The bathroom scale doesn't lie, but it doesn't tell the truth either. It is either accurate or inaccurate. Only a spiritual being can be either deceptive or truthful.
I cannot lie by simply saying something false. I must have the intention to deceive. That is perfectly clear. Rather less obvious is that to tell the truth it does not suffice to say something true: I must also have the intention to be truthful.
"He told the truth but he wasn't being truthful" is not a contradiction. This is no more a contradiction than "He said something false but he wasn't intending to deceive." But how could one tell the truth without being truthful? One way is by saying something that happens to be true while intending to deceive. Another way is by saying something true to distract the hearer from the salient issue. A third way is by saying something true but omitting other truths relevant to the contextualization and understanding of the first.
Suppose the following sentence is true: "Jane shot Sam several times in the chest with a .45 caliber pistol after he came at her with a knife threatening to rape her." Someone who assertively utters the first independent clause while omitting to utter the second has said something true without being truthful.
In sum, one can say what is false without being untruthful and one can say what is true without being truthful.
Persons, not propositions, are truthful or the opposite. Propositions, not persons, are true or the opposite.
And yet there is some connection between truth and truthfulness.
Here is a mere outline of an argument. In a world without mind there could be no truth. For truth is some sort of correspondence or adequation of mind and world. There are no free-floating truths, no Wahrheiten an sich. Truth is moored in mind. But truth is absolute: it transcends the contents and powers of finite minds. The true is not what you or I believe or what all of us believe. Nor is the true the believable. The true is not the rationally acceptable, not even the rationally at the ideal limit of inquiry. The true is not the warrantedly assertible. There no viable epistemic/doxastic analysis of the truth predicate. And yet truth involves mind. Enter divine mind. The truth is grounded in the divine truthfulness. In God, truth and truthfulness colaesce.
Well, I warned you that it was a mere outline. Brevity is the soul of blog.
But now I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.
— Umberto Eco
The world is a play of phenomena, an enigmatic play of appearances beneath which there is no reality. Harmless in itself, the world is made terrible by us when we make the mad attempt to lay bare an underlying truth it fails to possess. Part of Eco's thought, I take it, is that those who seek the world's underlying truth fool themselves into thinking that they have found it, and having convinced themselves that they are now in possession of it, feel entitled and perhaps even obligated to impose it on others for their own good. But these others, naturally, resist the imposition and react violently. Hence the pursuit of the truth leads to contention and bloodshed. Better to live and let live and admit that there is a variety of perspectives, a diversity of interpretations, but no God's Eye perspective and no final interpretation, let alone an uninterpreted reality in itself, a true world hidden by the world of appearances. The world is interpretation all the way down. Being has no bottom.
The line of thought is seductive but incoherent. If the world is an enigma, then it is true that it is an enigma. If it is harmless, then it is true that it harmless. If it is made terrible by our attempt to interpret it, then it is true that it is made terrible by our attempt to interpret it. If our attempt is mad, then it is true that our attempt is mad. And if it has no underlying truth, then it is true that it has no underlying truth.
If that is the truth, then there is after all an underlying truth and the world cannot be a play of relativities, of shifting perspectives, of mere interpretations. If the world is such-and-such, then it is, and doesn't merely seem.
(Note to Peter L: This begins our discussion of metaphysical grounding and metaphysical explanation, topics of common interest. We need, over a series of posts, to uncover and discuss as many examples as we can find. My aim, and perhaps yours as well, is to demonstrate that metaphysical grounding and metaphysical explanation are legitimate topics, and that metaphysics is not a going enterprise unless they are legitimate topics. This is connected with our presumably common opposition to scientism and our presumably common defense of the autonomy of philosophy.)
Let 'Tom' name a particular tomato. Let us agree that if a predicate applies to a particular, then the predicate is true of the particular. Predicates are linguistic items. If Tom is red, then 'red' is true of Tom, and if 'red' is true of Tom, then Tom is red. This yields the material biconditional
1. Tom is red iff 'red' is true of Tom.
Now it seems to me that the following question is intelligible: Is Tom red because 'red' is true of Tom, or is 'red' true of Tom because Tom is red? 'Because' here does not have a causal sense. So the question is not whether Tom's being red causes 'red' to be true of Tom, or vice versa. So I won't speak of causation in this context. I will speak of metaphysical/ontological grounding. The question then is what grounds what, not what causes what. Does Tom's being red ground the application (the being-applied) of 'red' to Tom, or does the appplication (the being-applied) of 'red' to Tom ground Tom's being red?
I am not primarily concerned with the correct answer to this question, but with meaningfulness of the question.
Grounding is asymmetrical: if x grounds y, then y does not ground x. (It is also irreflexive and transitive.) Now if there is such a relation as grounding, then there will be a distinctive form of explanation we can call metaphysical/ontological explanation. (Grounding, though not causation, is analogous to c ausation, and metaphysical explanation, though distinct from causal explanation, is analogous to causal explanation.)
Explaining is something we do: in worlds without minds there is no explaining and there are no explanations, including metaphysical explanations. But I assume that, if there are any metaphysical grounding relations, then in every world metaphysical grounding relations obtain. (Of course, there is no grounding of the application of predicates in a world without languages and predicates, but there are other grounding relations.)
Grounding is not causation. It is not a relation between event tokens such as Jack's touching a live wire and Jack's death by electrocution. Grounding is also not a relation between propositions. It is not the relation of material implication, nor is it entailment (the necessitation of material implication), nor any other semantic relation wholly situated at the level of propositions. Propositions, let us assume, are the primary truth-bearers.
In our example, grounding is not a relation between propositions -- it is not a logical relation -- since neither Tom nor 'red' are propositions.
I want to say the following. Tom's being red grounds the correctness of the application of 'red' to Tom. 'Red' is true of Tom because (metaphysically, not causally or logically) Tom is red, and not vice versa. 'Red' is true of Tom in virtue of Tom's being red. Tom's being red is metaphysically prior to the truth of 'Tom is red' where this metaphysical priority cannot be reduced to some ordinary type of priority, whether logical, causal, temporal, or what have you. Tom's being red metaphysically accounts for the truth of 'Tom is red.'
I conclude that there is at least one type of metaphysical grounding relation, and at least one form of irreducibly metaphysical explanation.
Earlier, I presented the following, which looks to be an antilogism. An antilogism, by definition, is an inconsistent triad. This post considers whether the triad really is logically inconsistent, and so really is an antilogism.
1. Temporally Unrestricted Excluded Middle: The principle that every declarative sentence is either true, or if not true, then false applies unrestrictedly to all declarative sentences, whatever their tense. 2. Presentism: Only what exists at present exists. 3. Temporally Unrestricted Truth-Maker Principle: Every contingent truth has a truth-maker.
Edward objects: "First, I don't see why the three statements are logically inconsistent. Why can't the truthmaker for a future tense statement exist now, in the present?"
Objection sustained. The triad as it stands is not logically inconsistent.
'Miss Creant will die by lethal injection in five minutes.' Let this be our example. It is a future-tensed contingent declarative. By (1) it is either true or, if not true, then false. By (3), our sample sentence has a truth-maker, an existing truth-maker obviously, if it is true. By (2), the truth-maker exists only at present. Edward is right: there is no inconsistency unless we add something like:
4. If a sentence predicts a contingent event which lies wholly in the future, and the sentence is true, then the truth-maker of the sentence, if it has one, cannot exist at any time prior to the time of the event.
(4) is extremely plausible. Suppose it is true now that Miss Creant will die in five minutes. The only item that could make this true is the event of her dying. But this event does not now exist and cannot exist at any time prior to her dying.
So our antilogism, under Edwardian pummeling, transmogrifies into an aporetic tetrad which, he will agree, is logically inconsistent.
The solution, for Edward, is obvious: Deny the Temporally Unrestricted Truth-Maker Principle as stated in (3). Of course, that is a solution. But can Edward show that it must be preferred to the other three solutions? After all, one could deny Presentism, and many distinguished philosophers do. I would hazard the observation that the majority of the heavy-hitters in the 20th century Anglosphere were B-theorists, and thus deniers of Presentism. Or one could deny Unrestricted LEM, or even (4).
Although I said that (4) is extremely plausible, one could conceivably deny it by maintaining that the truth-makers of future-tensed sentences are tendencies in the present. For example, I say to wifey, "Watch it! The pot is going to boil over!" Assuming that that's a true prediction, one might claim that it is the present tendencies of the agitated pasta-rich water that is the truth-maker.
Please note also that I too could solve the tetrad by denying Unrestricted T-maker. Not by rejecting T-makers tout court in the Edwardian manner, but by restricting T-makers to contingent past- and present-tensed declaratives. I hope Edward appreciates that the above problem does not give aid and comfort to his wholesale rejection of T-makers.
One can always solve an aporetic polyad by denying one of its limbs. Sure. But then you face other daunting tasks. One is to show in a compelling way that your preferred solution should be preferred by all competent practitioners. You have to show that your solution is THE solution and not merely a solution relative to your background assumptions and cognitive values. A school-immanent solution is no final and absolute solution. Another task is to show that your solution can be embedded in a theory that does not itself give rise to insoluble problems.
Do you remember the prediction, made in 1999, that the DOW would reach 36,000 in a few years? Since that didn't happen, I am inclined to say that Glassman and Hasset's prediction was wrong and was wrong at the time the prediction was made. I take that to mean that the content of their prediction was false at the time the prediction was made. Subsequent events merely made it evident that the content of the prediction was false; said events did not first bring it about that the content of the prediction have a truth-value.
And so I am not inclined to say that the content of their irrationally exuberant prediction was neither true nor false at the time of the prediction. It had a truth-value at the time of the prediction; it was simply not evident at that time what that truth-value was. By 'the content of the prediction' I mean the proposition expressed by 'The DOW will reach 36,000 in a few years.'
I am also inclined to say that the contents of some predictions are true at the time the predictions are made, and thus true in advance of the events predicted. I am not inclined to say that these predictions were neither true nor false at the time they were made. Suppose I predict some event E and E comes to pass. You might say to me, "You were right to predict the occurrence of E." You would not say to me, "Although the content of your prediction was neither true nor false at the time of your prediction, said content has now acquired the truth-value, true."
It is worth noting that the expression 'come true' is ambiguous. It could mean 'come to be known to be true' or it could mean 'come to have the truth-value, true.' I am inclined to read it the first way. Accordingly, when a prediction 'comes true,' what that means is that the prediction which all along was true, and thus true in advance of the contingent event predicted, is now known to be true.
So far, then, I am inclined to say that the Law of Excluded Middle applies to future-tensed sentences. If we assume Bivalence (that there are exactly two truth-values), then the Law of Excluded Middle (LEM)can be formulated as follows. For any proposition p, either p is true or p is false. Now consider a future-tensed sentence that refers to some event that is neither impossible nor necessary. An example is the DOW sentence above or 'Tom will get tenure in 2014.' Someone who assertively utters a sentence such as this makes a prediction. What I am currently puzzling over is whether any predictions, at the time that they are made, have a truth-value, i.e., (assuming Bivalence), are either true or false.
Why should I be puzzling over this? Well, despite the strong linguistic inclinations recorded above, there is something strange in regarding a contingent proposition about a future event as either true or false in advance of the event's occurrence or nonoccurrence. How could a contingent proposition be true before the event occurs that alone could make it true?
Our problem can be set forth as an antilogism or aporetic triad:
1. U-LEM: LEM applies unrestrictedly to all declarative sentences, whatever their tense. 2. Presentism: Only what exists at present exists. 3. Truth-Maker Principle: Every contingent truth has a truth-maker.
Each limb of the triad is plausible. But they can't all be true. The conjunction of any two entails the negation of the third. Corresponding to our (inconsistent) antilogism there are three (valid) syllogisms each of which is an argument to the negation of one of the limbs from the other two limbs.
If there is no compelling reason to adopt one ofthese syllogisms over the other two, then I would say that the problem is a genuine aporia, an insoluble problem.
People don't like to admit that there are insolubilia. That may merely reflect their dogmatism and overpowering need for doxastic security. Man is a proud critter loathe to confess the infirmity of reason.
In a post the point of which was merely to underscore the difference between absolute and necessary truth, I wrote, somewhat incautiously:
Let our example be the proposition p expressed by 'Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 44 B.C.' Given that p is true, it is true in all actual circumstances. That is, its truth-value does not vary from time to time, place to place, person to person, or relative to any other parameter in the actual world. P is true now, was true yesterday, and will be true tomorrow. P is true in Los Angeles, in Bangkok, and on Alpha Centauri. It is true whether Joe Blow affirms it, denies it, or has never even thought about it. And what goes for Blow goes for Jane Schmoe.
As a couple of astute readers have pointed out, the usual date given for Caesar's crossing of the river Rubicon is January 10, 49 B.C. and not 44 B. C. as stated above. If only the detection and correction of philosophical erors were as easy as this!
The erudite proprietor of Finem Respicem, who calls herself 'Equity Private' and describes herself as a "Armchair Philosophy Fangirl and Failed Theoretical Physicist Turned Finance Troublemaker," writes, "Caesar crossed the Rubicon on January 10, 49 B.C., reportedly (though perhaps fancifully) prompting Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus to comment Alea iacta est ('The die is cast.')" And Philoponus the Erudite has this to say:
I'm not sure whether you are deliberately testing the faithful readers of The Maverick, but the accepted date for Caesar and Legio XIII Gem. wading across fl. Rubico is 49 BCE, on or about Jan 10th. That's what is inferred from Suetonius' acct of Divus Caesar at the beginning of De Vita Caesarum (written 160 years after the fact) and some other latter sources like Plutarch.
So I stand corrected on the factual point. Both correspondents go on to raise philosophical points. I have space to respond to only one of them.
Equity Private asks, concerning the proposition expressed by 'Caesar crosses the Rubicon in 49 B.C.,' "But is it true in 50 BC? In a deterministic universe, I think it is. In a non-deterministic universe I think it isn't. Are you a determinist?"
To discuss this properly we need to back up a bit. I distinguish declarative sentences from the propositions they are used to express, and in the post in question I was construing propositions along the lines of Gottlob Frege's Gedanken. Accordingly, a proposition is the sense of a context-free declarative sentence. A context-free sentence is one from which all indexical elements have been extruded, including verb tenses. Propositions so construed are a species of abstract object. This will elicit howls of outrage from some, but it is a view that is quite defensible. If you accept this (and if you don't I will ask what your theory of the proposition is), then the proposition expressed by 'Caesar crosses the Rubicon in 49 B.C.' exists at all times and is true at all times. (Bear in mind that, given the extrusion of all indexical elements, including verb tenses, the occurrence of 'crosses' is not present-tensed but tenseless.) From this it follows that the truth-value of the proposition does not vary with one's temporal perspective. So, to answer my correspondent's question, the proposition is true in 50 B.C. and is thus true before the fateful crossing occurred!
I am assuming both Bivalence and Excluded Middle. Bivalence says that there are exactly two truth-values, true and false, as opposed to three or more. If Bivalence holds, then 'not true' is logically equivalent to 'false.' Excluded Middle says that, for every proposition p, either p is true or it is not the case that p is true. Note that Bivalence and Excluded Middle are not the same. Suppose that Bivalence is false and that there are three truth-values. It could still be the case that every proposition is either true or not true. (In a 3-valued logic, 'not true' is not the same as 'false.') So Excluded Middle does not entail Bivalence. Therefore Excluded Middle is not the same as Bivalence. Bivalence does, however, entail Excluded Middle.
Here is a simpler and more direct way to answer my correspondent's question. Suppose some prescient Roman utters in 50 B.C. the Latin equivalent of 'Julius Caesar will cross the Rubicon next year.' Given Bivalence and Excluded Middle, what the Roman says is either true, or if not true, then false. Given that Caesar did cross in 49 B.C., what the prescient Roman said was true. Hence it was true before the crossing occurred.
Let's now consider how this relates to the determinism question. Determinism is the view that whatever happens in nature is determined by antecedent causal conditions under the aegis of the laws of nature. Equivalently, past facts, together with the laws of nature, entail all future facts. It follows that facts before one's birth, via the laws of nature, necessitate what one does now. The necessitation here is conditional, not absolute. It is conditional upon the laws of nature (which might have been otherwise) and the prior causal conditions (which might have been otherwise).
If determinism is true, then Caesar could not have done otherwise than cross the Rubicon when he did given the (logically contingent) laws of nature and the (logically contingent) conditions antecedent to his crossing. If determinism is not true, then the laws plus the prior causal conditions did not necessitate his crossing. Equity Private says that the Caesar proposition is not true in 50 B.C. in a non-deterministic universe. But I don't think this is right. For there are at least two other ways the proposition might be true before the crossing occurred, two other ways which reflect two other forms of determination. Besides causal determination (determination via the laws of nature and the antecedent causal conditions), there is also theological determination (determination via divine foreknowledge) and logical determination (determination via the law of excluded middle in conjunction with a certain view of propositions). Logical determinism is called fatalism. (See the earlier post on the difference between determinism and fatalism.)
