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Assignment Questions

The Semantic Theory of Truth

In logic, a statement is true if and only if it states what is the case. Thus ?snow is white? is true if and only is snow is white; in general, ?p? ifff p. (This is known as the semantic theory of truth, devised by Alfred Tarski in the 1930s). This truthis the relation between statement (sentence) and a state of affairs, or between a ?model? (for example, the Pythagorean theorum) and an instance that ?satistfies? the model (for example, a right triangle whose sides measure 5, 12, and 13 units, respectively). The notion that truth (by definition) entails ?correspondence? or congruence between words and world, or between propositions and facts, goes back to Plato and Aristotle. In its current form, it explains both truth and falsity. Thus a statement is false if and only if it is not the case, for example, ?5 + 12= 13?, ?snow is green,? ?San Diego is in Nevada,? and so on. In general, ?p? is false iff ~p. This account of truth is widely though not universally held. So, to Pilate?s classic jest (?what is truth??) the serious reply is: whatever is the case, and nothing else.

1. Is a work of fiction a lie, an untruth, both, or neither? What is the best of most accurate way to identify and classify something as fiction, and why?
2. Are there any statements in a work of fiction that are or might be true, even if the work as a whole is not? How is that logical or conceivable?
3. Does it make sense to speak of ?truth in fiction? of ?the truth of fiction?? If so, on what grounds? Is this phrase simply a mistake, or a misnomer?
4. If there is no truth to fiction, why bother with it? Isn?t it useless, if not dangerous? If there is some truth to it, why not rely on more rigorous sources of knowledge, such as math, science, history, or even theology? What (if anything) does fiction do that is worthwhile, or indispensable?

Write an essay addressing all of these issues, be direct, specific, and concrete. Support and defend your conclusions. Document all quotations and references. No playgirism please 0%.

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