. Born 1902 in Warsaw (then part of the Russian Empire
), died 1983 in Berkeley, California, USA.
Tarski is most well-known for his development of a semantic methodology
for the study of formal languages
. He also worked with model theory, decision problems and universal algebra. His work on the semantics of formal languages have had influences in the realm of philosophy, where some have tried to import his methodology to the realm of natural languages
Tarski's work had a gerat influence on the American philosopher Donald Davidson
and the latter's theory of truth. Davidson, in producing a formal definition
of the concept of truth turned to Tarski's semantic model. In his 1936 German paper ‘The Concept of Truth in Formalised Languages
’ (reprinted in his 1956 English language Logic, Semantics and Metamathematics
), Tarski offered his minimalist
conception of truth, certainly influenced by the philosopher and mathematician Frege
. Tarski’s theory of truth was not offered as an explication of the concept of truth nor as a universal answer to the epistemological
question of 'What is truth?'. Tarski, to be exact, offered an account of what truth
must be. Tarski's Convention T
, described below, is a logical test one can apply to a proposed theory of truth in order to determine the adequacy of that theory. If a theory of truth conforms to Tarski's convention, that that theory is adequate to truth.
Rather than explicating the concept of truth, Tarski the mathematician, developed a methodology for defining the truth-predicate as it applies to predicates
within a formal language. Tarski suggested that in order to analyze the meaning of the predicate 'is true' in an object language
(i.e., the language we are studying), we must first translate this predicate into another language. For every sentence s
in the object language, we need to develop a matching sentence p
in the meta-language
that is a translation
of s. The resulting ‘T-sentences’ will have the form ‘s is true (in language L) if and only if p’ and the form of these T sentences define the predicate 'is true' in our object language. This would later influence Davidson's theory of truth which stated that, "The sentence 'snow is white' is true if and only if 'snow is white'".
It has been claimed that Tarski's Convention T undermines the possibility of ever giving an informative theory of truth. This would not be entirely surprising as Frege
, before Tarski proferred a similar review regarding truth, as did Kant