Someone who is both a fatalist and an indeterminist could easily hold that the Caesar proposition is true at times before the crossing. Equity Private asked whether I am a determinist. She should have asked me whether I am a fatalist. For it looks as if I have supplied the materials for a fatalist argument. Here is a quick and dirty version of an ancient argument known as 'the idle argument' or 'the lazy argument':
1. Either I will be killed tomorrow or I will not. 2. If I will be killed, I will be killed no matter what precautions I take. 3. If I will not be killed, then I will be killed no matter what precautions I neglect. Therefore 4. It is pointless to take precautions.
This certainly smacks of sophistry! But where exactly does the argument go wrong? The first premise is an instance of LEM on the assumption of Bivalence. (2) looks to be a tautology of the form p --> (q -->p), and (3) appears to be a tautology of the form ~p -->(q -->~p). Or think of it this way. If it is true that I will killed tomorrow, then this is true regardless of what other propositions are true. And similarly for (3).
Some will say that the mistake is to think that LEM applies to propositions about future events: in advance of an event's occurrence it is neither true nor not true that it will occur. This way out is problematic, however. 'JFK was assassinated in 1963' is true now. How then can the prediction, made in 1962, 'JFK will be assassinated in 1963,' lack a truth-value? Had someone made that prediction in 1962, he would have made a true prediction, not a prediction lacking a truth-value. Indeed, the past-tensed and the future tensed sentences express the same proposition, a proposition that could be put using the tenseless sentence 'JFK is assassinated in 1963.' Of course, no one could know in 1962 the truth-value of this proposition, but that is not to say that it did not have a truth-value in 1962. Don't confuse the knowledge of truth with truth.
Suppose I predict today that such-and-such will happen next year, and what I predict comes to pass. You would say to me, "You were right!" You would not say to me, "What you predicted has acquired the truth-value, true." I can be proven right in my prediction only if I was right, i.e., only if my prediction was true in advance of the event's occurrence.
So the facile restriction of LEM to present and past is a dubious move. And yet the 'lazy argument' is surely invalid!
Absolute truth and necessary truth are not the same.
Let our example be the proposition p expressed by 'Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 44 B.C.' Given that p is true, it is true in all actual circumstances. That is, its truth-value does not vary from time to time, place to place, person to person, or relative to any other parameter in the actual world. P is true now, was true yesterday, and will be true tomorrow. P is true in Los Angeles, in Bangkok, and on Alpha Centauri. It is true whether Joe Blow affirms it, denies it, or has never even thought about it. And what goes for Blow goes for Jane Schmoe.
In this sense, p is absolutely or nonrelatively true. But that is not to say that p is necessarily true. A proposition q is necessarily true if and only if q is true in all possible worlds, to use a Leibnizian expression. To avoid 'world' I can say: in all possible circumstances. (A world could be thought of as a maximal circumstance.) A proposition q is contingently true iff (i) q is true in the actual circumstances, but (ii) not true in all possible circumstances. Now our proposition p concerning Caesar is obviously only contingently true: there is no broadly logical or metaphysical necessity that he cross the Rubicon in 44 BC. He might have crossed it earlier or later, or not at all. Or said river might never have existed for him to cross.
Note that contingent is not the same as contingently true. If a proposition is contingently true, then it is actually true. But if a proposition is contingent it may or may not be actually true. I was born by Caesarean section but I might not have been. So the proposition *BV was not born by Caesarean section* though false is contingent: it is true in some but not all possible worlds and false in the actual world.
Here are some theses I am fairly sure of:
1. There are no relative truths: every truth is absolute. 2. An absolute truth need not be a necessary truth: some absolute truths are contingent. 3. Every truth, whether necessary or contingent, is true in all actual circumstances. 4. The ontological property of absoluteness is not to be confused with any epistemological property such as that of being known with certainty.
Ed continues to repeat his regress argument against truth-makers, despite my hurling invective at it. I think I called it "breathtakingly rotten" or something equally offensive, all in good fun of course:
I have argued (e.g. here and here that the notion of a ‘truthmaker’ leads to an infinite regress. If there is such a truthmaker, an entity that makes a proposition like ‘Socrates sits’ true - let it be A - then it comes into existence when Socrates sits down, and ceases to exist when he stands up. But then there would have to be a further truthmaker for A existing. I.e. the sentence “A exists” can be true or false, and so requires a further truthmaker B, that makes it true when B exists. But then “B exists” requires yet another truthmaker, and so on ad infinitum.
Now what is the regress supposed to be? There is an entity A and it makes-true sentence s. A is not a sentence, or any other type of representation. Since we can talk about A, we can say 'A exists.' 'A exists' is contingently true, so it too needs a truth-maker. So far, so good.
Ed assumes that the truth-maker for "A exists' must be distinct from the truth-maker for s. Without this assumption, the regress can't get started. Therefore, to show that his regress argument is bogus, it suffices to show that one and the same entity A can serve as the truth-maker for both s and 'A exists.'
Suppose the truth-maker of 'Tom is tired' is the fact, Tom's being tired. Now consider the sentence 'Tom's being tired exists.' I claim that the truth-maker of both sentences is Tom's being tired. I conclude that there is no regress.
To appreciate this you must note that while 'Tom is tired' is a predication, 'Tom's being tired exists' is not. It is an existential sentence like 'Tom exists.' So while the predication requires a fact for its truth-maker, the existential sentence does not. It does not need a fact as a truth-maker any more than 'Tom exists' does. The truth-maker of the latter is just Tom. The truth-maker of 'Tom's being tired' is not the fact, Tom'sbeing tired's existence, but just Tom's being tired.
There is a second reason why the regress cannot arise. Ed is a nominalist. He eschews propositions and believes only in sentences. Well, there is no need for there to be the sentence 'A exists'! If no one says that A exists, then there is no sentence 'A exists.' And of course nonexistent sentences do not need truth-makers. And if someone does say that A exists, there is no need that he, or anyone else, say that the truth-maker of 'A exists' exists. So for this reason too the regress can't get started.
Ed ends his post on this strange note: "If we buy the idea of a ‘truthbearer’ (a proposition, a thought, whatever), the idea of a ‘truthmaker’ comes with it." That's plainly false. That there are truth-bearers is self-evident; that there are truth-makers is not. Must I dilate further on this self-evident point? Second, if the quoted sentence is true, and Ed's regress argument is sound, the upshot is that there are no truth-bearers, which is absurd. In effect, Ed has provided a reductio ad absurdum of his own claim that there are no truth-makers!
What Ed says about representation and the representation of the faithfulness of a representation would require a separate post to discuss. But I sense the conflation of epistemological questions with ontological ones.
Let us confine ourselves to true affirmative contingent nonrelational predications. If you deny that there is any extralinguistic fact or state of affairs that makes it true that Tom is smoking, then what is your positive theory? Here are some possible views, 'possible' in the sense that they are possibly such as to be held by someone whether fool or sage or someone in between.
1. A contingently true sentence like 'Tom is smoking' is just true; there is nothing external to the sentence, nothing at all, that plays any role in making it true. There is no more to a true sentence than the sentence. Thus no part of the sentence has a worldly correlate, not even the subject term. On this view there is no extralinguistic reality -- or at least no extralinguistic reality that bears upon the truth or falsity of our sentences -- and thus no ontological ground of any kind for the truth of true contingent representations, whether declarative sentences, propositions, judgments, beliefs, whatever the truth-bearers are taken to be.
2. A rather less crazy view is that our sample sentence does have something corresponding to it in reality, and that that item is Tom, but nothing else. On this view 'Tom is smoking' has a truth-maker, but the truth-maker is just Tom. On this view the truth-maker role is a legitimate one, and something plays it, but there are no facts, and so no fact is a truth-maker. Note carefully that the question whether there are facts is not the same as the question whether there are truth-makers. It could be that the truth-making riole is played by non-facts, and it itr could be that there are facts but they have no role to play in truth-making.
3. On a variant of (2) it is admitted that besides Tom there is also an entity corresponding to the predicate, and the truth-maker of 'Tom is smoking' is the set or the mereological sum, or the ordered pair consting of Tom and the entity corresponding to the predicate.
4. A more radical view is that the truth-maker role is not a legitimate role, hence does not need filling by the members of any category of entity. On this view there are no truth-makers becsuae the very notion of a truth-maker is incoherent. One who takes this line could even admit that there are facts, but he would deny that they play a truth-making role.
5. On a still more radical view, there is an extralinguistic reality, but we cannot say what categories of entity it contains. On this view one abandons the notion that language mirrors reality, that there is any correspondence or matching between parts of speech and categories of entity. Thus one would abandon the notion that truth is correspondence, that the 'Al is fat' is true just in case the referent of 'Al' exemplifies the property denoted by 'fat.' One would be abandoning the notion that language is any guide at all to ontology.
First Question: Are there other options? What are they?
Second Question: Which option do you embrace if you deny that 'Tom is smoking' has a fact as its truth-maker?
Frege makes the point that the being of a proposition cannot be identical to its being true. This I find obvious. There are true propositions and there are false propositions. Therefore, for propositions (the senses of context-free declarative sentences) it cannot be the case that to be = to be true. Furthermore, a given proposition that is contingently true is possibly such as not to be true, whence it follows that its being and its being true cannot be identical. (Whether Frege does or would give the second argument, I don't know; but I think it is correct.)
As Frege puts its, "The being of a thought [Gedanke, proposition] thus does not consist in its being true." (Near the beginning of his essay, "Negation.") One can grasp a proposition without knowing whether or not it is true. To grasp a proposition is not to accept it as true, to reject it as false, or to suspend judgment as to its truth-value. To grasp a proposition is merely to have it before one's mind, to understand it. A Fregean proposition is a sense, and no such propositional sense has as part of its sense its being true. That's Frege's point and it strikes me as rock-solid.
I wonder if a ‘truthmaker’ as understood by the advocates of truthmaking is the same sort of thing as Frege’s marvelous but impossible thought. Something that if we perceived it for what it was, would simultaneously communicate to us the truth of what it includes.
Ed is obviously confusing truth-bearers such as Fregean propositions with truth-makers. Truth-bearers are representations; truth-makers are not. That's one difference. Truth-bearers are either true or false; truth-makers are not since, not being representations, they cannot be said to be true, nor can they be said to be false. That's a second difference. Truth-bearers are 'bipolar,' either true or false; truth-makers are 'unipolar': all of them obtain. That's a third difference. Truth-bearers are such that their being or existence does not entail their being true; truth-makers are such that their being or existence does entail their obtaining. I am assuming that truth-makers are facts. If a fact obtains then it exists; there are no non-obtaining facts. That's a fourth difference.
There is no point in criticizing a doctrine one misrepresents. First represent it fairly, then lodge objections. And as I have said, there are reasonable objections one can bring.
This post takes up where Butchvarov Against Facts left off. See the latter post for bibliographical data concerning the essay "Facts" which I presently have under my logical microscope. And if you are a fan of Butch's work, all of my Butchvarov posts are collected in the aptly entitled Butchvarov category.
(The following is also highly relevant to the discussion currently in progress with the Londonistas, David Brightly and Edward the Ockhamist in the combox to this post.)
Butch's position is a nuanced one as one would expect. He appreciates the strengths and weaknesses of both realism and anti-realism. For the realist, there are facts. For the anti-realist, there are no facts. Let us briefly review why both positions are both attractive yet problematic. We will then turn to semi-realism as to a via media between Scylla and Charybdis.
1. Take some such contingently true affirmative singular sentence as 'Al is fat.' Surely with respect to such sentences there is more to truth than the sentences that are true. There must be something external to the sentence that contributes to its being true, and this external something is not plausibly taken to be another sentence or the say-so of some person, or anything like that. 'Al is fat' is true because there is something in extralinguistic and extramental reality that 'makes' it true. There is this short slacker dude, Al, and the guy weighs 250 lbs. There is nothing linguistic or mental about that. Here is the sound core of correspondence theories of truth. Our sample sentence is not just true; it is true because of the way the world outside the mind and outside the sentence is configured. The 'because' is not a causal 'because.' The question is not the empirical-causal one as to why Al is fat. He is fat because he eats too much. The question concerns the ontological ground of the truth of the sentential representation, 'Al is fat.' Since it is obvious that the sentence cannot just be true -- given that it is not true in virtue of its logical form or ex vi terminorum -- we must posit something external to the sentence that 'makes' it true. I don't see how this can be avoided even though I admit that 'makes true' is not perfectly clear.
2. Now what is the nature of this external truth-maker? It can't be Al by himself, and it can't be fatness by itself. Nor can it be the pair of the two. For it could be that Al exists and fatness exists, but the first does not instantiate the second. What's needed, apparently, is the fact of Al's being fat. So it seems we must add the category of fact to our ontology, to our categorial inventory. Veritas sequitur esse is not enough. It is not enough that 'Al' and 'Fat' have worldly referents; the sentence as a whole needs a worldly referent. Truth-makers cannot be 'things' or collections of same, but must be entities of a different categorial sort. (Or at least this is so for the simple predications we are now considering.)
3. The argument I have just sketched, the truth-maker argument for facts, is very powerful, but it gives rises to puzzles and protests. There is the Strawsonian protest that facts are merely hypostatized sentences, shadows genuine sentences cast upon the world. Butchvarov quotes Strawson's seminal 1950 discussion: "If you prise the sentences off the world, you prise the facts off it too. . . ." ("Facts," 73-74) Strawson again: "The only plausible candidate for what (in the world) makes a sentence true is the fact it states; but the fact it states is not something in the world."
Why aren't facts in the world? Consider the putative fact of my table's being two inches from the wall. Obviously, this fact is not itself two inches from the wall or in any spatial position. The table and the wall are in space; the fact is not. One can drive a nail into the table or into the wall, but not into the fact, etc. Considerations such as these suggest to the anti-realist that facts are not in the world and that they are but sentences reified. After all, to distinguish a fact from a non-fact (whether a particular or a universal) we must have recourse to a sentence: a fact is introduced as the worldly correlate of a true sentence. If there is no access to facts except via sentences, as the correlates of true sentences, then this will suggest to those of an anti-realist bent that facts are hypostatizations of true declarative sentences.
One might also cite the unperceivability of facts as a reason to deny their existence. I see the table, and I see the wall. It may also be granted that I see that the desk is about two inches from the wall. But does it follow that I see a relational fact? Not obviously. If I see a relational fact, then presumably I see the relation two inches from. But I don't see this relation. And so, Butchvarov argues (84-85), one does not see the relational fact either. Their invisibility is a strike against them. A careful examination of this argument would make a nice separate post. And indeed it did.
Another of the puzzles about facts concerns how a fact is related to its constituents. Obviously a fact is not identical to its constituents. This is because the constituents can exist without the fact existing. Nor can a fact be an entity in addition to its constituents, something over and above them, for the simple reason that it is composed of them. We can put this by saying that no fact is wholly distinct from its constituents. The fact is more than its constituents, but apart from them it is nothing. A third possibility is that a fact is the togetherness of its constituents, where this togetherness is grounded in a a special unifying constituent. Thus the fact of a's being F consists of a, F-ness, and a nexus of exemplification. But this leads to Bradley's regress.
A fact is not something over and above its constituents but their contingent unity. This unity, however, cannot be explained by positing a special unifying constituent, on pain of Bradley's regress. which is, pace Richard Gaskin, vicious. So if a fact has a unifier, that unifier must be external to the fact. But what could that be? It would have to be something like Kant's transcendental unity of apperception. I push this notion in an onto-theological direction in my book, A Paradigm Theory of Existence: Onto-Theology Vindicated. But by taking this line, I move away from the realism that the positing of facts was supposed to secure. Facts are supposed to be ontological grounds, extramental and extralinguistic. If mind or Mind is brought in in any form to secure the unity of a truth-making fact, then we end up with some form of idealism, whether transcendental or onto-theological, or what have you.
4. So we are in an aporetic pickle. We have good reason to be realists and we have good reason to be anti-realists. (The arguments above on both sides were mere sketches; they are stronger than they might appear. ) Since we cannot be both realists and anti-realists, we might try to mediate the positions and achieve a synthesis. My book was one attempt at a synthesis. Butchvarov's semi-realism is another. I am having a hard time, though, understanding what exactly Butchvarov's semi-realism is supposed to be.
If the realist says that there are facts, and that anti-realist says that there aren't, the semi-realist maintains that 'There are facts' is an "Improper proposition" (87) so that both asserting it and denying it are improper.
Butchvarov relies crucially on Wittgenstein's distinction between formal and material concepts and his related distinction between saying and showing. Object is an example of a formal concept, while book is an example of a material concept. That there are books can be said. That there are objects cannot be said. Instead, it is shown by the use of names.
'This is an object,' unlike 'This is white,' is a pseudo-proposition. This is because it attempts to say what can only be shown. 'This is an object' does not say anything. "It shows the logical category to which the item belongs." (75)
Fact, like object, is a formal concept. It follows that 'There are facts' and 'A sentence expresses a fact' are pseudo-propositions. They are pseudo because they attempt to say what can only be shown. But why , exactly, does 'A sentence expresses a fact' not say or state anything? Presumably because ". . . it presupposes what it purports to say because 'fact' is the philosophical term for what sentences express." (76)
The following cannot be said: 'This page is white is a fact.' It cannot be said because it is ill-formed. (88) We can of course say, 'That this page is white is a fact.' But 'that this page is white' is not a sentence, but a noun phrase. We cannot use this noun phrase to refer to the fact because what we end up referring to is an object, not a fact. Though a fact is not a sentence or a proposition, it is proposition-like: it has astructure that mirrors the structure of a proposition. No object, however, is proposition-like. To express the fact we must use the sentence. Using the sentence, we show what cannot be said.
