PHL280 Truth and Reality

Lectures:Monday 10am (X5B 134), Monday 11am (W5A 205)
Tutorials:Monday 12pm, Monday 1pm (W6A 127)
Lecturer:Dr Wylie Breckenridge (go to the 'Teaching' section)


This course is an introduction to the central philosophical issues about truth. We will focus on the question, what is truth? We will look at some 'inflationary' answers (the correspondence theory, the coherence theory, the pragmatic theory), and some 'deflationary' answers (the redundancy theory, minimalism, the pro-sentential theory). We will also look at the liar paradox, and at the connection between truth and lying.

Teaching approach

Each week I will introduce a new topic in lectures. At the end of the second lecture I will give you an exercise to do, to be brought to and discussed during the tutorial the following week. This will typically involve reading something (usually short) and then writing something (500 words - about a page). Note that you will be assigned post-readings rather than the usual pre-readings - hopefully this will make the reading easier and more focused.

Towards the end of the semester you will also be asked to write a short essay, about 1000 words. This will be on a topic of your choice, something that you have found particularly interesting during the course and would like to write about in a little more depth.

One of the aims of the course is to learn what has been said about truth, to become aware of the issues involved, and perhaps to develop your own opinions about it. But a more important aim of the course is to help you get better at doing philosophy in general. We will thus work at developing the various skills central to being a philosopher: questioning things, especially the apparently obvious; thinking carefully about possible answers; listening to others and discussing with them; reading thoughtfully; speaking and writing clearly; and so on. Even if you never again consider the particular problems that we consider in this course, most of you will continue to philosophize throughout your lives, and learning how to do that well is one of the most important aspects of the course.

Weekly topics (provisional)

Week 1Introduction
Week 2The correspondence theory of truth
Week 3The coherence theory of truth
Week 4Pragmatism about truth
Week 5Tarski on truth
Week 6The liar paradox
Week 7 and 8(Mid-semester break)
Week 9(Non-teaching week)
Week 10(Public holiday)
Week 11Deflationism about truth I
Week 12Deflationism about truth II
Week 13Deflationism about truth III
Week 14Breckenridge on Truth

Required texts

Useful resources