Discipline: Philosophy

A view, primarily associated with the Oxford logician Michael AE Dummett (1925- ), which insists that we can only understand a statement if we understand under what circumstances someone who asserted it would say something true, and that we can only understand this if we could manifest our understanding, at least in principle, by asserting it in the relevant circumstances.

It follows that we could not understand any alleged truths that transcend all possibility, even in principle, of being verified. The view gains plausibility when we ask what sense it makes to talk of understanding something when we could never in any circumstances manifest a knowledge of it.

But realists (of the relevant kind) insist on the contrary that truth must be prior to, and independent of, our means of ascertaining it. Anti-realism has its roots in logical positivism, and empiricism generally, as well as in the later philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), and in mathematical intuitionism.

MAE Dummett, Truth and Other Enigmas (1978)


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