Butchvarov's discussion from p. 88 to the end of his article is extremely murky and unsatisfactory. His semi-realism is not a clear alternative to realism and anti-realism. Butch sees the problem with crystal clarity, but I cannot see what exactly his solution is.
He tells us that semi-realism with respect to facts differs from anti-realism by acknowledging that there is more to the truth of true sentences than the sentences that are true. (88) Excellent! This is a non-negotiable 'datanic' point. If it is true that Jack loves Jill, then there must be something in the world that makes this true, and it cannot be Jack, or Jill, or loves, or the set or sum of all three. If these three items are what the sentence 'Jack loves Jill' are about, then the truth-maker has to be distinct from each and from the set or sum of all. (88)
But Butch also tells us that semi-realism about facts differs from realism by refusing to countenance a special category of entity, the category of fact, the members of which are the referents of declarative sentences. What bothers Butchvarov is that "facts cannot be referred to or described independently of the sentences expressing them" (88) a consideration which renders antirealim about facts plausible and the correspondence theory of truth implausible. (88)
So what is Butch's third way? How does he get between realism and anti-realism. He seems to be saying that there are facts but that they cannot be said, only shown. But of course this cannot be what he is saying if one cannot say that there are facts!
If there is something that cannot be said but only shown, and what is shown are the referents of sentences, then he is saying that there are the referents of sentences in which case he is saying that there is what he says can only be shown.
This is highly unsatisfactory and barely coherent if coherent at all. I am tempted to say to Butch, "Look, either there are facts or there aren't. Which is it? Bringing in Wittgenstein's saying v. showing distinction only muddies already troubled waters."
So I don't see that semi-realism about facts is a viable position. I suggest we admit that we are stuck with a genuine aporia.
The truth-maker of 'Tom sits' cannot be Tom. Otherwise it would also be the truth-maker of 'Tom stands' which is the logical contrary of the first sentence. And that won't do, as London Ed appreciates. But now what about 'Tom exists'? This too is a contingent sentence, and so it too needs a truth-maker. I say the truth-maker is Tom. The truth-maker of 'Tom sits' is a fact, the fact of Tom's being seated. This fact is a complex having Tom himself and the property of being seated as constitutents. (Let's not worry about what holds these constituents together!) The truth-maker of 'Tom exists,' however, is not a fact having Tom and the property of existence as constituents.
Why the asymmetry? Because existence is not a property in the same sense of 'property' in which being-seated is a property. I won't repeat the many arguments I have given on this blog and in my articles and book.
But suppose you, like Ed, see symmetry where I see asymmetry. You think that the truth-maker of 'Tom exists' is the fact of Tom's existence, or the fact of Tom's existing. Call this truth-making fact T. Since T exists, and exists contingently, 'T exists' needs a truth-maker. I am willing to concede that a vicious infinite regress then arises, though the matter is not entirely clear.
But what does this show? I say it shows that the assumption that existence is a property is mistaken.
The dialectical situation is this. There are plenty of arguments why existence cannot be a property. And we have good reason to admit truth-makers for contingent truths. So in the case of contingent existential truths like 'Tom exists' we should say that it is the referent of the subject term itself that is the truth-maker.
Some of us of a realist persuasion hold that at least some truths have need of worldly correlates that 'make them true.' This notion that (some) truths need truthmakers is a variation on the ancient theme that truth implies a correspondence of what-is said or what-is-thought with what-is. You all know the passages in Aristotle where this theme is sounded.
Example. Having just finished my drink, the thought expressed by an assertive utterance of 'My glass is empty' is true. But the thought is not just true; it is true because of the way things are 'outside' my mind. The glass (in reality) is (in reality) empty. So the realist says something like this: the thought (proposition, judgmental content, etc.) is true in virtue of the obtaining of a truthmaking state of affairs or fact. The thought is true because the fact obtains or exists, where 'because' does not have a causal sense but expresses the asymmetrical relation of truthmaking. The fact is the ontological ground (not the cause) of the thought's being true.
One might wonder whether this realist theory of truth leads to an infinite regress, and if it does, whether the regress is vicious. Some cryptic remarks in Gottlob Frege's seminal article, "The Thought: A Logical Inquiry," suggest a regress argument against the correspondence theory of truth.
For Frege, a thought (Gedanke) or proposition is the sense (Sinn) of a context-free declarative sentence. 'Snow is white' and its German translation Schnee ist weiss are examples of context-free declarative sentences. 'Context-free' means that all indexical elements have been extruded including verb tenses. When we say that a sentence such as 'Snow is white' is true, what we are really saying is that the sense of this sentence is true. The primary truth-vehicles are propositions, sentences being truth-bearers only insofar as they express true propositions.
Now could the being-true of a sentential sense consist in its correspondence to something else? Frege rejects this notion: "In any case, being true does not consist in the correspondence of this sense with something else, for otherwise the question of truth would reiterate itself to infinity." (Philosophical Logic, ed. Strawson, p. 19) A little earlier, Frege writes,
For what would we then have to do to decide whether something were true? We should have to enquire whether it were true that an idea and a reality, perhaps, corresponded in the laid-down respect. And then we should be confronted by a question of the same kind and the game could begin again. So the attempt to explain truth as correspondence collapses. And every other attempt to define truth collapses too. (Ibid.)
What exactly is Frege's argument here? We begin by noting that
1. Necessarily, for any proposition p, it is true that p iff p.
This equivalence, which I hope nobody will deny, gives rise to an infinite regress, call it the truth regress. For from (1) we can infer that if snow is white, then it is true that snow is white, and iterating the operation, if it is true that snow is white, then it is true that it is true that snow is white, and so on without end. This is an infinite regress all right, but it is obviously benign. For if we establish the base proposition, Snow is white, then we ipso facto establish all the iterations. Our establishing that snow is white does not depend on a prior establishing that it is true that snow is white. In general, our establishing of any proposition in the infinite series does not depend on having first established the next proposition in the series. The truth regress, though infinite, is benign.
Note that if the truth-regress were vicious, then the notion of truth itself would have been shown to be incoherent. For the truth-regress is a logical consequence of the equivalence principle (1) above, a principle that simply unpacks our understanding of 'true.' So if the truth-regress were vicious, then (1) would not be unproblematic, as it surely is.
It follows that if Frege's Regress is to amount to a valid objection to the definition of truth as correspondence, "and [to] every other attempt to define truth," then Frege's Regress must be different from the truth regress. In particular, it must be a vicious regress. Only vicious infinite regresses have the force of philosophical refutations. But then what is Frege's Regress? Consider
2. Necessarily, for any p, it is true that p iff *p* corresponds to reality.
One can think up counterexamples to (2), but the precise question before us is whether (2) issues in a vicious infinite regress. Now what would this regress (progress?) look like? Let 'T(p)' abbreviate 'it is true that p.' And let 'C*p*' abbreviate '*p* corresponds to reality.' (The asterisks function like Quine's corners.) The regress, then, looks like this:
3. p iff T(p) iff C*p* iff T(C*p*) iff C(T(C*p*)) iff T(C(T(C*p*) iff C(T(C(T(C*p*)) . . . Is (3) a vicious regress? It would be vicious if one could establish T(p) only by first establishing C*p* and so on. But if these two terms have the same sense, in the way that the first and second terms have the same sense, then (3) will be as benign as the truth regress. Suppose that 'It is true that p' and '*p* corresponds to reality' have the same sense. Suppose in other words that the correspondence theory of truth is the theory that the sense or meaning of these distinct sentences is the same. It would then follow that to establish that it is true that p and to establish that *p* corresponds to reality would come to the same thing, whence it would follow that the regress is benign.
For the regress to be vicious, the second and third terms must differ in sense. For again, if the second and third terms do not differ in sense, then to establish one is to establish the other, and it would not be case that to establish that it is true that p one would first have to establish that *p* corresponds to reality or to some chunk of reality. But if the second and third terms do not differ in sense, then it appears that the regress doesn't get started at all. For the move from the second term to the third to be valid, the entailment must be grounded in the sense of the second term: the third term must merely unpack the sense of the second term. If, however, the two terms are not sense-connected, then no infinite regress is ignited.
My interim conclusion is that it is not at all clear that Frege's Regress is either benign, or not a regress at all, and therefore not at all clear that it constitutes a valid objection to theories of truth, in particular to the theory that truth resides in correspondence.
REFERENCE: Peter Carruthers, "Frege's Regress," Proc. Arist. Soc., vol. LXXXII, 1981/1982, pp. 17-32.
Edward, the proprietor of Beyond Necessity, presents an infinite regress argument against truth-makers. Here it is:
. . . I reject the idea of a truthmaker altogether. If there is such a truthmaker, let it be A, it comes into existence when Socrates sits down, and ceases to exist when he stands up. If it were something real – let’s say a candle flame, which comes into existence when we light the candle, and ceases to exist when we blow it out – then there would have to be a further truthmaker for A existing. I.e. the sentence “A exists” can be true or false, and so requires a further truthmaker B, that makes it true when B exists. But then “B exists” requires yet another truthmaker, and so on ad infinitum. That is absurd. Therefore, there are no truthmakers.
I am not sure Ed understands what a truth-maker is. Here is a Philosophy 101 explanation. Suppose we have some true contingent declarative sentence such as 'Tom is tired.' The truth-maker theorist maintains that for contingent true sentences, there is more to the sentence than its being true. There must be something external to the sentence, something that is not a sentence, that 'makes it true.' If you deny this, then you are saying that the sentence is just true and that there is no explanation of its being true in terms of anything extralinguistic. And surely that is absurd, assuming you are not some sort of linguistic idealist. 'Tom is tired' cannot just be true; it is true because there exists a man to whom 'Tom' refers and this man is in a certain state.
Could Tom by himself be the truth-maker of 'Tom is tired'? No. For if he were, then he would also be the truth-maker of 'Tom is manic' -- which is absurd. This is why truth-maker theorists (not all but most) introduce facts or states of affairs as truth-makers. David Armstrong is a prominent contemporary example.
Now what are we to make of Edward's argument? The argument seems to be that if sentence s has a truthmaker t, then the sentence 't exists' must also have a truth-maker, call it t*. But then the sentence 't* exists' must itself have a truth-maker, t**, and so on ad infinitum.
Now this is a terrible, a thoroughly and breath-takingly rotten, argument which is why no one in the literature (to the best of my knowledge) has ever made it. Suppose that 'Tom is tired' is made-true by the fact of Tom's being tired. Call this fact F. If 'Tom is tired' is true, then F exists, whence it follows that 'F exists' is true. (This of course assumes that there is the sentence 'F exists,' an assumption I will grant arguendo.) Since 'F exists' is contingent, we can apply the truth-maker principle and ask for its truth-maker. But surely its truth-maker is just F. So there is no regress at all, let alone an infinite regress, let alone a vicious infinite regress. (Please note that only vicious infinite regresses have the force of refutations.) 'Tom is tired' has F as its truth-maker, and 'F exists' has the very same F as its truth-maker. Tom's being tired makes true both 'Tom is tired' and 'Tom's being tired exists.' No regress.
So Ed's argument is a complete non-starter. There are, however, plausible arguments against facts as truth-makers. See my Facts category.
Having had my say about what is known in the trade as Occam's Razor, and having secured some welcome agreement with the proprietor of Beyond Necessity in the combox of the aforelinked post, I am now ready to address the meat of Richard Hennessey's response to my three-post critique of what I took to be his theory of accidental predication.
There is no need to stray from our hoary example of accidental predication: 'Socrates is seated.' I took Hennessey to be saying that in a true accidental predication of this simple form subject and predicate refer to exactly the same thing. If they didn't, the sentence could not be true. Here is how Hennessey puts it:
Let us take the proposition “Socrates is sitting” or the strictly equivalent “Socrates is a sitting being.” The referent of the subject term here is the sitting Socrates and that of the predicate term is one and the same sitting Socrates. . . . only if the referent of the “Socrates” and that of the “sitting” of “Socrates is sitting” are identical can it be true that Socrates is actually the one sitting.
Since Hennessey uses the word 'identity' we can call this an identity theory of accidental predication: in true predications of this sort, the referent of the subject term and the referent of the predicate term are identical, and this identty is what insures that the predication is true. If so, then the same goes for all other true predications which are about Socrates. So consider 'Socrates is standing' which is the logical contrary (not contradictory) of 'Socrates is sitting.' These sentences cannot both be true at the same time, but they can be true at different times. Suppose we ask what the truth-maker is in each case. Given that subject and predicate terms refer to exactly the same thing, namely, Socrates, it follows that in each case it is Socrates and Socrates alone that is the truth-maker of both sentences. When he is sitting, Socrates makes-true 'Socrates is sitting' and when he is standing Socrates makes-true 'Socrates is standing.'
What I do not understand, however, is how these obviously different sentences, which differ in their truth-conditions, can have one and the same entity as truth-maker. The same problem does not seem to arise for such essential predications as 'Socrates is human.' For there is no time when he is not human, and (this is a distinct modal point), at every time at which he is human he is not possibly such as to be nonhuman. In the case of essential predications an identity theory may be workable. Perhaps we can say that Socrates himself is the truth-maker of 'Socrates is human,' 'Socrates is rational,' and Socrates is animal.'
In the case of accidental predications, however, it seems definitely unworkable. This is because different accidental predications about Socrates need different truth-makers. It is not Socrates, but Socrates' being seated that is the truth-maker of 'Socrates is seated' and it is not Socrates, but Socrates' standing that is the truth-maker of 'Socrates is standing.'
Without worrying about what exactly the italicized phrases pick out (facts? states of affairs? tropes?), one thing seems crystal clear: there cannot be a strict identity of, e.g., the referent of 'Socrates' and the referent of 'seated.' And since there cannot be a strict identity, there must be some difference between the referents of the subject and predicate terms. Hennessey seems to show an appreciation of this in his response (second hyperlink above):
If we tweak the [B.V.] passage a bit, we can, it strikes me, improve the thesis about the referencing at work in the sentence “Socrates is sitting” so that it offers a more satisfactory support of the neo-Aristotelian thesis of anti-realism in the theory of universals, one indeed getting along “without invoking universals.” First, let us speak of “particular property” instead of “particularized property,” for the latter expression suggests, at least to me, that the property would be, prior to some act of particularization, a universal and not a particular. Let us then accept, but with a precision, Bill’s statement that “‘sitting’ refers to a particularized property (a trope),” saying instead that while the “Socrates” in our statement refers to Socrates, the person at present sitting, the “sitting” primarily refers to Socrates, the person at present sitting, and also co-refers to the particular property of sitting that inheres in Socrates. (An alternative terminology might have it that the “Socrates” in our statement denotes Socrates and the “sitting” primarily denotes Socrates, still the person sitting, and also connotesthe property of sitting that inheres in Socrates; come to think of it, I believe I recall having read, long ago, a similar distinction in the Petite logique of Jacques Maritain, a book which I no longer have, thanks to a flooded basement.)
This is definitely an improvement. It is an improvement because it tries to accommodate the perfectly obvious point that there must be some difference or other between the worldly referents of the subject and predicate terms in accidental predications. Hennessey is now telling us that 'Socrates' in our example refers to exactly one item, Socrates, while 'sitting' refers to two items, Socrates and the particular property (trope, accident) seatedness which inheres in Socrates.
But Hennessey is not yet in the clear. For I will now ask him what the copula 'is' expresses. It seems he must say that it expresses inherence. He must say that it is because seatedness inheres in Socrates that 'Socrates is seated' is true. Now inherence is an asymmetrical relation: if x inheres in y, then it is not the case that y inheres in x. But there is no sameness relation (whether strict identity, contingent identity, accidental sameness, Castaneda's consubstantiaton, etc) that is not symmetrical. Thus if x is in any sense the same as y, then y is (in the same sense) the same as x. Therefore, Hennessey's bringing of inherence into the picture is at odds with his claims of identity. Inherence, being asymmetrical, is not a type of identity or sameness. So why the talk of identity in the first passage quoted above?
Why does Hennessey say that 'seated' refers primarily to Socrates but also to the particular property seatedness? Why not just say this: 'Socrates' refers to the primary substance (prote ousia) Socrates and nothing else; 'is' refers to the inherence relation or nexus and nothing else; 'seated/sitting' refers to the particular property (trope, accident) seatedness and nothing else. This would give him what he wants, a theory of predication free of universals.
But this is not what Hennessey says. He is putting forth some sort of identity theory of predication. He thinks that in some sense the subject and predicate terms refer to the very same thing. He tells us that 'seated' refers both to a substance and to an accident. The upshot is that Hennessey has given birth to a hybrid theory which I for one do not find intelligible.
