggest by weighted count. And that’s not surprising—I would have guessed that theories of truth would be a big deal. And so they are, except they aren’t a particularly big part of any journal in any year except for Mind in the early 2000s.

The spike in the late 1900s and early 1910s is due to an interest in theories of truth in pragmatist and voluntarist philosophical theories. Some of these papers involved early contributions from Susan Stebbing, who would go on to contribute many papers to the British journals we’re looking at.

Table 2.146: Articles with author L. Susan Stebbing.

The only one of these 27 articles that is actually in this topic is the earliest of them, a two page note critical of Schiller’s defences of pragmatism. But an interest in how different theories think about truth runs through a lot of her work. And the model picks this up; a lot of these articles are as much about truth as anything else. For instance, her Aristotelian Society article on Bergson (which was extracted from her MA thesis!) cuts across a number of the topics in this model.

Table 2.147: L. S. Stebbing, “The Notion Of Truth In Bergson’s Theory Of Knowledge.”
Subject Probability
Life and value 0.2510
Idealism 0.2147
Truth 0.0808
Kant 0.0624
Knowledge 0.0550
Dewey and pragmatism 0.0505
Other history 0.0397
Methodology of science 0.0393
Early modern 0.0280
Ordinary language 0.0261
Classical space and time 0.0259
Promises and imperatives 0.0251

Unlike almost every other topic with a notable presence in prewar philosophy, truth was undergoing a resurgence towards the end of the period I’m looking at. It’s moved from being a metaphysical (or perhaps epistemological) concern to a more distinctively logical one. That is, most of those articles on the right of the graph are about paradoxes, and about how and whether classical logic should be revised to handle them. That’s a somewhat different subject matter to what, say, Stebbing and Schiller were debating, but I think the model got it right in linking them together.

And between them there are a lot of articles on Tarskian and Davidsonian theories of truth. A perhaps surprising result of this is that snow is a keyword for the topic. I’m a little surprised that white doesn’t come with it.