In 1922 Skolem delivered an address before the Fifth Congress of Scandinavian Mathematicians in which he pointed out what he called a “relativity of set-theoretic notions”. This “relativity” has frequently been regarded as paradoxical; but today, although one hears the expression “the Löwenheim-Skolem Paradox”, it seems to be thought of as only an apparent paradox, something the cognoscenti enjoy but are not seriously troubled by. Thus van Heijenoort writes, “The existence of such a ‘relativity’ is sometimes referred to as the Löwenheim-Skolem Paradox. But, of course, it is not a paradox in the sense of an antinomy; it is a novel and unexpected feature of formal systems.” In this address I want to take up Skolem's arguments, not with the aim of refuting them but with the aim of extending them in somewhat the direction he seemed to be indicating. It is not my claim that the “Löwenheim-Skolem Paradox” is an antinomy in formal logic; but I shall argue that it is an antinomy, or something close to it, in philosophy of language. Moreover, I shall argue that the resolution of the antinomy—the only resolution that I myself can see as making sense—has profound implications for the great metaphysical dispute about realism which has always been the central dispute in the philosophy of language.
The structure of my argument will be as follows: I shall point out that in many different areas there are three main positions on reference and truth: there is the extreme Platonist position, which posits nonnatural mental powers of directly “grasping” forms (it is characteristic of this position that “understanding” or “grasping” is itself an irreducible and unexplicated notion); there is the verificationist position which replaces the classical notion of truth with the notion of verification or proof, at least when it comes to describing how the language is understood; and there is the moderate realist position which seeks to preserve the centrality of the classical notions of truth and reference without postulating nonnatural mental powers.
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