Here is the question he needs to confront directly: what, in the world, makes it true that 'Socrates is seated' (assuming of course that the sentence is true)? Here is a clear answer: the sentence is true because seatedness inheres in Socrates. But then of course there can be no talk of the identity of Socrates and seatedness. They are obviously not identical: one is a substance and the other an accident. The relation between them, being asymmetrical, cannot be any sort of sameness relation.
The other clear answer which, though clear, is absurd is this: the sentence is true because 'Socrates' and 'seated' refer to the very same thing with the result that the copula expresses identity. Now this is absurd for the reasons given over several posts. This was his original theory which he has wisely moved away from.
Instead of plumping for one of these clear theories, Hennessey gives us an unintelligible hybrid, a monster if you will, as we approach Halloween.
We have the concept true proposition. This concept is either instantiated, or it is not. If it is not instantiated, then it is true that it is not instantiated, which implies that the concept true proposition is instantiated. If, on the other hand, the concept in question is instantiated, then of course it is instantiated. Therefore, necessarily, the concept true proposition is instantiated, and there necessarily exists at least one truth, namely, the truth that the concept true proposition is instantiated.
A reader asks: Does not your argument presuppose that "to be instantiated" means "to exist extra-mentally"? What if someone believed that esse est percipi? If your argument was based on the aforementioned assumption, then would not it beg the question because it presupposes what needs to be demonstrated?
Let us first note that it cannot be coherently maintained that to be is to be perceived without qualification. To be perceived is to be perceived by someone or something. For Bishop Berkeley, the someone in question is God whose being is precisely not identical to his being perceived. The slogan therefore does not apply to God. If absolutely everything were such that its being were its being perceived, then a vicious infinite regress would arise. To put it figuratively, the world cannot be mere percepts 'all the way down.' You have to come eventually to something whose being is in excess of its being perceived.
Perhaps what the reader is getting at is that any true proposition that instantiates the concept true proposition is true only for a mind, and not true absolutely. But this too leads to an infinite regress which appears to be vicious. For consider the proposition *Every truth is true-for some mind or other; no truth is true absolutely.* Call this proposition 'P.' Is P true? No, it is true-for some mind or other. Call that proposition P*. Is it true? No, it is true-for some mind or other. An infinite regress arises, and it appears to be vicious.
Regarding your recent post An Ontological Argument for Objective Reality, do you think your argument demonstrates that the correspondence theory of truth is inherent to our notion of objective reality, because we cannot meaningfully, without contradiction, even talk about truth in the absence of objective reality? If so, your argument also settles the case in favor of correspondence theory of truth.
Excellent question. I define 'ontological argument' in the earlier post, and note that 'ontological argument' and 'ontological argument for the existence of God' are not to be confused. Here is an ontological argument for the existence of at least one truth:
We have the concept true proposition. This concept is either instantiated, or it is not. If it is not instantiated, then it is true that it is not instantiated, which implies that the concept true proposition is instantiated. If, on the other hand, the concept in question is instantiated, then of course it is instantiated. Therefore, necessarily, the concept true proposition is instantiated, and there necessarily exists at least one truth, namely, the truth that the concept true proposition is instantiated.
This is a sound ontological argument for the existence of at least one truth using only the concept true proposition, the law of excluded middle, and the unproblematic principle that, for any proposition p, p entails that p is true. By 'proposition' here I simply mean whatever can be appropriately characterized as either true or false. That there are propositions in this innocuous sense cannot be reasonably denied.
Does it follow that the correspondence theory of truth is true? I don't think so. What the above argument shows is that there are truths. A truth is a true proposition, or, more generally, a true truth-bearer. But a truth-bearer is not the same as a truth-maker. A correspondence theory of truth, however, requires truth-makers. And so there is a logical gap between
1. There are truths
2. There are truth-makers of these truths.
My ontological argument establishes (1). It establishes the existence, indeed the necessity, of at least one truth 'outside the mind.' But truths outside the mind might just be true Fregean propositions. Such items are truth-bearers but not truth-makers. So (2) does not straightaway follow from (1).
To get to (2), we need to introduce a truth-maker principle as supplementary premise. Discussions of truth-maker principles can be found in the Truth category.
The proprietor of Beyond Necessity has a post on objective reality which is directed against some New Age mumbo-jumbo. One of the commenters remarks, "Your argument for the existence of objective reality sounds very much like the ontological argument for God, and about as plausible." Ed, the proprietor, responds, ". . . the argument in no way resembles the logical form of the ontological argument."
What I will now do is present a sound ontological argument for objective reality. In so doing I will show that both proprietor and commenter are wrong. The latter because the argument is plausible; the former because it is ontological in form.
Definition. An ontological argument from mere concepts (aus lauter Begriffen, in Kant's famous phrase) is a ratiocinative procedure whereby the being instantiated of a concept is proven by sheer analysis of the concept. It is thus an argument in which one attempts to infer the existence of X from the concept X. For example, the existence of God from the concept God; the existence of a golden mountain from the concept golden mountain; the existence of objective reality from the concept objective reality. Concepts are mental items by definition. So a sound ontological argument will take us from thought to (extramental) being, in a manner to please Parmenides.
To mention a concept I use italics. Thus a word in italics refers to a concept.
1. We have and understand the concept the (total) way things are. It doesn't matter how we acquired this concept. We have it and we understand it. The way things are includes every fact, every obtaining state of affairs. So the way things are is equivalent to the world in Wittgenstein's sense: "Die Welt ist die Gesamtheit der Tatsachen, nicht der Dinge." (Tractatus 1.1) It is also equivalent to objective reality.
2. Now let us entertain the possibility that nothing answers to the concept the way things are, that the concept is not instantiated. We are thus to entertain the possibility that there is the concept in our minds but nothing to which it applies. We can formulate this possibility using the proposition *There is no objective reality.* Call this proposition P.
3. Could P be true? If P is true, then P is true in objective reality: that is just what 'true' means. So if P is true, then it is true in objective reality that there is no objective reality. This is a contradiction. So we must conclude that If P is true, then P is false. And if P is false, then of course P is false. So, necessarily, P is false, which implies that its negation is not only true but necessarily true: it is necessarily true that there is objective reality. So by sheer analysis of the concept objective reality one can validly infer that there is objective reality. Here then is a case in which an ontological argument from mere concepts is sound.
4. Have I pulled a fast one? Not as far as I can see. I have merely analyzed the concept objective reality, teasing out an implication of the claim that the concept is not instantiated.
5. Response to the commenter. The commenter is right to appreciate that the above sort of reasoning is ontological and thus similar to the God proof found in Descartes' Meditation V and criticized famously by Kant. He is wrong, however, to think that the former reasoning is cogent if and only if the latter is.
6. Response to the proprietor. The proprietor is right, as against the commenter, when it comes to the cogency of the above sort of reasoning. But the commenter is wrong to fail to see that it is ontological reasoning in a clear sense of that term. It is a priori reasoning from thought to being, from concept to existence.
There are good reasons to introduce facts as truth-makers for contingently true atomic sentences. (Some supporting reasoning here.) But if there are facts, and they make-true contingent atomic sentences, then what is the semantic relation between these declarative sentences and their truth-makers? It seems we should say that such sentences name facts. But some remarks of Leo Mollica suggest that this will lead to trouble. Consider this aporetic triad:
1. 'Al is fat' is the name of the fact of Al's being fat. 2. 'Al is fat' has a referent only if it is true. 3. Names are essentially names: a name names whether or not it has a referent.
Each limb of the triad is very plausible, but they can't all be true. The conjunction of (1) and (3) entails the negation of (2). Which limb should we abandon? It cannot be (1) given the cogency of the Truth Maker Argument and the plausible assumption that the only semantic relation between a sentence and the corresponding fact is one of naming.
(2) also seems 'ungiveupable.' There are false sentences, and there may be false (Fregean) propositions: but a fact is not a truth-bearer but a truth-maker. It is very hard to swallow the notion that there are 'false' or nonobtaining facts. If 'Al is fat' is false it is because Al and fatness do not form a fact. The existence of a fact is the unity of its constituents. Where there is the unity of the right sort of constituents you have a fact; where there is not, you don't.
As for (3), suppose that names are only accidentally names, than a name names only on condition that it have a referent. We would then have to conclude that if the bearer of a name ceases to exist, that the name ceases to be a name. And that seems wrong. When Le Verrier put forth the hypothesis of an intra-Mercurial planent that came to be called 'Vulcan,' he did not know whether there was indeed such a planet, but he thought he had good evidence of its existence. When it was later decided that there was no good evidence of the planet in question, 'Vulcan' did not cease to be a name. If we now say, truly, that Vlucan does not exist we employ a name whose naming is not exhausted by its having a referent.
So it seems that names name essentially. This is the linguistic analog of intentionality: one cannot just think; if one thinks, then necessarily one thinks of something, something that may or may not exist. If I am thinking of something, and it ceases to exist, my thinking does not cease to be object-directed. Thinking is essentially object-directed. Analogously, names are essentially names.
So far, then, today's triad looks to be another addition the list of insolubilia. The limbs of the triad are more reasonably accepted than rejected, but they cannot all be true. A pretty pickle.
Prowling the Web for material on Nietzsche and the genetic fallacy, I stumbled across this passage from Merold Westphal, "Nietzsche as a Theological Resource," Modern Theology 13:2 (April 1997), p. 218: Perspectivism need not be presented as an absolute truth; it can be presented as an account of how reality looks from where one is situated. It does not thereby cease to be of value. The account of the game given by the winning coach cannot claim to be THE truth about the game: other accounts must be taken into account, including those from the losing coach, the players, the referees,.... But that does not mean that we do not listen with attention to what the winning coach has to say about the game. Perspectivism is the proposition P: All truths are perspectival. Either (P) applies to itself or it does not. If the former, then one must conclude that (P) is itself perspectivally true. Call this perspectivized perspectivism (PP). If the latter, if (P) is not taken to apply to itself, then (P) is nonperspectivally true. Westphal mentions, but does not take, this tack, so I shall ignore it here. His position appears to be perspectivized perspectivism. Unfortunately, his example shows that he does not understand it. He confuses (PP) with a quite different doctrine that could be called alethic partialism.
What the latter says is that the whole truth about a subject cannot be captured from any one perspective. Take a quart of 10 W 30 motor oil. From the perspective of a salesman at an auto parts store, it is a commodity from the sale of which he expects to make a profit. From the perspective of a motorist, it is a crankcase lubricant. From the perspective of a chemist, the oil's viscosity and other such attributes are salient. From the perspective of an eco-enthusiast, it is a potential pollutant of the ground water. And so on. But note that these partial truths add up to the whole truth about the oil. (By a 'partial truth' I do not mean a truth that is only partially true, but a truth that is wholly true, but captures only a part of the reality of what it is about.)
Alethic partialism sounds reasonable. But that is not what the perspectivized perspectivist is saying. What he is saying is that every truth is merely perspectivally true, and that this thesis itself is true only from his, and perhaps some (but not all) other, perspectives. Unfortunately, this allows a nonperspectivist such as your humble correspondent to say: "Fine! Truth is perspectival for you, Fritz, but for me it is absolute, and one of my absolute truths is that you are mistaken in your theory of truth." Clearly, the perspectivized perspectivist is in an uncomfortable position here. He wants to say something that is binding on all, but he cannot given the self-limiting nature of his position, a self-limitation demanded by logical consistency.
Pace Westphal, perspectivism is not "an account of how reality looks from where one is situated," but an account of the nature of truth, an account that implies that there is no reality. For truth is the truth of reality. A truth-bearer (a belief, say) is true just in case it corresponds to what is the case independently of anyone's beliefs, desires, or interests. To speak of truth as perspectival is to dissolve reality along with truth. From this one can see how obtuse Westphal's account of perspectivism his. He fails to grasp its radicality. And failing to grasp its radicality, he fails to appreciate its utter incoherence.
Nothing is true because it is consoling, but that does not preclude certain truths from being consoling. So one cannot refute a position by showing that some derive consolation from it. Equally, no support for a position is forthcoming from the fact that it thwarts our interests or dashes our hopes.
For Part I of this discussion, and the first six examples, see here. Recall that my concern is to show via a variety of examples that the eliminativist-reductivist distinction is useful and important and indeed indispensable for clear thinking about a number of topics.
7. Truth is warranted assertibility. Someone who makes this claim presumably intends to inform us about the nature of truth on the presupposition that there is truth. He is saying: there is truth all right; and what it is is warranted assertibility. But I say: if truth is warranted assertibility, then there is no truth. The italicized claim, no matter what the intentions of a person who makes it, amounts to a denial of truth. This example, as it seems to me, is 'on all fours' (as the Brits say) with the Feuerbach example and the 'properties are sets' example. Just as a property is not the sort of entity that could be identified with a set, truth is not the sort of property that could be identified with warranted assertibility (even at the Peircean ideal limit of inquiry.) These three claims are all of them eliminativist.
8. Truth is relative. Ditto. Truth is not the sort of property that could be relative: if you know what truth is then you know that truth is absolute. So if you say that truth is relative, then you are either confusing truth with some other property (e.g. the property of being believed by someone) or you are willy-nilly denying the very existence of truth. If you understand the concept of God, then you understand that God cannot be an anthropomorphic projection. And if you understand the concept of truth, then you understand that truth cannot be relative to anything, whatever your favorite index of relativization might be, whether individuals, social classes, historical epochs . . . .
9. The morally obligatory is that which God commands. In stark contrast to the two foregoing examples, this example cannot be given an eliminativist reading. The very concept of truth disallows truth's relativization. But there is nothing in the concept of moral obligation to disallow the identification of the morally obligatory with that which God commands. But here we need to make a distinction.
You will have noticed that identity is a symmetrical relation: if x = y, then y = x. But reduction is asymmetrical: if x reduces to y, then y does not reduce to x. Therefore, an identification is not the same as a reductive identification or reduction. 'Hesperus = Phosphorus' is an identity claim but not a reductive claim: the claim is not that Hesperus reduces to Phosphorus, as if Phosphorus were the fundamental reality and Hesperus the less fundamental, or perhaps a mere appearance of Phosphorus. But 'Table salt = NaCl' is a reduction of what is less fundamental to what is more fundamental.
Now what about our italicized claim? There are problems with reading it as a left-to-right reduction. The morally obligatory is what we morally ought to do; but what we ought to do cannot be reduced to what anyone commands, not even if the commander is morally perfect. The normative oughtness of an act or act-ommission cannot be reduced the mere fact that someone commands it, even if the commander always commands all and only what one ought to do. So one could argue that the italicized claim, if construed as a reduction of the morally obligatory to what God commands, collapses into an elimination of the morally obligatory. Be we needn't take it as a reduction; we can take it as a nonreductive identification. Accordingly, being morally obligatory and being commanded by God are the same property in reality even though they are conceptually distinct.
But even if you don't agree with the details of my analysis, I think you must agree to distinguish among eliminative claims, reductive identity claims, and nonreductive identity claims.
Peter and I were having lunch with a pretty lady yesterday. While recounting some paranormal experiences, he expressed doubt as to whether they were true. The lady, quite sympathetic to the experiences and their contents, but having come under the influence of the PoMo crowd, piped up, "There is no truth." Peter shot back, "So it is true that there is no truth?"
Peter's response was 'knee-jerk,' reflexive, not reflective. He didn''t need to reflect. His was a stock response, but none the worse for being stock or easily come by. It is a prepared line that you should all have at the ready when confronted with PoMo nonsense. Not that it will do you much good with the PoMo crowd.
The probative force of Peter's riposte is devastating. What's amazing, though, is that the Pomo types are not moved by it. I think this shows that truth is not their concern. Something else is, power perhaps. It is no surprise that leftism is alive and well within the precincts of PoMo. I'd have to think about it some more, but 'conservative post-modernist' smacks of being an oxymoron.
Let S be a declarative sentence. Then surely
E. 'S' is true iff S.
The equivalence schema (E) doesn't say much. But what it says suffices to refute the claim that there is no truth. For anyone who asserts 'There is no truth' makes an assertion which is equivalent to "'There is no truth' is true." And so truth comes back into the picture. Truth, she's a wily bitch. Drive her out of the front door, she comes in through the back. And I don't think it matters how minimalist is your theory of truth. My argument does not assume that truth is a metaphysically substantive property. Even if no property at all corresponds to the predicate ' is true,' that predicate has a sense. If it had no sense, then (E) would be gibberish, like
E*. 'S' is schmue iff S.
I'd have to think about it some more, but it looks as if the equivalence schema by itself suffices to refute the PoMo nonsense that there is no truth. For even if there is no property of truth, and truth is merely the sense of the predicate 'is true,' that sense cannot be denied. It's always and necessarily along for the ride.
1. From my survey of the literature, there are four main types of truth theory being discussed: substantive theories, nihilist (for want of a better label) theories, deflationary theories, and identity theories. Let me say just a little about the first two main types and then move on to deflationism. The Commenter (William Woking) will be sure to disagree with me about deflationism, which is good: by abrasion the pearl (of wisdom) is formed. Or as I read on a T-shirt at a road race recently: No pressure, no diamonds.
