Spring 2023 - PHIL 812 G100

Selected Topics in Logic I (5)

Truth and Semantic Paradox

Class Number: 7196

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

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



Selected Topics: Truth and Semantic Paradox

[Note: this course is to be taught concurrently with PHIL 455W E100.]

Important note regarding enrollment: All seats are reserved for Philosophy Graduate students. Enrollments from other departments will be considered only upon submission of the Graduate Course Add Form, and with instructor's permission. All such enrollments will be done in or after the first week of classes.

"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.


Successful completion of this course will satisfy the “Logic" stream or the "M&E" stream distribution requirement toward the MA degree for Philosophy graduate students.


  • You may choose between two grading 'tracks' depending on your interest and goals for the course. MA students will need to match their term paper to the stream designation towards which they'd like to count the class. 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.

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

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