Our problem may be formulated as an antilogism, or aporetic triad:
A. Some sentences are true in virtue of their correspondence with extralinguistic reality.
B. If so, then reality must have a sentence-like structure.
C. Reality does not have a sentence-like structure.
This trio of propositions is inconsistent. And yet one can make a plausible case for each member of the trio.
Ad (A). Consider a true contingent sentence such as 'Tom is sad,' or the proposition expressed by an assertive utterance in appropriate circumstances of such a sentence. Surely, or rather arguably, the sentence or proposition cannot just be true: if true it is true in virtue of something external to the sentence. I should say that I reject all deflationary theories of truth, including Ramsey's redundancy theory, Quine's disquotationalism, and Paul Horwich's minimalism. The external something cannot be another sentence, or, more generally, another truthbearer. Nor can it be someone's say-so: no truth by fiat unless your name is YHWH. So the external something has to be something 'in the world,' i.e., in the realm of primary reference, as opposed to the realm of sense, to invoke a Fregean distinction. The basic idea here is that some truths need ontological grounds: there is a deep connection between truth and being. There is more to a true sentence than the sentence that is true. There is that in the world which makes it true. Call it the truthmaker of the truth. Some truthbearers need truthmakers. As far as I am concerned, this is about as clear as it gets in philosophy. Which type of entity is best suited to play the truthmaker role, however, is a further question.
Ad (B). At a bare minimum, external reality must include Tom, the subject of our sentence. Part of what must exist for 'Tom is sad' to be true is Tom himself. But Tom alone does not suffice since the sentence says, and says truly, that Tom is sad. So it would seem that external reality must also include properties including the property of being sad. How could something be F if there is no F-ness in the world? There are of course extreme nominalists who deny that there are properties. I consign these extremists to the outer darkness where there is much wailing and the gnashing of teeth. Theirs is a lunatic position barely worth discussing. It is a datum that there are properties. One cannot reasonably ask whether they are; the only reasonable question is what they are. Moderate nominalism, however, is a respectable position. The moderate nominalist admits properties, but denies that they are universals. In contemporary jargon, the moderate nominalist holds that properties are tropes. A trope is a property assayed as a particular, as an unrepeatable item. Accordingly, the sadness in Tom is not repeated elsewhere: it is unique to him. Nor is it transferable: it cannot migrate to some other concrete particular. I'll 'turn' back to tropes in a 'moment.' (Get the double pun?)
For now suppose properties are immanent universals and that reality includes Tom and the property of being sad. Could the sum Tom + sadness suffice as the ontological ground of the truth of 'Tom is sad'? I will argue that it cannot. A universal is a repeatable entity. Universals are either transcendent or immanent. An immanent universal is one that cannot exist unless instantiated. A transcendent universal is one that can. Suppose sadness is an immanent universal instantiated by Shlomo. Then sadness exists and Tom exists. But the mere(ological) sum of the two does not suffice to make true 'Tom is sad.' For if the property and the particular each exist, it does not follow that the particular has the property. A tertium quid is required: something that ties the property to the particular, sadness to Tom.
What this suggests is that the truthmaker of a contingent predication of the form a is F must be something that corresponds to the sentence or proposition as a whole. It cannot be a by itself, or F-ness by itself; it must be a's being F. It is the BEING F of Tom that needs accounting. You could call this the problem of copulative Being.
Enter facts or states of affairs. (These are roughly the states of affairs of Armstrong's middle period.) We now have the concrete particular Tom, the property sadness, and the fact of Tom's being sad. This third thing brings together the concrete particular and the property to form a truthmaking fact. Now this fact, though not a proposition or a sentence, is obviously proposition-like or sentence-like. Although it is a truthmaker, not a truthbearer, it is isomorphic with the truthbearer it makes true. Its structure is mirrored in the proposition. It is a unity of constituents that is not a mere mereological sum of parts any more than a sentence-in-use or a proposition is a mere mereological sum of parts. Plato was already in possession of the insight that a declarative sentence is not a list of words. 'Tom is sad' is not the list: 'Tom,' 'sad,' or the list: 'Tom,' 'is,' 'sad.'
This argument to facts as worldly items in addition to their constituents requires the assumption that properties are universals. For this assumption is what makes it possible for the sum Tom + sadness to exist without Tom being sad. To resist this argument for the sentence-like structure of external reality, therefore, one might try insisting that properties are not universals. And here we come to Arianna Betti's proposal which I have discussed in painful detail in a draft the final version of which will soon appear in the journal METAPHYSICA. She suggests that properties are bearer-specific and that relations are relata-specific.
Well, suppose sadness is bearer-specific, or more precisely, bearer-individuated. This means that it cannot exist unless its bearer, Tom, exists. We can depict the property as follows: ____(tom)Sadness. Tom can exist without this property because it is contingent that Tom is sad. But the property cannot exist or be instantiated without Tom. On this scheme there cannot be a difference between the sum Tom + ___(tom)Sadness and the fact of Tom's being sad. Given the particular and the property, the fact 'automatically' exists. Betti takes this to show that some mereological sums can serve as truthmakers. But, as she notes, the bearer-specific property by itself can serve as truthmaker. For if ___(tom)Sadness exists, it follows that 'Tom is sad' is true. This is because it cannot exist without being insdtantiated, and because it is the "nature" (Betti's word) of this property to be of Tom and Tom alone. So if it exists, then it is instantiated by Tom, by Tom alone, and without the services of a tertium quid.
Now the point I want to make is that whether we take properties to be universals or tropes, it seems we have to grant that reality has a proposition-like structure. Either way it has a proposition-like structure. We saw how this works if properties are universals. The mereological sum Tom + the universal sadness does not suffice as truthmaker for 'Tom is sad.' So we need the fact of Tom's being sad. But this fact has a proposition-like structure. To avoid Armstrongian facts, Betti suggests that we construe properties as monadic tropes. But these too have a proposition-like structure. Even if Betti has shown a way to avoid Armstrong's middle period facts or states of affairs, she has not shown that the world is just a collection of things bare of proposition-like or sentence-like structure.
How so? Well, ___(tom)Sadness obviously in some sense involves Tom, if not as a constituent, then in some other way. There has to be something about this property that makes it such that if it is instantiated, it is instantiated by Tom and Tom alone. It is very much like a Fregean proposition about Tom. Such a proposition does not have Tom himself, with skin and hair, as a constituent, but some appropriately abstract representative of him, his individual essence, say, or his Plantingian haecceity.
Ad (C). According to the third limb of our triad reality does not have a sentence-like structure. This will strike many as obvious. Are worldly items syntactically related to one another? Do this make any sense at all? Arianna Betti, Against Facts, MIT Press, 2015, p. 26, italics in original:
Only linguistic entities . . . can strictly speaking have syntax. Facts are neither linguistic nor languagelike, because they are that of which the world is made, and the world is not made of linguistic or languagelike entities at the lowest level of reference. Thus the articulation of a fact cannot be logical in the sense of being syntactical. It is a categorical mismatch to say that there is a syntactical articulation between a lizard and light green or an alto sax and its price.
So how do we solve this bad boy? I say we reject (C).
In the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God, and the Logos ex-pressed itself LOG-ically as the world.