2. Substantive theories maintain that truth is (i) a metaphysically substantive item, presumably a property or relation, (ii) susceptible of non-trivial analysis or explication. Correspondence, coherence, and pragmatic theories count as substantive theories. Such theories purport to analyze truth in terms of other, presumably more basic, terms such as a relation of correspondence or adequation to 'reality' or to facts as in Veritas est adequatio intellectus ad rem. Or in terms of coherence of truth-bearers (beliefs, propositions, etc.) among themselves. Or in terms of conduciveness to human flourishing as in William James' "the true is the good by way of belief." Or in terms of broadly epistemic notions such as rational acceptability or warranted asseribility as in the Putnamian-Peircean 'Truth is rational acceptability at the ideal limit of inquiry.'
The latter is not a good proposal for reasons I won't go into now, but it illustrates the project of giving a substantive theory of truth. One tries to analyze truth in more basic terms. One tries to give an informative, noncircular answer to the question, What is truth? The sunbstantive approach is in the Granbd Tradition deriving from Plato wherein one asks What is X? for many values of 'X.'
The substantive approach to truth can be summed up in three propositions:
A. The facts about truth are not exhausted by the substitution-instances of the equivalence schemata 'p' is true iff p and *p* is true iff p.
B. There is a substantive property of truth common to all and only truths.
C. This substantive property is analyzable.
3. The 'nihilist' as he is known in the truth literature rejects substantive theories, not because they are substantive, but because they are theories. He may grant that truth is a deep, substantial, metaphysically loaded, ontologically thick, topic. But he denies that one can have a theory about it, that one can account for it in more basic terms: truth is just too basic to be explained in more fundamental terms. The nihilist accepts (A) and (B) above but denies (C).
4. The deflationist, like the nihilist, rejects substantive theories of truth. The difference is that the deflationist holds that an account of truth is possible albeit in very 'thin' terms, while the nihilist denies that any account is possible thick or thin: truth is too basic to be accountable. Nihilism allows truth to be a thick (metaphysical) topic. Deflationism disallows this. Deflationists deny (A), (B), and (C).
5. The deflationist makes a big deal out of certain perfectly obvious equivalences and he tries to squeeze a lot of anti-metaphysical mileage out of them. Here are two examples, one involving a declarative sentence, the other involving a proposition. Note that asterisks around a sentence, or around a placeholder for a sentence, form a name of the proposition expressed by the sentence.
E1. 'Grass is green' is true iff grass is green.
E2. *Grass is green* is true iff grass is green.
Note that such biconditionals express logical, not material, equivalences: they are not just true but true across all metaphysically (broadly logically) possible worlds. With respect to such biconditionals, there is no possible situation in which the RHS is true and the LHS false, or vice versa. If asked for the ground of this necessity, I would say it resides in the mere logic of the truth predicate. Saying this, I do not concede that there is nothing more to truth than the merely syntactic role played by 'true ' in equivalences like the above.
Now let us assume something which, though false, will simplify our discussion. Let us assume that there is no other type of use of the truth predicate other than the uses illustrated in logical equivalences like the foregoing. (Thus I am proposing that we ignore such uses as the one illustrated by 'Everything Percy says is true.')
The deflationist thesis can now be formulated as follows: There is nothing more to truth than what is expressed by such truisms as the foregoing equivalences. Thus there is no metaphysically substantive property of truth that the LHS predicates of 'Grass is green' or of *Grass is green.* The content on both sides is exactly the same: 'is true' adds no new content. 'Is true' plays a merely syntactic role. In terms of Quine's disquotationalism (which is a version of the deflationary approach), 'is true' is merely a device of disquotation. 'Is true' has no semantic dimension: it neither expresses a substantive property, nor does it refer to anything. Truth drops out as a topic of philosophical inquiry. There is no such property susceptible of informative explication in terms of correspondence, coherence, rational acceptability, or whatnot. The question What is truth? gets answered by saying that there is no such 'thing' as truth: there are truths, and every such truth reduces via the equivalence schema to a sentence or proposition in which the truth predicate does not appear. Accordingly, there is nothing all truths have in common in virtue of which they are truths. There is only a multiplicity of disparate truths. But even this says too much since each 'truth' reduces to a sentence or proposition in which 'true' does not appear.
6. Now for my misgivings about deflationism. But first three preliminary points.
a. Equivalence is symmetrical (commutative); if p is equivalent to q, then q is equivalent to p. But explanation is asymmetrical: if p explains q, then q does not explain p. From ' p iff q' one cannot infer 'p because q' or 'q because p.' 'p iff q' is consistent with both. Connected with the asymmetry of explanation is that equivalences do not sanction reductions. Triangularity and trilaterality are logically equivalent properties, but it doesn't follow that either reduces to the other.
b. If two items are equivalent, then both are propositions or sentences. There cannot be equivalence between a sentence or proposition and something that is neither.
c. To define equivalence we need to recur to truth. To say that p, q are logically equivalent is to say that there is no possible situation in which p is true and q false, or q true, and p false.
Now what is the deflationist saying? His thesis is negative: there is nothing to truth except what is captured in the the equivalence schemata and their substitution-instances. Consider
E. *p* is true iff p.
First Misgiving: The truth of the biconditional is not in question. But equivalences don't sanction reductions. From (E) one cannot infer that the LHS reduces to the RHS, or vice versa. But the deflationist is saying that the LHS reduces to, and is explained by, the RHS. But what is his justification for saying this? Why not the other way around? Why not say that p because *p* is true?
Second Misgiving: For an equivalence to hold, both sides must be true (or false). Suppose both sides are true. Then, although the predicate 'true' does not appear on the RHS, the RHS must be true. So, far from dispensing with truth, the equivalence schemata and their instances presuppose it!
You don't get it, do you? Let me try an analogy with existence. A deflationist about existence might offer this equivalence schema:
F. Fs exist iff something is an F. (E.g., 'Cats exist iff something is a cat.')
Squeezing this triviality hard, our deflationist announces that 'exist' plays a merely syntactic role and that there is no substantive property of existence. But is it not obvious that if something is an F, then that thing must exist? Are you quantifying over a domain of nonexistents? If yes, then the equivalence fails. But if you are quantifying over a domain of existents, then the existence of those existents is being presupposed. So, even though 'exist' does not occur on the RHS of (F), existence is along for the ride. Same with (E). Even though 'true' does not occur on the RHS of (E), truth is along for the ride. In both cases, existence and truth in meaty substantive senses are being presupposed.
Third Misgiving. 'Grass is green' and 'It is true that grass is green' have exactly the same content. That is perfectly obvious and denied by no one. 'Is true' adds no new content. But how is it supposed to follow that truth is not a substantive property? What follows is that truth is not a content property. How do our deflationist pals get from 'Truth is not a content property' to 'Truth is not a substantive property'? Isn't it obvious that truth refers us outside the content of the proposition or sentence?
Compare existence. A thing and the same thing existing have exactly the same quidditative content. The fastest runner and the existing fastest runner are numerically the same individual. Does it follow that existence is not a property? No, what follows it that existence is not a quidditative property. Same with truth. There is no difference in content between p and true p. But it makes a world of difference whether p is true or false just as it makes a world of difference whether an individual exists or not.
Fourth Misgiving. If p and q are equivalent, then both are propositions. The instances of (E) therefore do not get us outside the 'circle of propositions.' But isn't it obvious that whether or not a sentence or a proposition or a belief (or any truthbearer) is true or false depends on matters external to the truthbearer?
We are warming up to an examination of deflationary theories of truth according to which truth is either not a property or not a metaphysically substantive property. (I oppose deflationary theories of truth just as I oppose deflationary theories of existence.) But first some clarification of 'predicate' and 'property.'
1. I begin by resisting the traditional conflation of predicates and properties, a conflation in evidence when we hear a philosopher claim that "existence is not a predicate." That claim makes no sense unless a predicate is a property. After all, 'existence,' as an abstract substantive, is not grammattically tuited to occupy predicate position. If, however, a predicate is a bit of language used to express a property, then the claim should be that " '. . . exists' is not a predicate." That's in order, as is "Existence is not a property." As expressing properties, predicates are distinct from properties. Predicates are linguistic while properties are extralinguistic.
To be a bit more precise, predicates (whether types or tokens) are tied to particular languages whereas the properties they express are not so tied. Thus schwarz is tied to German in the way black is tied to English, but the property of being black is tied to neither. Equally, the property of being disyllabic is tied to no one language even though it is a property that only linguistic items can have. Thus 'Boston' but not Boston is disyllabic.
2. Some of you will question whether there are properties distinct from predicates. Question away. But just realize that in order to raise this very question you must first have distinguished predicates and properties. You must already have made the distinction 'at the level of intension' if not 'at the level of extension.' For you cannot maintain that there are no properties distinct from predicates unless you understand the term 'property' just as you cannot maintain that there are no unicorns distinct from horses unless you understand the term 'unicorn.'
3. By my lights, you are a very foolish philosopher if you deny properties, but not if you deny universals. If you deny universals you are merely mistaken. So let's be clear that 'property' and 'universal' are not to be used interchangeably. It is a substantive question whether properties are universals or particulars (as trope theorists maintain). Universals I define as repeatable entities, particulars as unrepeatable entities.
4. The predicate/property distinction under our belts, we need to note three views on their relation.
5. One view is that no predicate expresses a property. I rejected this view in #3. To put it bluntly, there is a real world out there, and the things in it have properties whether or not there are any languages and language-users. Some of our predicates succeed more or less in expressing some of these properties.
6. A second view is that every predicate expresses or denotes a property. The idea is that for every predicate 'P' there is a property P corresponding to 'P.' But then, given that 'exists' and 'true' are predicates, it would follow straightaway that existence and truth are properties. And that seems too easy. Deflationists, after all, deny for reasons that cannot simply be dismissed that truth is a property. They cannot be refuted by pointing out that 'true' is a predicate of English. The following equivalence is undeniable but also not formulable unless 'true' is a predicate:
'Grass is green' is true iff grass is green.
The deflationist will take an equivalence like this to show that 'true' is a dispensable predicate and therefore one that does not pick out a property. (On Quine's disquotationalism, for example, 'is true' is a device of disquotation: it merely undoes the semantic ascent displayed on the LHS of the biconditional.) We should therefore be uneasy about the view that every predicate expresses or denotes a property. The existence of a predicate does not show the existence of a corresponding property. A predicate need not predicate a property. It should not be a matter of terminological fallout that wherever there is a predicate there is a property.
7. Determined to maintain that every predicate expresses or denotes a property, a deflationist could of course hold that existence and truth are properties, but not metaphysically substantive properties. A deflationist could argue like this:
Every predicate expresses a property
'True' is a predicate
Ergo: Truth is a property, but not a substantive one.
But he could also argue like this:
Every genuine predicate expresses a substantive property
Truth is not a substantive property
Ergo: 'True' is not a genuine predicate.
8. A third view about the predicate-property relation has it that some predicates pick out properties and some don't. I suggest this is how we should use 'predicate.' It then becomes a matter of investigation, not of terminology, whether or not there is a property for a given predicate.
I am using 'deflationism' as an umbrella term subsuming several different deflationary theories of truth, among them Ramsey's redundancy theory, Quine's disquotationalism, Horwich's minimalist theory, and others. Deflationary theories contrast with what might be called 'robust' or substantive' theories of truth. It is not easy to focus the issue that divides these two types of theory. One way to get a feel for the issue is by considering the traditional-sounding question, What is the nature of truth? This 'Platonic' question -- compare What is the nature of knowledge? (Theaetetus); What is the nature of justice? (Republic) -- presupposes that truth has a nature, a nature that can be analyzed or otherwise explicated in terms of correspondence, or coherence, or 'what conduces to human flourishing,' or what would be accepted at the Peircean limit of inquiry, or something else.
The deflationist questions the presupposition. He suspects that truth has no nature. He suspects that there is no one property that all truths have, a property the having of which constitutes them as truths. His project is to try to account for our truth-talk in ways that do not commit us to truth's having a nature, or to truth's being a genuine property. Of course, we English speakers have and use the word 'true.' But the mere fact that we have and use the predicate 'true' does not suffice to show that there is a property corresponding to the predicate. (Exercise for the reader: find predicates to which no properties correspond.)
So if we can analyze our various uses of 'true' in ways that do not commit us to a property of truth, then we will have succeeded in deflating the topic of truth and showing it to be metaphysically insubstantial or 'lightweight.' The most radical approach would be one that tries to dispense with the predicate 'true' by showing that everything we say with its help can be said without its help (and without the help of any obvious synonym such as 'correct.') The idea here is not merely that truth is not a genuine property, but that 'true' is not even a genuine predicate.
Consider two assertions. I first assert that snow is white, and then I assert that it is true that snow is white. The two assertions have the same content. They convey the same meaning to the audience. This suggests that the sentential operator 'It is true that ___' adds nothing to the content of what is asserted. And the same goes for the predicate '___ is true.' Whether we think of 'true' as an operator or as a predicate, it seems redundant, or logically superfluous. In "Facts and Propositions" (1927), Frank Ramsey sketches a redundancy or logical superfluity theory of truth. This may be the first such theory in the Anglosphere. (Is there an historian in the house?)
For Ramsey, "there really is no separate problem of truth but merely a linguistic muddle." Ramsey tells us that ". . . 'It is true that Caesar was murdered' means no more than that Caesar was murdered, and 'It is false that Caesar was murdered' means that Caesar was not murdered." (F. P. Ramsey, Philosophical Papers, Cambridge UP, 1990, ed. D. H. Mellor, p. 38) But what about a case in which a proposition is not explicitly given, but is merely described, as in 'He is always right'? In this example, 'right' has the sense of 'true.' 'He is always' right means that whatever he asserts is true. As a means of getting rid of 'true' in this sort of case, Ramsey suggests:
1. For all p, if he asserts p, then p is true.
But since "the propositional function p is true is the same as p, as e.g., its value 'Caesar was murdered is true' is the same as 'Caesar was murdered,'" Ramsey thinks he can move from (1) to
2. For all p, if he asserts p, then p.
If the move to (2) is kosher, then 'true' will have been eliminated. Unfortunately, (2) is unintelligible. To see this, try to apply Universal Instantiation to (2). If the variable 'p' ranges over sentences, we get
3. If he asserts 'Snow is white,' then 'Snow is white.'
This is nonsense, because "'Snow is white'" in both occurrences is a name, whence it follows that the consequent of the conditional is not a proposition, as it must be if the conditional is to be well-formed. If, on the other hand, the variable 'p' is taken to range over propositions, then we get the same result:
4. If he asserts the proposition that snow is white, then the proposition that snow is white
which is also nonsense. Unless I am missing something, it looks as if Ramsey's redundancy theory cannot succeed in eliminating 'true.' It looks as if 'true' is an indispensable predicate, and thus a genuine predicate. This does not, however, show that truth is a genuine property. It merely shows that we cannot get rid of 'true.'
Some sentences, whether or not they are about other things, are about themselves. They refer to themselves. Hence we say they are 'self-referential.' The phenomenon of sentential self-referentiality is sometimes benign. One example is 'This sentence is true.' Another is 'Every proposition is either true or false.' Of interest here are the more or less malignant forms of self-reference. One example is the so-called Liar sentence:
1. This sentence is false.
If (1) is true, then it is false, and if false, then true. This is an example of an antinomy. In pursuit of a taxonomy, we might call this Grade I of self-referential inconsistency. Grade I, then, is the class of self-referentially inconsistent sentences that issue in antinomies.
There are other self-referential sentences that are not antinomies, but imply their own necessary falsehood. These are such that, if true, then false, and if false, then false, and are therefore necessarily false. For example,
2. All generalizations are false.
If (2) is true, then, since (2) is itself a generalization, (2) is false. But its falsity does not imply its truth. So, if false, then false. Assuming Bivalence, it follows that (2) is necessarily false, whence it follows that its negation -- Some generalizations are true -- is necessarily true, and moreover an instance of itself. A second example might be
3. There are no truths.
If (3) is true, then it is false. And if false, then false. So, (3) is necessarily false, whence it follows that its negation -- There are truths -- is necessarily true.
Examples (2) and (3) belong to Grade II in my tentative taxonomy. These are self-referential sentences that entail their own necessary falsehood. Grade III comprises those self-referential sentences that are such that if true, then neither true nor false, and if false, then false. For example,
4. There are no truth-bearers.
If (4) is true, then, since (4) is a truth-bearer, (4) is neither true nor false. But if false, then false. If we define the cognitively meaningful as that which is either true or false, then (4) is either cognitively meaningless or false. A more interesting example that seems to belong in Grade III is the Verifiability Principle of the Logical Positivists:
5. Every cognitively meaningful sentence is either analytic or empirically verifiable in principle.
If (5) is supposed to be cognitively (as opposed to emotionally) meaningful, and thus not a mere linguistic recommendation or pure stipulation, then it applies to itself. So if (5) is true, then (5) -- which is clearly neither analytic nor verifiable -- is meaningless. So, if true, then meaningless, and if false, then false. Therefore, either meaningless or false. Not good!
