John Burgess gives two guest lectures at the university of Helsinki; 22.4.2010 and 23.4.2010

Professor John Burgess (Princeton University, Department of Philosophy) will give two talks at the Department of Philosophy (Univ. Helsinki):

First talk, 22.4, 16.30 (!), Room A10: Truth in Fictionalism

Fictionalism about any arbitrary subject matter seems to require realism about other subject matters.  Even if there is a coherent fictionalism about fictional characters, for example, it's hard to make sense of fictionalism about fictions themselves.  Hence the modal fictionalist's concern that prefixes like 'According to the tall-tale of extreme modal realism...' may turn out to be ineluctably modal.  Fictionalism about truth would therefore seem to be a non-starter---not because fictions are intuitively false, but because the notion of truth seems to be implicated in the semantics of fictionalization prefixes.  Yet something like the revolutionary fictionalist stance toward alethic discourse would be a sensible reaction to the inconsistency theory of truth (which Matti Eklund and others have argued convincingly is an attractive response to the semantic paradoxes).  The purpose of this paper, then, is just to make the world safe for alethic fictionalism, by showing that the most promising versions of fictionalism in general provide for a coherent fictionalism about truth in particular.

The second talk, 23.4, 12.30 (!), Room A10: An Alethic Theory of Reference

Inferentialists are divided over deflationism about representational notions like truth and reference.  Inferential- or conceptual-role semantics provides a more "substantive" theory of reference than the sort of anaphoric account on offer in Brandom.  This opposition obscures an alternative in the theory of reference available to deflationists and inflationists alike (provided we abandon the correspondence theory of truth constitutive of referentialism).  The alternative emerges upon recognition of the fact that the theory of reference involves two separable projects, usually run together: to specify the referent of an arbitrary term, and to explain what
it takes for a term to refer in the first place.  In the general spirit of conceptual-role semantics, I develop an explanation of referential success that essentially involves the notion of truth (coupled with a familiar, deflationary specification of referents). Very roughly, the idea is just that an expression refers iff it can be used to state a truth.  The most troubling objection to this style of view arguably has to do with the phenomena of referential indeterminacy.  Dealing with this objection leads to a speculative resolution of the problem of the many, and a diagnosis of the urge to posit vagueness in the world.