Truth as a substantive property

Douglas Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


One of the many ways that ‘deflationary’ and ‘inflationary’ theories of truth are said to differ is in their attitude towards truth qua property. This difference used to be very easy to delineate, with deflationists denying, and inflationists asserting, that truth is a property, but more recently the debate has become a lot more complicated, owing primarily to the fact that many contemporary deflationists often do allow for truth to be considered a property. Anxious to avoid inflation, however, these deflationists are at pains to point out that the truth property, on their view, is not a property of any significant interest. Correspondingly, inflationists have seen this as an opportunity to refine what kind of property they think truth is, which—according to them—moves their views beyond deflationism. The upshot of this is that there are number of different accounts in the literature of what distinguishes an inflationary truth property from a deflationary one, or—as it is sometimes put—what distinguishes a ‘substantive’ property from an ‘insubstantive’ one. This has made it hard to pin down exactly what is at issue at the metaphysical level between deflationists and inflationists, which makes it increasingly hard to see how debates between them are properly phrased. Given that these positions represent the two central attitudes towards truth in contemporary debates, this makes for a serious obstacle for the project of discerning the correct theory of truth. The aim of this paper is to discern the best way to distinguish between substantive and insubstantive properties, and thus to restore some focus to these debates. I argue that the three central distinctions in the literature fail, and offer what I take to be a more promising distinction in terms of a graded distinction between abundant and sparse properties.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-294
Number of pages16
JournalAustralasian Journal of Philosophy
Issue number2
Early online date25 May 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • truth
  • deflationism
  • inflationism
  • properties
  • sparseness


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