Spring 2023 - PHIL 455W E100

Contemporary Issues in Epistemology and Metaphysics (4)

Truth and Semantic Paradox

Class Number: 7170

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 4 – Apr 11, 2023: Tue, 5:30–8:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    Two 300-division PHIL courses.



May be repeated for credit. Writing.


Selected Topics: Truth and Semantic Paradox

[Note: this course is to be taught concurrently with PHIL 812 G100.]

Experience in upper-division logic (PHIL 310, 314, 315) or mathematics is helpful, but all that’s required is a willingness to engage with technical material.

"This sentence is false." Some paradoxes exhibit a vicious circularity, though not in pure logic, but atop a semantic notion like truth. Tarski questioned the possibility of a coherent notion of truth in natural language. But even for formal languages, the semantic paradoxes like the Liar remain a thorny issue. Two paradigms for trying to understand truth emerged: semantic theories, which attempt to provide models for languages with a truth predicate; and axiomatic theories, which attempt to formalize the basic principles that truth obeys. In this course, we'll survey semantic paradoxes, contrast the two paradigms, and work toward an understanding of what 'truth' means, from a logical point of view.


This course may be applied towards the Writing Requirement (and the upper division Writing Requirement for Philosophy majors).


  • You may choose between two grading 'tracks' depending on your interest and goals for the course. 100%


Track A:

-Two short essays, 60% (30% each)

-Weekly discussion questions, 20%

-Discussion leading, 20%

This track is intended for students with a more casual interest in the course topic.

These short essays focus on summary, explication and comparison of the course readings. Students may identify their own topics, but the instructor has suggestions as well.

Week-to-week, students in this track will develop and submit discussion questions ahead of the meeting. Each week, one student will serve as leader and moderator for the discussion, compiling and editing the discussion questions to create a narrative for the meeting. Both of these components are graded on a completion basis.

Track B:

-One term paper, 80%

-Presentation, 20%

This track is intended for students who would like to deeply engage the course topic, possibly as a potential research interest.

The term paper will present and defend an original thesis. A successful paper need not present a novel mathematical result. If you think you might want to adapt this paper into a writing sample or pro-paper, please contact the instructor.

The presentation will be an APA-style talk delivered to the class, based on the term paper. This is intended to give students practice giving philosophy talks, and it will give students an opportunity to receive feedback on their paper before submitting a final draft. This component is graded on a completion basis.



Required Text: Horsten, Leon (2011). The Tarskian Turn: Deflationism and Axiomatic Truth. 9780262297769

The book is out of print but available free online via SFU library. Some used copies are available through 3rd party retailers.

All other texts will be made available through Canvas.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

Thinking of a Philosophy Major or Minor? The Concentration in Law and Philosophy? The Certificate in Ethics? The Philosophy and Methodology of Science Certificate?
Contact the PHIL Advisor at philcomm@sfu.ca   More details on our website: SFU Philosophy

New elective grade policy : P/CR/NC, pilot project in place from Spring 2021 to Summer 2023. List of exclusions for the new policy. Specifically for Philosophy: 

  • Students can use a P or CR to satisfy any requirement for a major, joint major, honours, or minor in Philosophy (with the exception of Honours tutorials).
  • Students can use a P or CR to satisfy any prerequisite requirement for any PHIL course.
  • Students can use a P (but not a CR) to satisfy any requirement for the Ethics Certificate, or the Philosophy and Methodology of Science Certificate.
  • Philosophy Majors and Honours students can use a P (but not a CR) to satisfy any WQB requirement.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html