Grade IV comprises those self-referential sentences that can be described as self-vitiating (self-weakening) though they are not strictly self-refuting. For example,
6. All truths are relative.
If (6) is true, then (6) is relative, i.e., relatively true. It is not the case that if (6) is true, then (6) is false. So (6) is not self-refuting. Nevertheless, (6) is self-vitiating in that it relativizes and thus weakens itself: if true, it cannot be absolutely true; it can only be relatively true. It is therefore a mistake, one often made, to say that he who affirms (6) contradicts himself. He does not. He would contradict himself only if he maintained that it is nonrelatively true that all truths are relative. But no sophisticated relativist would say such a thing. Other examples which seem to fall into the category of the self-vitiating:
7. Every statement is subject to revision. (Quine) 8. Every theory reflects class interests. (Marxism) 9. All theory is ideology. (Marxism) 10. Nothing can be known. 11. Nothing is known. 12. Nothing is certain. 13. All truth is historical. 14. All is opinion.
What is wrong with self-vitiating propositions? What does their weakness consist in? Consider (8). If (8) is true, then the theory that every theory reflects class interests itself reflects class interests. Suppose (8) reflects the class interests of the proletariat. Then what is that to me, who am not a proletarian? What is it to anyone who is not a proletarian? If (8) is true only for you and those with your interests, and your interests are not my interests, then I have been given no reason to modify my views. The trouble with (7)-(14) and their ilk is that they make a claim on our rational attention, on our common rational interest, while undercutting that very claim.
It seems we need a fifth category. The sentences of Grade V are such that, if they are true then they are, not false, and not self-vitiating, but non-assertible. Consider
15. No statement is negative.
(15) applies to itself and so at first appears to refute itself: if (15) is true, then it is false. And if false, then false; hence necessarily false. But consider a possible world W in which God destroys all negative statements and makes it impossible for anyone to make a negative statement. In W, (15) is true, but non-assertible. (15) does not prove itself to be false; it proves itself to be non-assertible.
This is subject to the retort that one who asserts (17) must rely on memory, and so must presuppose the reliability of the faculty whose reliability he questions by asserting (17). For if anyone is to be in a position responsibly to affirm (17), to affirm it with a chance of its being true, he must remember that on some occasions he has misremembered. He must remember and remember correctly that some of his memories were merely apparent. It seems obvious, then, that the truth of (17) is inconsistent with its correctly being affirmed as true. If true, it is unaffirmable as true. But this is different from saying that (17), if true, is false. Although (17) is unaffirmable or non-assertible if true, it seems that (17) could be true nonetheless.
There are sentences the uttering of which falsifies them, and sentences the uttering of which verifies them. An example of the former is 'I am not talking now.' The act of uttering this sentence falsifies it. By contrast, the act of uttering 'I am talking now' verifies it. If to falsify is to make false, then to verify is to make true.
But 'verify' (from L. veritas, truth) is ambiguous, and clarity will be served if we distinguish its two senses, one epistemological, the other ontological.
In the epistemological sense, to verify a claim is to ascertain whether or not it is true. In its ontological sense, to verify is to make true. My saying 'I am now talking' makes true the proposition expressed by the sentence; it is not part of any ascertaining of the truth of the proposition expressed. The utterance-event is the truth-maker of the proposition in question. It is the ontic ground of the proposition's truth. There is, therefore, a clear sense in which the truthmaker of a truthbearer is its verifier.
This is an addendum to our earlier discussion which I hope will advance it a step or two. We heard Alan Rhoda claim that the following sentence is false: 'If nothing exists, then it is true that nothing exists.' Let's think further about this. We first note that 'If nothing exists, then it is true that nothing exists' can be parsed in two ways:
1. If nothing exists, then it is true that (nothing exists).
2. If nothing exists, then it is true (that nothing exists).
Call (1) the operator construal. 'It is true that ( )' is a sentential operator the operand of which is a sentence. The result of the operation is itself a sentence. If the operand is true, then the resulting sentence is true. If the operand is false, then the resulting sentence is false. Please note that prefixing 'It is true that' to a sentence cannot change the truth-value of the sentence. In this respect, the truth operator 'It is true that ( )' is unlike the negation operator 'It is not the case that ( ).' Assuming Bivalence -- as I have been doing throughout -- if you negate a true sentence you get a false one, and vice versa.
Call (2) the predicate construal. The consequent of (2) is of course a sentence, but it is not the result or product of a sentential operator operating upon a sentence. For what is within the parentheses is not a sentence. 'That nothing exists' is not a sentence. It does not have a truth-value. If I assertively utter it I do not convey a complete thought to my audience. 'That nothing exists' is the name of a proposition. It follows that 'it is true' in the consequent of (2) functions as a predicate as one can more clearly see from the equivalent
3. If nothing exists, then that nothing exists is true.
In (2) and (3) a predicate is attached to a name, whereas in (1) this is not the case: a sentential operator is attached to a sentence.
Not only are the parsings different, the ontological commitments are as well. (2) commits us to propositions while (1) doesn't. And (1) seems to commit us to operators while (2) doesn't.
Here is the place to comment on my asterisks convention. Putting asterisks around a declarative sentence forms a name of the proposition expressed by the sentence. 'The Moon is uninhabited' is a declarative sentence. '*The Moon is uninhabited*' is not a sentence but a name. It names an entity that has a truth-value, but it itself does not have a truth-value. (2) and (3) can also be rendered as
4. If nothing exists, then *Nothing exists* is true.
With the operator/predicate distinction under our belts we may be in a position to see how one philosopher (Alan) could reasonably reject 'If nothing exists, then it is true that nothing exists' while another accepts it. The one philosopher gives the original sentence the predicate construal which is committed to propositions. This philosopher then reasons that, if nothing exists, then no propositions exist either, and are therefore not available to instantiate the property of being true. The other philosopher gives the original sentence the operator construal and finds it impossible to understand how anyone could reject the original sentence so construed. This philosopher insists that if nothing exists, then it is true that nothing exists; that this truth is not nothing, and that therefore it is something, which implies that it cannot be the case that nothing exists.
The objector is inviting us to consider the possible situation in which beings like us do not exist and no truths either. The claim that this situation is possible, however, is equivalent to the claim that it is true that this situation is possible.
I think there's a mistake here. In general, p does not entail it is true that p. The envisioned scenario is a case in point. The sense in which the situation is admitted to be possible is purely negative in that absent truths, no contradiction results. To say, however, that it is true that the situation is possible, where truths are supposed to depend on cognizers, requires that the situation be possible in a positive sense, i.e., it requires that something be the case, not merely that contradictions not be the case.
Thanks, Alan. Let's rehearse the dialectic. I argued in a standard self-referential way that *There are truths* is not just true, but necessarily true. (For *There are no truths,* if true is false, and if false is false, hence is necessarily false, so its negation is necessarily true.) I then asked whether the necessity of its truth is unconditional or rests on a condition such as the existence of thinking beings. (In other words: is the necessity of truth merely a transcendental presupposition without which we cannot operate as thinking beings, or is the necessity of there being truths metaphysically grounded in rerum natura?) If the existence of truths is merely a transcendental presupposition, then it would seem that the following scenario is possible: there are no thinking beings and no truths either. If this scenario is possible, then the necessity of *There are truths* would be conditional. I then tried to show that the scenario is not possible by invoking the principle Necessarily, for any p, p --> it is true that p. My thought was that if it is possible that there be no thinking beings and no truths either, then it is true that this is possible. But if it is true that this is possible, then it is true independently of what anyone thinks. But then truth as something more than a transcendental presupposition is being presupposed.
I am afraid I don't understand your criticism of the reasoning. The principle p --> it is true that p strikes me as self-evident. Its 'intellectual luminosity,' if you will, will trump any putative counterexample. If snow is white, then it is true that snow is white; if grass is green, then it is true that grass is green; if it is possible that no thinkers and no truths exist, then it is true that it is possible that no truths and no thnkers exist. Now the point is that this last truth says how things are in a situation in which no thinkers exist; therefore it is a truth that cannot exist only if thinkers exist. It exists whether or not thinkers exist.
You write, "The sense in which the situation is admitted to be possible is purely negative in that absent truths, no contradiction results." I don't follow you. The situation is possible assuming that truth is a mere transcendental presupposition. Now suppose the possibility is actual. Then it will be true both that it is possible and that it is actual. So once again truth cannot be a mere transcendental presupposition.
You then say, " To say, however, that it is true that the situation is possible, where truths are supposed to depend on cognizers, requires that the situation be possible in a positive sense, i.e., it requires that something be the case, not merely that contradictions not be the case." But I am not claiming that truths are dependent on cognizers; I am refuting that view. If the existence of truths depends on cognizers, and cognizers exist contingently, then it is possible that there be no truths. But this is not possible since if, per impossibile, it were the case that there are no truths, then this would be the case, i.e., would be true.
The ComBox is open if you want to discuss this further.
In this post I first try to get clear about the truthmaker theory of predication proposed by Michael Bergmann and Jeffrey E. Brower in their A Theistic Argument Against Platonism. I then try to understand how it solves a certain problem in the doctrine of divine simplicity (DDS). Finally, I raise a question about the authors' solution.
The truthmaker theory of predication is a rival to the following theory of predication which, with a little inaccuracy, we can label 'Platonistic' so as to have a handy label:
P: The truth of all true predications, or at least of all true predications of the form "a is F", is to be explained in terms of a subject and an exemplifiable (however exemplifiables are themselves to be conceived). (p. 7)
This post will not address the authors' impressive theistic argument against P. For present purposes we can assume that it is sound the better to evaluate the alternative which Bergmann and Brower put as follows:
P*: The truth of all
true predications, or at least of all true predications of the form "a is F", is to be explained in terms of truthmakers. (p. 25)
To appreciate how the two theories differ, consider the proposition expressed by the true essential predication, 'God is divine.' The Platonistic theory explains the truth of this proposition in terms of the subject God and the exemplifiable, the property of being divine. The proposition is true because the subject exemplifies the property. By contrast, the truthmaker theory of predication explains the proposition's truth in terms of its truthmaker. Three questions: What is a truthmaker? What is the truthmaker of the proposition *God is divine*? What exactly is the difference between P and P*? The authors offer the following as a "partial analysis" of the notion of a truthmaker:
TM: If an entity E is a truthmaker for a predication P, then 'E exists' entails the truth expressed by P. (p. 22)
From TM and the fact that 'God is divine' is an essential predication it can be inferred that the truthmaker of this truth is God himself. For 'God exists' entails the truth expressed by 'God is divine.' This is because there is no possible world in which God exists and the proposition in question is not true. Thus God himself suffices as truthmaker for 'God is divine,' and there is no need for an exemplifiable entity or a concrete state of affairs (the subject's exemplifying of the exemplifiable entity.) This allows us to appreciate the difference between the Platonistic and the truthmaker theories of predication. The first, but not the second, requires that the explanation of a truth's being true invoke a subject and an exemplifiable. On the truthmaker theory it is not the case that every predication is such that its explanation requires the positing of a subject and an exemplifiable. The subjects of all essential predications of the form a is F suffice as truthmakers of the propositions expressed by these predications.
In the case of such accidental predications as 'Tom is tired,' the truthmaker cannot be Tom by himself, as the authors appreciate. (p. 26) Neither Tom nor Tom's existence nor *Tom exists* necessitates the truth of 'Tom is tired.' On one approach, the truthmaker of true accidental predications is a concrete state of affairs. On another, the truthmaker is a trope. I think it follows that P is a special case of P*. I don't find the authors stating this but it seems to be a clear implication of what they do say. According to the truthmaker theory of predication, the truth of every true affirmative monadic predication, whether essential or accidental, is explained by a truthmaker, an entity which can belong to any ontological category. The Platonistic theory is the special case in which the truthmaker either is or involves an exemplifiable. (A special case of this is the case in which the truthmaker is a concrete state of affairs.) The truthmaker theory is more general because it allows for truthmakers that neither are nor involve exemplifiables.
Application to Divine Simplicity
One of the entailments of the doctrine of divine simplicity (DDS) is that there is no distinction between God and his attributes. Thus God is (identical to) his goodness, his power, etc. We have discussed the motivation for this doctrine in earlier posts. But how could an individual be identical to its attributes or properties? If God is identical to one of his properties, such as the property of being divine, then it follows that he is a property or exemplifiable -- which is absurd. It is absurd because God is a person and persons are not exemplifiable entities. But if the truthmaker theory of predication is correct, then there is a way to make coherent sense of the notion that God is identical to his nature, goodness, power, wisdom, and other such attributes.
Consider 'God is his omnipotence.' If the abstract singular term 'God's omnipotence' is taken to refer to a property, then we get the unacceptable consequence that God is identical to a property. Proponents of the truthmaker theory of predication, however, can maintain that the referents of abstract singular terms are truthmakers. Accordingly, 'God's omnipotence' and 'God's divinity' refer respectively to the truthmakers of 'God is omnipotent' and 'God is divine' respectively. Because both of these predications are essential, the truthmaker of both is God himself. To say that God is identical to his omnipotence is to say that the referent of 'God' is identical to the referent of 'God's omnipotence.' And that amounts to the unproblematic claim that God is identical to God.
The authors have shown us a way to demonstrate the coherence of 'God is identical to his divinity' assuming we are prepared to accept P* and TM. But I wonder whether their demonstration 'proves too much.' Consider the parallel but presumably incoherent 'Socrates is identical to his humanity.' We now must ask whether the strategy that works in the case of God also works in the case of Socrates. If it does, then the radical difference between God and creature, which is part of the motivation for DDS, will not have been properly accommodated.
The authors will grant that Socrates is truthmaker enough for (the propositions expressed by) all essential predications about him. Thus Socrates himself makes true 'Socrates is human' by TM. Because they hold P* they will grant that no exemplifiable need be invoked to explain 'Socrates is human.' We needn't say that this is true because Socrates exemplifies the property of being human; we can say that it is true because 'Socrates' and 'Socrates humanity' have the same referent, namely Socrates. But then does it not follow that Socrates is ontologically simple, at least in respect of such essential predicates as 'human,' 'rational,' and the like? Does it not follow that Socrates is identical to his humanity, his rationality, animality, etc.? Rhetorical questions aside, I am arguing as follows:
a. Socrates is the truthmaker of 'Socrates is human' and like essential predications. (From TM)
b. Socrates is the referent of both 'Socrates' and 'Socrates' humanity.' (From P*) Therefore:
c. Socrates is identical to Socrates' humanity. (From b)
But we surely do not want to say that Socrates is identical to his humanity, rationality, etc. which would imply that his humanity, rationality,etc. are identical to one another. Socrates, unlike God, is a metaphysically composite being. So something appears to have gone wrong. The Bergmann-Brower approach appears to 'prove too much.' Their approach seems to imply what is false, namely, that both God and Socrates are ontologically simple in respect of their essential attributes.
Could a concrete individual such as my man Peter function as the truthmaker of an accidental predication about him such as *Peter is hungry*? Or must the truthmaker of such a truth be an entity with a proposition-like structure such as a concrete state of affairs or a trope? Earlier posts have assumed and sometimes argued that Peter himself cannot make true any true accidental predications about him. Alan Rhoda appears to disagree in a comment to an earlier post: "Unlike you, I don't find it 'obvious' that Peter cannot be the truthmaker of *Peter is hungry*. Or, rather, it's obvious if 'Peter' denotes a bare or thin particular . . . ."
So we need to take a few more steps into the truthmaking problematic. Whether or not Peter can function as the truthmaker of accidental predications about him depends on our 'ontological assay' (as Gustav Bergmann might have put it) of ordinary spatiotemporal particulars such as Peter.
1. I begin on an irenic note by granting to Alan that if 'Peter' denotes a bare or thin particular, then it is obvious that Peter cannot make true any accidental predications about him. But 'Peter' in our sample sentence does not denote a bare or thin particular; it denotes Peter 'clothed' in his intrinsic (nonrelational) properties, whether accidental or essential.
2. I now argue that even if we take Peter together with his properties he cannot be the truthmaker of *Peter is hungry,* *Peter is sunburned,* etc. It is widely agreed that if T makes true *p,* then *T exists* entails **p* is true.** (As before, asterisks around an indicative sentence form a name of the Fregean proposition expressed by the sentence.) Truthmaking is a form of broadly logical necessitation. So if Peter by himself is the truthmaker of *Peter is sunburned,* then in every possible world in which Peter exists, the proposition will be true. But surely this proposition is not true in every world in which Peter exists: being sunburned is an accidental property of Peter. Therefore, Peter by himself is not the truthmaker of such accidental propositions as *Peter is sunburned.*
3. So even if we take Peter together with all his intrinsic properties, he still cannot function as truthmaker of *Peter is sunburned,* etc. He cannot, because there are possible worlds in which Peter exists, but *Peter is F* (where 'F' picks out an accidental property) is false. But what if we 'assay' Peter as a concrete state of affairs (not to be confused with a Chisholmian-Plantingian abstract state of affairs) along the lines of a Bergmannian or Armstrongian ontology? Take the conjunction of all of Peter's intrinsic properties and call that conjunction K. What is left over is the individuating element in Peter, call it a. We can then think of Peter as the state of affairs or fact of a's being K. Included within this maximal state of affairs are various submaximal states of affairs such as a's being F, where 'F' picks out an accidental property. We can then say that Peter, as a concrete maximal state of affairs which includes the submaximal state of affairs of Peter's being sunburned, is the truthmaker of *Peter is sunburned.*
This, indeed, is my 'official' line, the line I took in my book on existence. For reasons I can't go into now, I assayed ordinary particulars are concrete states of affairs. But many philosophers will balk at this. Barry Miller, for instance, if I rightly recall, told me that it is a category mistake to think of ordinary particulars as states of affairs. I see his point, but it is hardly compelling. Be that as it may, I have been assuming in these posts on truthmaking that ordinary particulars are not states of affairs.
