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Slingshot Arguments and the Intensionality of Identity

30. Juni 2011 von Dale Jacquette

Slingshot arguments purport to refute the standard correspondence theory of truth in its requirement that there be a distinct truth-maker for each proposition. The slingshot is supposed to accomplish this feat by proving from minimal logical means in a purely extensionalist environment that all true sentences correspond to a single aggregative fact that serves as their massive collective truth-maker. Originally suggested by Gottlob Frege, according to Alonzo Church, and later articulated by Kurt Gödel, slingshot arguments have been developed for different philosophical purposes by Donald Davidson. The general style of inference was originally designated the slingshot by Jon Barwise and John Perry in honor of the argument’s simplicity and use of primitive resources. It has been more recently discussed, among others, by Dagfinn Føllesdal, Stephen Neale, James O. Young, and James Levine. This essay critically considers standard forms of the slingshot argument, and concludes that the basic argument form of slingshot reasoning is unsound. The conclusion is defended that the argument does not seriously challenge the correspondence theory of truth by which every distinct true proposition is supposed to have a distinct truth-maker. A series of objections are presented as the exact meaning of the slingshot assumptions is explored and the only appropriate interpretation rejected. A streamlined version of the slingshot is then evaluated, the only apparent solution to which is to reject the assumption that identity and nonidentity contexts are purely extensional, effectively proving the intensionality of identity. Quine’s famous argument to demonstrate the intensionality of modal contexts is challenged on this basis, arguing that: (1) Quine’s example involving the identity statement that the number of planets = 9 can ironically be effectively avoided by Quinean paraphrastic techniques, and (2) insofar as a substitution failure salva veritate occurs in Quine’s sample inference

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