Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
To borrow a colorful phrase from Kant, this dissertation offers a prolegomenon to any future semantic theory. The dissertation investigates Yablo's omega-liar paradox and draws the following consequence. Any semantic theory that accepts the existence of semantic objects must face Yablo's paradox. The dissertation endeavors to position Yablo's omega-liar in a role analogous to that which Russell's paradox has for the foundations of mathematics. Russell's paradox showed that if we wed mathematics to sets, then because of the many different possible restrictions available for blocking the paradox, mathematics fractionates. There would be different mathematics. This is intolerable. It is similarly intolerable to have restrictions on the `objects' of Intentionality. Hence, in the light of Yablo's omega-liar, Intentionality cannot be wed to any theory of semantic objects. We ought, therefore, to think of Yablo's paradox as a natural language paradox, and as such we must accept its implications for the semantics of natural language, namely that those entities which are `meanings' (natural or otherwise) must not be construed as objects. To establish our result, Yablo's paradox is examined in light of the criticisms of Priest (and his followers). Priest maintains that Yablo's original omega-liar is flawed in its employment of a Tarski-style T-schema for its truth-predicate. Priest argues that the paradox is not formulable unless it employs a "satisfaction" predicate in place of its truth-predicate. Priest is mistaken. However, it will be shown that the omega-liar paradox depends essentially on the assumption of semantic objects. No formulation of the paradox is possible without this assumption. Given this, the dissertation looks at three different sorts of theories of propositions, and argues that two fail to specify a complete syntax for the Yablo sentences. Purely intensional propositions, however, are able to complete the syntax and thus generate the paradox. In the end, however, the restrictions normally associated with purely intensional propositions begin to look surprisingly like the hierarchies that Yablo sought to avoid with his paradox. The result is that while Yablo's paradox is syntactically formable within systems with formal hierarchies, it is not semantically so.
Copyright 2011 Benjamin John Hassman
Hassman, Benjamin John. "Semantic objects and paradox: a study of Yablo's omega-liar." dissertation, University of Iowa, 2011.