And so I say to Alan Rhoda, if ordinary particulars are not concrete states of affairs, then such particulars, by themselves, cannot function as truthmakers for accidental predications about them. The reason was given above in #2. Only if an ordinary particular or concrete individual has a proposition-like structure, only if it is a concrete state of affairs or something like one, can it function as truthmaker of accidental predications about it.
4. To sum up. Rhoda and I agree that bare or thin particulars cannot serve as truthmakers for accidental predications. And it may be that we are also in agreement if he goes along with the Bergmannian-Armstrongian ontological assay of ordinary spatiotemporal particulars as concrete states of affairs. But I do disagree with him if he thinks that ordinary particulars, not so assayed, can function as truthmakers of accidental predications.
That truth has something to do with correspondence to extralinguistic and extramental fact is a deeply entrenched intuition. One could call it the classical intuition about truth inasmuch as one can find formulations of it in Plato and Aristotle. When suppressed, it has a way of reasserting itself. Sent packing through the front door, it returns through the back. Herewith, two brief demonstrations that this is so.
A. Truth as Idealized Rational Acceptability
One way of suppressing the classical intuition is by offering an epistemic definition of 'true.' One attempts to explicate truth in terms of mental states. Thus someone might suggest that a proposition is true just in case it is believed or accepted by someone. But this won't do, since there are truths that are not accepted by anyone. So one proposes that a proposition is true just when it is acceptable. This proposal, too, is defective inasmuch as what is acceptable to one person will not be acceptable to another. This defect can perhaps be handled by identifying truth with rational acceptability. But what it is rational to accept at one time or in one place may be different from what it is rational to accept at another time or in another place. Much of what we find rationally acceptable would not have been found rationally acceptable by the ancient Greeks. (For example, that the same physics holds both for terrestrial and for celestial bodies.) So one advances to the notion that truth is rational acceptability at the ideal limit of inquiry. One can trace this notion back to C. S. Peirce. In Reason, Truth, and History, Hilary Putnam presents a version of it. Let's consider the theory in the following form:
1. *P* is true =df *p* would be accepted in cognitively ideal conditions.
Now we know that
2. Cognitive conditions are not ideal.
From (2) it follows via the trivial equivalence principle *p* is true iff p that
3. *Cognitive conditions are not ideal* is true.
It follows from (3) via (1) that
4. *Cognitive conditions are not ideal* would be accepted in cognitively ideal conditions.
But (4) is self-contradictory, whence it follows that
5. The definition of truth in terms of acceptability in cognitively ideal conditions is incorrect.
What I take this argument to show is that the notion of truth as correspondence to the way things are is primary and irreducible. For surely (2) is true. But its being true cannot be explicated in terms of what anyone would accept or assert under ideal epistemic conditions. Therefore, (2) is true in a sense more basic than the sense spelled out in (1).
This supports the 'truthmaker intuition': some if not all truths require truthmakers. Truths do not 'hang in the air.' What is actually true cannot depend on what some merely possible subject would accept at the ideal limit of inquiry.
B. Truth as Coherence
We get a similar result if we try to construe truth as coherence. Suppose
6. P is true =df p would be accepted by a person whose set of beliefs is maximally consistent and coherent.
But we know that
7. No one's set of beliefs is maximally consistent and coherent.
From (7) it follows via the above equivalence principle that
8. No one's set of beliefs is maximally consistent and coherent is true.
It follows from (8) via (6) that
9. No one's set of beliefs is maximally consistent and coherent would be accepted by a person whose set of beliefs is maximally consistent and coherent.
Could a concrete individual such as the man Peter function as a truthmaker? Peter Lupu and I both find this idea highly counterintuitive. And yet many contemporary writers on truth and truthmaking have no problem with it. They have no problem with the notion that essential predications about x are made true by x itself, for any x. Assume that the primary truthbearers are Fregean propositions and consider the Fregean proposition *Peter is human.* (Asterisks around a declarative sentence form a name of the Fregean proposition expressed by the sentence.) Being human is an essential property of Peter: it is a property he has in every possible world in which he exists. It follows that there is no world in which Peter exists and *Peter is human* is not true. Hence Peter himself logically suffices for the truth of *Peter is human.* Similarly for every essential predication involving our man. Why then balk at the notion that a concrete individual can serve as a truthmaker?
Here is an argument in support of balking:
1. Every asymmetric relation is irreflexive. (Provable within first-order predicate logic. Exercise for the reader: prove it!)
2. Truthmaking is an asymmetric relation. If T makes true *p*, then *p* does not make true T.
3. Truthmaking is irreflexive. (From 1, 2)
4. Whatever makes true a proposition admitting of existential generalization also makes true the proposition which is its existential generalization. For example, if Peter makes true *Peter is human,* then Peter makes true the existential generalization *There are humans.* And if *Peter is human* makes true **Peter is human* is a proposition,* then *Peter is human* makes true *There are propositions.* (It is a universally accepted axiom of truthmaking that one and the same truthmaker can make true more than one truthbearer. Truthmaking is not a one-to-one relation.)
5. If a concrete individual, by itself and in virtue of its mere existence, can make a true an essential predication about it, then an entity of any ontological category can, by itself and in virtue of its mere existence, make true an essential predication about it. And conversely. For example, if Peter makes true *Peter is human,* then *Peter is human* makes true **Peter is human* is a proposition* and also **Peter is human* is an abstract object,* etc. And conversely: if *Peter is human* makes true **Peter is human* is a proposition,* then Peter makes true *Peter is human.*
6. *There are propositions* is essentially a proposition.
7. A concrete individual, by itself and in virtue of its mere existence, can make true an essential predication about it.
8. *There are propositions* is made true by *Peter is human* and indeed by any proposition, including *There are propositions.* (From 4, 5, 6, 7. To spell it out: Peter makes true *Peter is human* by 7; *Peter is human* makes true **Peter is human* is a proposition* by 5 and 6. *There are propositions* is the existential generalization of **Peter is human* is a proposition.* *Peter is human* makes true *There are propositions* by 4. *Peter is human,*, however, can be replaced by any proposition in this reasoning. Therefore, *There are propositions* is made true by any proposition including *There are propositions.*
9. *There are propositions* has itself as one of its truthmakers. (From 8)
10. It is not the case that truthmaking is irreflexive. (From 9. Note that when we say of a relation that it has a property such as symmetry or irreflexivity, we mean that that has this property essentially.)
11. (10) contradicts (3).
12. One of the premises is false. (From 11)
13. The only premises that are even remotely controvertible are (2) and (7).
14. (2), which affirms the asymmetry of truthmaking, cannot be reasonably denied. Why not? Well, the whole point of truthmaking is to provide a metohysical, not empirical, explanation of the truth of truthbearers. Explanation, however, is asymmetric by its very nature: if x explains y, then y does not explain x.
15. (7) is false: it it not the case that a concrete individual, by itself, can serve as a truthmaker.
Credit where credit is due: The above is my attempt to put into a rigorous form some remarks of Marian David which point up the tension between the asymmetry of truthmaking and the notion that concrete individuals, by themselves, can serve as the truthmakers for essential predications about them. See his essay "Truth-making and Correspondence" in Truth and Truth-Making, eds. Lowe and Rami. McGill 2009, 137-157, esp. 152-154.
1. On one acceptation of the term, a nominalist is one who holds that everything that exists is a concrete individual. Nominalists accordingly eschew such categories of entity as: universals, whether transcendent or immanent, Fregean propositions, Castaneda's ontological operators, mathematical sets, tropes (abstract particulars, perfect particulars), and concrete states of affairs. Nominalists of course accept that there are declarative sentences and that some of them are true. Consider the true
1. Peter is hungry.
Nominalists cheerfully admit that the proper name 'Peter' denotes something external to language and mind, a particular man, which we can call the 'ontological correlate' of the subject term. But, ever wary of "multiplying entities beyond necessity," nominalists fight shy of admitting an ontological correlate of 'hungry,' let alone a correlate of 'is.' And yet, given that (1) is true, 'hungry' is true of Peter. (In a simple case like this, the predicate is true of the the referent of the subject term iff the sentence is true.) Now philosophers like me are wont to ask: In virtue of what is 'hungry' true of Peter? Since 'hungry' applies to Peter in the way in which 'leprous,' 'anorexic,' and other predicates do not, I find it reasonable to put the same question as follows: What is the ontological ground of the correct application of 'hungry' to Peter?
2. In answering this question I introduce two posits that will enrage the nominalist and offend against his ontologcal parsimoniousness. First of all, we need an o-correlate of 'hungry.' I admit of course that 'hungry' in our sample sentence functions differently than 'Peter.' The latter is a name, the former is what Frege calls a concept-word (Begriffswort). Nevertheless, there must be something in reality that corresponds to 'hungry,' and whatever it is it cannot be identical to Peter. Why not? Well, Peter, unlike my cat, is not hungry at every time at which he exists; and for every time t in the actual world at which he is hungry, there is some possible world in which he is not hungry at t. Therefore, Peter cannot be identical to the o-correlate of 'hungry.'
We are back to our old friend (absolute numerical) identity which is an equivalence relation (reflexive, symmetrical, transitive) governed by the Indiscernibility of Identicals and the Necessity of Identity.
3. But why do we need an o-correlate of 'hungry' at all? I asked: in virtue of what is 'hungry' true of Peter? One sort of nominalist, the 'ostrich nominalist,' will say that there is nothing in virtue of which 'hungry' is true of Peter. For him is is just a 'brute fact,' i.e., an inexplicable datum, that 'hungry' correctly applies to Peter. There is no need of an ontological ground of the correctness of this application. There is no room for a special philosophical explanation of why 'hungry' is true of Peter. It just applies to him, and that's the end of the matter. The ostrich nominalist of course grants that Peter's being hungry can be explained 'horizontally' in terms of antecedent and circumambient empirical causes; what he denies is that there is need for some further 'philosophical' or 'metaphysical' or 'ontological' explanation of the truth of 'Peter is hungry.'
If a nominalist says that 'hungry' is true of Peter because Peter is hungry, then I say he moves in a circle of embarrasingly short diameter. What we want to understand are the ontological commitments involved in the true sentence, 'Peter is hungry.' We need more than Peter. We need something that grounds the correctness of the application of 'hungry' to him. To say that 'hungry' is true of Peter because Peter is hungry presupposes what we are trying to understand. Apart from this diversionary tactic, the ostrich nominalist is back to saying that there is nothing extralingusitic that grounds the correct application of 'hungry' to Peter. He is denying the possibility of any metaphysical explanation here. He is saying that it is just a brute fact that 'hungry' applies to Peter.
4. As for my second posit, I would urge that introducing an o-correlate for 'hungry' such as a universal tiredness does not suffice to account for the truth of the sample sentence. And this for the simple reason that Peter and tiredness could both exist withough Peter being tired. What we need is a concrete state of affairs, an entity which, though it has Peter and tiredness as constituents, is distinct from each and from the mereological sum of the two.
5. Now one can argue plausibly against both posits. And it must be admitted that both posits give rise to conundra that cast doubt on them. But what is the alternative? Faced with a problem, the ostrich sticks his head in the sand. Out of sight, out of mind. Similarly. the ostrich nominalist simply ignores the problem. Or am I being unfair?
Perhaps the issue comes down to this: Must we accept the truth of sentences like (1) as a 'brute fact,' i.e. as something insusceptible of explanation (apart, of course, from causal explanation), OR is there the possibility of a philosophical account?
6. Finally, it is worth nothing that the nominalist blunders badly if he says that Peter is hungry in virtue of 'hungry''s applying to him. For that is a metaphysical theory and an absurd one to boot: it makes Peter's being hungry depend on the existence of the English predicate 'hungry.' To avoid an incoherent, Goodmanaical, linguistic idealism, the nominalist should give no metaphysical explanation and be content to say it is just a brute fact that Peter is hungry.
For Peter Lupu discussions with whom helped me clarify my thoughts on this topic.
0. What David Armstrong calls Truthmaker Maximalism is the thesis that every truth has a truthmaker. Although I find the basic truthmaker intuition well-nigh irresistible, I have difficulty with the notion that every truth has a truthmaker. Thus I question Truthmaker Maximalism.
1. Compare *Peter is tired* and *Every concretum is self-identical.* I will argue that propositions like the first have truthmakers while propositions like the second do not. (A declarative sentence enclosed in asterisks names the Fregean proposition expressed by the sentence. I will assume that the primary truthbearers are Fregean propositions. By definition, a truth is a true truthbearer.)
2. Intuitively, the first truth is in need of something external to it that 'makes' it true or determines it to be true, or serves as the ontological ground of its truth. By 'external to it,' I don't just mean that the truthmaker of a truth must be distinct from it: this condition is satisfied by a distinct proposition that entails it. What I mean is that the truthmaker must be both distinct from the truthbearer and not, like the truthbearer, a 'representational entity' where the latter term covers such items as sentences, contents of judgments, and Fregean propositions (the senses of context-free sentences in the indicative mood.) In other words, a truthmaker of a first-order truth such as *Peter is tired* must be outside the sphere of representations: it must be extralinguistic, extramental, and extra-propositional. Truthmakers, then, are 'in the world' in one sense of 'world.' They are ontological grounds of truth. Thus the truthmakers of propositions like *Peter is tired* cannot belong to the category of propositions. The ontological ground of such a proposition cannot be an entity within the sphere of propositions.
Some recent attempts (by G. Oppy, J. Brower, A. Pruss and perhaps others) at making sense of the doctrine of divine simplicity (DDS) have invoked the truthmaker principle (TMP). I made heavy use of TMP in my A Paradigm Theory of Existence (Kluwer 2002), though not in defense of DDS. Being a self-critical sort, I am now re-examining the case for TMP. Note that acceptance of TMP does not straightaway commit one to acceptance of any particular category of entity as truthmakers such as concrete states of affairs. One could accept TMP and hold that truthmakers are tropes. And there are other possibilities. So before we can address the truthmaker defense of DDS we must (i) argue for TMP and then (ii) decide on what can and cannot function as truthmakers. In this post I consider some of what can be said for and against truthmaking in general. It looks like we might be in for a long series of posts on this fascinating but difficult topic.
1. One of the entailments of the doctrine of divine simplicity (DDS) is that God is identical to: God's omniscience, God's omnipotence, and in general God's X-ness, where 'X' ranges over the divine attributes. And it is easy to see that if God = God's F-ness, and God = God's G-ness, then (by transitivity of identity) God's F-ness = God's G-ness. I suggest that we use 'divine attribute' to refer to those properties of God that are both essential and intrinsic. The problem, of course, is to make sense of these identities given the fact that, prima facie, they do not make sense. The pattern is the same as with Trinity and Incarnation. These doctrines imply identities which, on the face of it, beggar understanding. It thus falls to the philosopher of religion to try to render coherent that which, on the face of it, is incoherent.
2. One of the questions that arise when we try to make sense of DDS concerns which category of entity such phrases as 'God's omniscience' pick out. One possibility is that such phrases pick out properties, whether universal (multiply exemplifiable) properties or particular (not multiply exemplifiable) properties, also known as tropes. But this leads to trouble as Brower points out. For if God is identical either to omniscience or to his omniscience, then God is identical to a property -- which sounds absurd: how can God, a person, be a property? Properties are predicable entities, but God is an individual and so not predicable. Properties are exemplifiable entities (whether multiply or non-multiply); but God is an individual and so not exemplifiable. Properties are abstract (causally inert) whereas God is concrete (causally active/passive). No property is a person, but God is a person. No property creates or knows or loves. These are some hastily sketched reasons for thinking that God cannot be identical to his properties.
3. Jeffrey E. Brower forwards an interesting proposal. He suggests that such phrases as 'God's nature,' 'God's goodness' and 'God's power' refer to "entities of a broadly functional type -- namely, truthmakers." (Simplicity and Aseity, sec. 2) The idea is that 'God's omniscience' refers to the trruthmaker of 'God is omniscient' or perhaps to the truthmaker of the proposition expressed by 'God is omniscient.' If (Fregean) propositions are the primary truthbearers, then (tokenings of) declarative sentences that express such propositions can be said to be secondary truthbearers. I trust that it is clear that truthbearers and truthmakers are not to be confused. One key difference is that while some truthbearers are are false, no truthmaker is false. Truth and falsity are properties of certain representations (propositions, declarative sentences, beliefs, judgments, etc.) whereas truthmakers are the ontological grounds of some true truthbearers. If I understand Brower's view, it is not only that truthmakers are neither true nor false -- every TM theorist will hold this -- but also that truthmakers are not at all proposition-like. By contrast, I follow D. M. Arstrong in holding that truthmakers must have a proposition-like structure. But more on this in a moment.
