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Giving a DamnEssays in Dialogue with John Haugeland$
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Zed Adams and Jacob Browning

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780262035248

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262035248.001.0001

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Ostension and Assertion

Ostension and Assertion

(p.103) 3 Ostension and Assertion
Giving a Damn

Rebecca Kukla

The MIT Press

I draw on Haugeland and a Haugelandian reading of Heidegger to give an ostensive theory of assertion: to assert the truth of a claim is to engage in a kind of ostensive act. Crucially, ostensive acts are first and foremost social acts; hence truth-talk has its first and most natural home in communicative interactions. Telling myself that something is true makes sense only derivatively, if at all. Like other deflationists, I argue that truth-talk serves only a formal semantic function. But unlike traditional deflationists, I try to show that the pragmatics of truth-claiming is rich and multi-faceted, and that to understand it we need to explore the nature and variety of ostensive acts. I argue that the metaphysics and semantics of truth are deflationary, while the pragmatic structure of assertion is substantive and philosophically revealing. Understanding the pragmatics of truth-claims dissolves some of the worries that make more metaphysically and semantically robust truth theories tempting. Haugeland gives us most of the materials for an ostensive theory of assertion, but he is hampered by a thin understanding of the role of social interaction and communication.

Keywords:   Assertion, Truth, John Haugeland, Heidegger, Ostension, Indication, Pragmatism

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