29 Dec 2014

Tarski (§1) of “The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundations of Semantics”, entitled ‘1. The Main Problem – A Satisfactory Definition of Truth’

Corry Shores

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Alfred Tarski

The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundations of Semantics

Part I. Exposition

1. The Main Problem – A Satisfactory Definition of Truth


Brief Summary:
The first part of the article is about the material and formal conditions for a definition of truth.


Tarski will be focusing on the notion of truth. The main problem at hand is giving a satisfactory definition of truth, which would be materially adequate and formally correct definition [more on these ideas later].

Tarski says we first must specify the conditions that the material point of view would say are adequate for the definition of truth. We secondly must “determine on what the formal correctness of the definition depends.” (332) To do this,

we must specify the words or concepts which we wish to use in defining the notion of truth; and we must also give the formal rules to which the definition should conform. Speaking more generally, we must describe the formal structure of the language in which the definition will be given.


The first part of this article will deal with these points above.


Tarski, Alfred. The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundations of Semantics”. In The Nature of Truth: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives. Michael P. Lynch, ed. Cambridge, Massachusetts / London: MIT, 2001, pp.331-363.

A hyperlinked online version can be found here:


The Lynch edited book writes this in the acknowledgments:

Alfred Tarski. “The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundations of Semantics.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 4 (1944). Copyright 1992 by the Estate of Alfred Tarski. Reprinted by permission of Jan Tarski.

Further bibliographical information from

Alfred Tarski (1944) The semantic conception of truth and the foundations of semantics (Reprinted as Chapter 4 of Martinich’s anthology). This is an abridged and updated version of his 1935 long paper Der Wahrheitsbegriff in den formalisierten Sprache (The concept of truth in formalized languages), itself a translation from his book in Polish of 1933.

And yet further bibliographical information from the German wiki page for Tarski


Der Wahrheitsbegriff in den formalisierten Sprachen. In: Studia Philosophica. [Lemberg] 1 (1936), S. 261–405 (Vorabdruck datiert 1935).[4] Der Artikel ist eine deutsche Übersetzung der erstmals 1933 gedruckten polnischen Arbeit, die aber schon 1931 der Öffentlichkeit präsentiert wurde. Nachdruck in Karel Berka, Lothar Kreiser (Hrsg.): Logik-Texte. Kommentierte Auswahl zur Geschichte der modernen Logik. Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1983, S. 445–546, in englischer Sprache in Tarski: Logic, Semantics and Metamathematics - papers from 1923 to 1938 by Alfred Tarski. Oxford 1956, 1983.

The German text can be found here:



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