4. Roughly, a truthmaker is whatever plays a certain role or performs a certain function; it is whatever makes true a true truthbearer. The 'truthmaker intuition' -- which I share with Brower -- is that a sentence such as 'Tom is blogging' cannot just be true; there is need of some worldly entity to 'make' it true, to serve as the ontological ground of its truth, to 'verify' it in an ontological, not epistemological, sense of this term. To say that some or all truthbearers need truthmakers is not yet to specify which sort of entity plays the truthmaker role. Among philosophers who accept the need for truthmakers there is disagreement about the ontological category to which they belong.
Brower says rather incautiously that the functional characterization of truthmakers "places no restriction on the specific nature or ontological category to which a truthmaker can belong." (sec 2.1) That can't be right. Surely there are some restrictions. For one thing, a truthmaker cannot be a Fregean proposition for the simple reason that such items are among the items made true by truthmakers. And the same goes for declarative sentences, beliefs, and judgments. My belief that the cat is asleep is either true or false and as such is a truthbearer. It is in need of a truthmaker but is not itself one. Of course, the fact of my believing that the cat is asleep can serve as truthmaker for the sentence ' BV now believes that the cat is asleep' if concrete facts are admitted as truthmakers -- but that is something else again. So not just anything can be a truthmaker. Charitably interpreted, what Brower is telling us is that TM theorists are allowed some ontological latitude when it comes to specifying which category of entity is fit to play the truthmaker role.
5. Let us note that if a true Fregean proposition p entails a Fregean proposition q, then one could say that the first 'makes true' the second. And so one could speak of the first as a 'truthmaker' of the second. But this is not what is meant by 'truthmaking' in these discussions despite the fact that p broadly logically necessitates q. What is intended is a relation of broadly logical necessitation that connects a nonpropositional entity (but on some theories a proposition-like entity) to a propositional entity, or more precisely, to an entity that can serves as the bearer or vehicle of a truth-value. As I see it, the entailment relation and the truthmaking relation are species of broadly logical necessitation; but truthmaking is not entailment. Entailment will never get you 'outside the circle of propositions'; but that is exactly what truthmaking is supposed to do. A truthmaker is an ontological, not propositional or representational truth-ground. Philosophers who are attracted to truthmakers typically have a realist sense that certain of our representations need to be anchored in reality.
Brower sees it a little differently. He would agree with me that entailment and truthmaking cannot be identical, but he thinks of it as "a form of broadly logical necessitation or entailment" and says that entailment is necessary but not sufficient for truthmaking. (Sec. 2.1) So Brower seems to be maintaining that while there is more to truthmaking than entailment, every truthmaker entails the truth it makes true. But this makes little or no sense. Entailment is a relation defined on propositions. If x entails y, then you can be sure that x and y are propositions or at least proposition-like entities, whether these be sentences or judgments or beliefs or even concrete states of affairs such as the fact of (not the fact that) Peter's being tired, which concrete fact contains Peter himself as constituent, warts and all. But for Brower, as we will see in a moment, concrete individuals such as Socrates, entities that are neither propositions nor proposition-like, can serve as truthmakers. As far as I can see, it makes no sense to say that Socrates entails a proposition. It makes no sense because entailment is defined in terms of truth, and no individual can be true or false. To say that p entails q is to say that it is impossible that p be true and q false. Since it makes no sense to say of an individual that it is true, it makes no sense to say of an individual that it entails a proposition. So truthmaking cannot be a type or species of entailment if individuals are truthmakers.
6. But setting aside for the moment the above worry, if it makes sense to say that God is the truthmaker of 'God is omniscient,' and if 'God's omniscience' refers to this truthmaker, then it will be clear how God can be identical to God's omniscience. For then 'God is identical to his omniscience' is no more problematic than 'God is God.' It will also be clear how God's omniscience can be identical to God's omnipotence.
7. But can it really be this easy to show that DDS is coherent? Although I agree with Brower that some truthbearers need truthmakers, I don't see how truthmakers could be ontologically structureless individuals or 'blobs' as opposed to 'layer-cakes' in Armstrong's terminology. By 'ontologically structureless' I mean lacking in propositional or proposition-like structure. Consider the following true intrinsic essential predicative sentences: 'Socrates is human,' 'Socrates is an animal,' Socrates is a material object,' 'Socrates exists,' and 'Socrates is self-identical.' (It is not obvious that 'Socrates exists' is an essential predication inasmuch as Socrates exists contingently, but let's not enter into this thorny thicket just now.)
Brower's claim is that in each of these cases (which parallel the true intrinsic essential predications of divine attributes) the truthmaker is the concrete individual Socrates himself. Thus Socrates is the truthmaker of 'Socrates is human' just as God is the truthmaker of 'God is omniscient.' Unfortunately, no individual lacking propositional or proposition-like structure can serve as a truthmaker as I argued in #5 above. Just as it makes no sense to say that Socrates is true, it makes no sense to say that Socrates entails the proposition expressed by 'Socrates is human.'
There is more to say, but tomorrow's another day. Time to punch the clock.
Ed Feser has a very useful post which clears up some unfortunately common confusions with respect to talk about facts and opinions. I agree with what he says but would like to add a nuance. Feser distinguishes two senses of 'fact,' one metaphysical (I prefer the term 'ontological') the other epistemological:
Fact (1): an objective state of affairs
Fact (2): a state of affairs known via conclusive arguments, airtight evidence, etc.
I suggest that we distinguish within the metaphysical Fact(1) between facts-that, which are true propositions, and facts-of, which are worldly states of affairs that function as the truth-makers of true propositions. If I say that table salt is NaCl, what I say is a fact in the epistemological sense of being something known to be the case, but it is also a fact in two further senses. Uttering 'Table salt is NaCl' I express a true proposition. (I take a Fregean line on propositions: they are the senses of context-free declarative sentences.) Clearly, the proposition expressed by my utterance is true whether or not anyone knows it. So this is an ontological use of 'fact.' But it is arguable that (contingent) propositions, which are truth-bearers, have need of truth-makers. Truth-makers are plausibly taken to be worldly (concrete) states of affairs. (Not to be confused with the abstract states of affairs of Chisholm and Plantinga.) Thus the proposition expressed by 'Table salt is NaCl' is made-true by the concrete state of affairs, the fact-of, table salt's being sodium chloride.
One way to see the difference between a proposition, a truth-bearer, and its truth-maker is by noting that Tom himself, all 200 lbs of him, is not a constituent of the Fregean proposition expressed by 'Tom is tired,' whereas Tom himself is a constituent of the fact-of Tom' s being tired. More fundamentally, if you have realist intuitions, it should seem self-evident that a true proposition cannot just be true; it is in need of an ontological ground of its truth. It is true that my desk is littered with books, but this truth (true proposition) doesn''t hang in the air so to speak, it is grounded in a truth-making fact involving concrete books and a desk.
Many, many questions can be raised about truth-bearers, truth-makers, and so on, but all that comes later. For now, the point is merely to sketch a prima facie three-fold distinction that one ought to be aware of even if, later down the theoretical road one decides that facts-that can be identified with facts-of, or that a conflation of facts in the epistemological sense with facts-that can be justified, or whatever. Such theoretical identifications and conflations presuppose for their very sense such preliminary prima facie distinctions as I have just made.
A certain popular writer speaks of a God delusion. This prompts the query whether there might be a 'No God' delusion. Is it perhaps the case that atheism is a delusion? Bruce Charlton, M. D. , returns an affirmative answer in Is Atheism Literally a Delusion? In this post I will try to understand his basic argument and see if I should accept it. The following is my reconstruction of the core of Charlton's argument:
A comment to mull over regarding your premise (A) in your recent post about Eliminative Materialism.
A. If a proposition is true, then it is possibly such that it is believed by someone.
Premise (A) says that in order for a proposition to be true, it is a necessary condition that it can be the content of someone's belief. But there may be true propositions that cannot be for one reason or another the content of our beliefs. For instance, perhaps there are true mathematical propositions that are so complicated or so long or require such a complicated proof that it would be simply impossible for the human mind to believe. Perhaps some other mind, for instance God's mind, can comprehend them, know them, and hence believe them: but no mortal mind can do so. Thus, it seems that premise (A) requires the existence of a deity in order to make it work.
Good point. (A) is subject to scope ambiguity as between:
A*. If a proposition p is true, then there exists a subject S such that, possibly, S believes that p.
A**. If a proposition p is true, then, possibly there exists a subject S and S believes that p.
Given Peter's point above, (A*) would seem to require for its truth that there be a divine mind. But all I need for my argument against eliminative materialism is (A**), which does not require for its truth that there exist any mind, let alone a divine mind. What (A**) says is that a necessary condition of a proposition's being true as that it be possible that there exist a believer of it.
My point was that the concept of truth is the concept of something that cannot be coherently conceived except in relation to the epistemic concepts of belief and knowledge. Now there needn't be any beliefs for there to be true (or false) propositions. But if beliefs are not possible, then neither are true propositions. Now eliminative materialism implies not only that there are no beliefs, but that there cannot be any. But then there cannot be any true propositions either.
Recall the argument against beliefs. It went like this: (1) If beliefs are anything, then they are brain states; (2) beliefs exhibit original intentionality; (3) no physical state, and thus no brain state, exhibits original intentionality; therefore (4) there are no beliefs. Since each of the premises is a necessary truth if it is a truth, the conclusion, which validly follows, is a necessary truth if it is a truth.
Thus the EM-er does not merely claim that, as a matter of fact, there are no beliefs; his claim is that there cannot be any. Of course, that renders his position even more absurd. But that's not my problem!
CORRECTION (12/18): Peter rightly points out that (A**) needs tweaking. Consider its contrapositive which is logically equivalent: If it is not possible that there exist a subject S such that S believes that p, then it is not the case that p is true. Unfortunately, the consequent of the contrapositive conditional could be taken to mean that p is not true, and thus (assuming Bivalence) false, when the idea is rather that p lacks a truth-value. So (A**) ought to be replaced by
A***. If a proposition p has a truth-value, then, possibly there exists a subject S such that S believes (disbelieves, entertains, etc.) that p.
Theodor Adorno is exasperating but exciting. Although as sloppy as one expects Continental thinkers to be, he is nonetheless a force to be reckoned with, a serious man who is seriously grappling with ultimates at the outer limits of intelligibility. Derrida I dismiss as a bullshitter, indeed, to cop a line from John Searle, as someone who "gives bullshit a bad name." But I can't dismiss Adorno. I confess to being partial to the Germans. They are nothing if not serious, and I'm a serious man. Among the French there is an excess of facade and frippery. But now let's get to work — like good Germans.
In an earlier Rorty installment I said, among other things, that "He wants to substitute rhetoric for argument but without quite giving up argument. So he ends up giving shoddy arguments . . . ." You think I'm being unfair, don't you? Well, let's see. Here is a passage from Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, Cambridge UP 1989, p. 5:
Truth cannot be out there — cannot exist independently of the human mind — because sentences cannot so exist, or be out there. The world is out there, but descriptions of the world are not. Only descriptions of the world can be true or false. The world on its own, — unaided by the describing activities of human beings — cannot.
"One should not dispute with those who deny first principles." I found this Latin tag in Luther's Tischreden (Table Talks) in a section entitled Unnütze Fragen (Useless Questions), Weimarer Ausgabe, III, 2844. He applied it to those who deny the authority of the Bible. I agree with the maxim but I find that the good doctor has misapplied it. One who is serious about the truth should want to enter into dialogue with intelligent, sincere, civil, and serious people regardless of their point of view, and this includes those who deny the authority of the Bible. How can one care about the truth and not want to study every philosophy, every religion, and every political ideology? Study everything! How can a serious inquirer not want to know whether what he holds to be true really is true?
But a maxim that can be misapplied can also be correctly applied. There are some principles so fundamental that they cannot be rationally disputed. Among these are the principles that make possible rational discourse. There was a nincompoop of a leftist commenter at the now defunct Right Reason once who opined that truth is a social construction. Anyone who maintains a thesis of such stark absurdity is not one on whom one should waste any words. That truth is absolute, and as such the opposite of a social construction, is a first principle to which Luther's maxim applies. If you have truth, you have something absolute -- which is not to say that you have truth!
This post floats the suggestion that deflationism about truth is inconsistent with relativism about truth. Not that one should be a deflationist. But it would be interesting if deflationism entailed the nonrelativity of truth.
There is a sense in which deflationary theories of truth deny the very existence of truth. For what these theories deny is that anything of a unitary and substantial nature corresponds to the predicate 'true' or 'is true.' To get a feel for the issue, start with the platitude that some of the things people say are true and some of the things people say are not true. People who say that Hitler died by his own hand in the Spring of 1945 say something true, while those who say that no Jews were gassed at Auschwitz say something that is not true. Given the platitude that there are truths and untruths, classically-inclined philosophers will inquire: What is it that all and only the truths have in common in virtue of which they are truths? What is truth? What is the property of being-true?
Michael Krausz, "Relativism and Beyond" in Relativism, Suffering and Beyond, eds. Bilimoria and Mohanty (Oxford, 1997), pp. 97-98:
The classical 'self-refuting' argument against relativism runs roughly along the following lines. If relativism is true then the thesis of relativism itself must be relatively true. It would be contradictory to affirm that relativism is true in an absolute sense. But while one could affirm that relativism is true in a relative sense, the counter-argument goes, to say that relativism is only relatively true has no general force. In order for the thesis to have general force it should include itself and should be presumed to be absolutely true. But that, again, would be contradictory.
In response . . . one might observe that there is no reason to rule out of court any non-general thesis of relativism. That is, the claim that the thesis of relativism is a thesis embraced locally does not itself show that it has no content or is not locally defensible. Local knowledge is knowledge nonetheless. Rather along lines suggested by Nelson Goodman, the aim of justifying local claims, including the thesis of relativism itself, need not be the establishment of of a general or a universal or an absolutist claim but may well be in the name of unpacking local understanding.
In an earlier piece I argued that one can be both an absolutist about the nature of truth while being a fallibilist about the knowledge of truth. But a reader demands to know why we should accept that truth by its very nature is absolute. One reason is that the doctrine that truth is non-absolute (relative) is self-refuting. Herewith, a first installment.
The alethic relativist holds that truth (Gr. aletheia) is relative. Some call this cognitive relativism to distinguish it from ethical and other types of relativism. I prefer to avoid this terminology because it tends to conflate truth and knowledge, which are obviously distinct. (If S knows that p, then p is true; but a proposition can be true without being known by any (finite) mind.) To be relative, of course, is to be relative to something. Among candidate relata are individuals, social groups, cultures, conceptual frameworks, historical epochs, zoological species, and others besides. Thus there are different types of alethic relativism depending on the parameter or index to which truth is said to be relative. This being understood, there will be no harm in speaking simply of truth as relative.
There is much popular confusion concerning the topic of relativism. One fallacy I exposed earlier, namely, the mistake of thinking that Einstein's Theory of Relativity implies either moral relativism or relativism about truth. Even more widespread, perhaps, is the notion that one who opposes relativism about truth must be a dogmatist. But there are two distinctions here and they must not be confused. One is the distinction between relativism and nonrelativism, and the other is the distinction between fallibilism and dogmatism. The first distinction has to do with the nature of truth, while the second pertains to the knowledge of truth.
British (Catholic) historian Paul Johnson in his wonderful Modern Times attributes relativism's rise to Einstein! So does Einstein's latest biographer.
There are two questions that must be distinguished. The first is whether Einstein's Theory of Relativity entails either moral or cognitive (alethic) relativism. The second question is whether Einstein's revolutionary contributions to physics, via their misinterpretation by journalists and other shallow people (am I being unfair?), contributed to an atmosphere in which people would be more likely to embrace moral and cognitive relativism. The first question belongs to the philosophy of science, the second to the sociology of belief. The questions are plainly distinct.
Anthony Flood informs me that he has uploaded to his site an article I brought to his attention a couple of years ago: Retortion: The Method and Metaphysics of Gaston Isaye. Whether or not you agree with Tony's politics, and I don't, you should agree with me that his site is an ever-expanding repository of valuable articles and other materials from often neglected thinkers. The trouble with too many contemporary philosophers is that they are so bloody narrow: they read only the latest stuff, much of it destined to be ephemeral, by a few people. You've got young academic punks writing on free will who have never studied Schopenhauer's classic essay. That's contemptible. They suffer from a onesided philosophical diet as Wittgenstein said in another connection. Study everything! (But join nothing.) As I mentioned to Tony in an e-mail, retortion is a philosophical procedure that is fascinating but hard to evaluate. It seems to work on some topics, but not on others. It does seem to me to work when it comes to the topic of truth, as the following post explains:
Retortion (also spelled 'retorsion') is the philosophical procedure whereby one seeks to establish a thesis by uncovering a performative inconsistency in anyone (any actual or possible rational agent) who attempts to deny it. Proofs by retortion have the following form:
Proposition p is such that anyone who denies it falls into performative inconsistency; ergo, p is true.
If we agree that a proposition is ineluctable just in case it cannot be denied by anyone without performative inconsistency, then the retorsive proof-strategy can be summed up in the conditional: