In the Revision Theory of Truth, Gupta says (p. 125) that a circular definition does not give an extension for a concept. It gives a rule of revision that yields better candidate hypotheses when given a hypothesis. More and more revisions via this rule are supposed to yield better and better hypotheses for the extension of the concept. This sounds like there is, in some way, some monotony given by the revision rule. What this amounts to is unclear though.

For a contrast case, consider Kripke’s fixed point theory of truth. It builds a fixed point interpretation of truth by claiming more sentences in the extension and anti-extension of truth at each stage. This process is monotonic in an obvious way. The extension and anti-extension only get bigger. If we look at the hypotheses generated by the revision rules, they do not solely expand. They can shrink. They also do not solely shrink. Revision rules are non-monotonic functions. They are eventually well-behaved, but that doesn’t mean monotonicity. One idea would be that the set of elements that are stable under revision monotonically increases. This isn’t the case either. Elements can be stable in initial segments of the revision sequence and then become unstable once a limit stage has been passed. This isn’t the case for all sorts of revision sequences, but the claim in RTT seemed to be for all revision sequences. Eventually hypotheses settle down and some become periodic, but it is hard to say that periodicity indicates that the revisions result in better hypotheses.

The claim that a rule of revision gives better candidate extensions for a concept is used primarily for motivating the idea of circular definitions. It doesn’t seem to figure in the subsequent development. The theory of circular definitions is nice enough that it can stand without that motivation. Nothing important hinges on the claim that revision rules yield better definitions, so abandoning it doesn’t seem like a problem. I’d like to make sense of it though.

Advertisements