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Wednesday, March 31, 2010


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Hi Bill,

Very nice. I'm one of those who is inclined to say that a concrete individual--not a bare particular, but a particular with all of its intrinsic properties--can serve as a truthmaker, so you're argument offers an interesting challenge.

I'm not sure what my best response might be at this point, but offhand I'm tempted to doubt (2) and say that truthmaking is a non-symmetric relation, not an asymmetric relation. It seems plausible to me that some propositions are their own truthmakers. The most obvious candidates are analytically true propositions. To the rejoinder that explanation is inherently asymmetrical, again, I'm inclined to deny this in favor of its being non-symmetrical. (This is compatible with the claim that some *types* of explanations - causal explanations, for example - are inherently asymmetrical.) This would allow for the possibility of things that are self-explanatory.

Thanks for your comment, Alan. By a concrete individual I don't mean a bare or thin particular, but a thick particular, one 'clothed' in all its intrinsic properties.

Your 'nonsymmetrical' suggestion is that if T makes true *p*, then it neither follows that *p* makes true T nor does it follow that *p* does not make true T.

You are saying that propositions like *Every bachelor is male* make themselves true. We agree that such propositions cannot have truthmakers external to them. Where we differ, though, is that I would say that analytic propositions simply lack truthmakers, and that as a consequence what Armstrong calls Maximalism is false: it is not the case that every truth has a truthmaker. After all, from the fact that analytic propositions are not made true by something distinct from them it does not follow that they make themselves true. For one has the option of saying that nothing makes them true: they are just true.

If every truth has a truthmaker, then you may find yourself in a quandry when you try to specify the T-makers of counterfactual conditionals like *If this glass were suitably struck, then it would shatter,* , negative propositions like *There are no unicorns,* and modal propositions like *Possibly there is a philosophizing cat.*

Compare God. We say God is causa sui. But that needn't be interpreted to mean that God causes himself (which is arguably absurd); it can be interpreted to mean that God is not caused by another. And when we say that God is self-explanatory, we can take that to mean, not that God explains himself, but that God is not explained by another.

Self-explanatory truths are simply true; they needn't be interpreted as expplaining their own truth.

I agree that causal explanation is asymmetrical. I would go on to say that explanation of truths by truthmakers, though not causal explanation, is LIKE causal explanation is being asymmetrical.

Your theory has the defect that it implies that T-maker theory is trifurcated: There are truths (true propositions) whose truthmakers are nonpropositions that lack a proposition-like structure; there are truths whose truthmakers are propositions identical to them; there are truths whose truthmakers are nonpropositions that have a proposition-like structure. Thus the T-maker of *Peter is hungry* cannot be Peter, and it cannot be that very proposition; it must be a concrete state of affairs which, though not a proposition, has a proposition-like structure that mirrors the structure of the truthbearer.

Where your theory is trifurcated, mine is unified: all T-makers are concretet states of affairs and all are external to their corresponding truthbearers. The price for my theory, however, is a rejection of Maximalism.

Bill: If every truth has a truthmaker, then you may find yourself in a quandry when you try to specify the T-makers of counterfactual conditionals like *If this glass were suitably struck, then it would shatter,* , negative propositions like *There are no unicorns,* and modal propositions like *Possibly there is a philosophizing cat.*

Alan: Thanks for the response, Bill. I think you're right that there may be a trade-off between Maximalism and some other theoretical virtue, like simplicity. In virtue of rejecting Maximalism, however, you are committed to at least one sort of bifurcation that I am not, namely, truths that have truthmakers and truths that don't.

As for the alleged quandaries you pose, I don't find them to be that difficult to answer. I take the truthmaker of *If this glass were suitably struck, then it would shatter* to be an intrinsic disposition or propensity of the class. And I think that at least some dispositions are irreducible. As for *There are no unicorns* I take one of its truthmakers to be God's having a unicorn-free experience of the world. Finally, the truthmaker of a *Possibly there is a philosophizing cat* depends on the sort of modality involved. If it's metaphysical possibility that's in view, then I take it's truthmaker to consist in the powers or dispositions of some entity or entities, most plausibly God. If God could create a philosophizing cat, then divine omnipotence is a truthmaker for that proposition. If nothing could bring about the existence of a philosophizing cat, then it isn't metaphysically possible, or so I say. (Note: Unlike many analytic philosophers, I don't equate broadly logical and metaphysical modality. I take the logic of the former to be S5 and the logic of the latter to be S4.)

A brief clarification.

When I say that the metaphysical possibility of there being a philosophizing cat consists in something's having the power to bring it about that such a cat exists, I'm taking it for granted that no such cats exist. Things that already exist are metaphysically possible simply in virtue of their existing.


Comments like yours make it worthwhile having the ComBox open. You make a good point when you say that my approach is bifurcated in that some truths have T-makers and others don't. But I can't see how analytic truths could have truthmakers given a reasonably specific notion of truthmaker. Perhaps in a separate post I will lay out this 'reasonably specific notion.'

If you invoke God and irreducible dispositions, then yes you can find T-makers for the sentences I mentioned. I would suggest that reaching for irreducible dispositions (dispositions that cannot be reduced to their categorical bases) in order to save Maximalism is a bit of a stretch. But that is a large topic.

Happy Easter!


I find troublesome the fact that in many recent discusiions there is a riding-roughshod over the to-my-mind deep divide bwteen the TM principle strictly speaking and what could be called *veritas sequitur esse.* The latter is much weaker. If *Peter is hungry* is true, then there must exist an x such that 'Peter' denotes x. But obviously Peter cannot be the T-maker of this proposition. There is need of an entity with a proposition-like structure, e.g., the concrete state of affairs of Peter's being hungry. I suspect that when Peter by himself is allowed at the T-maker of *Peter is human* and like essential predications, then the sense of 'truthmaker' has been shifted. But this requires a lot of discussion -- which I am afraid will not convince you in any case.

That is why I gave the argument from aymmetry in the main entry above. But you found a way to resist that argument, a way that I cannot dismiss as obviously wrong but only as not compelling.

It may be that the intuitive notion of truthmaking is a small family of related notions and that there is no one thing worthy of the label. Or it may be that it is a contradictory notion at bottom. Or it may be that we cannot capture by analysis the intuitive notion of truthmaking and must simply replace the intuitive notion with a precise theretical successor concept.

Happy Easter to you too, Bill!

I also appreciate the interaction.

Regarding dispositions, in his book "Powers" George Molnar argues that some are irreducible. He makes the obvious point that physical simples (like quarks or electrons) can't have their powers in virtues of further (physical) structure, from which he concludes that their powers are plausibly regarded as basic.

Incidentally, C.S. Peirce was also a committed proponent of irreducible dispositions - "thirdness" as he calls it.

Regarding your addendum:

I suspect that Maximalism goes some distance toward collapsing the distinction between TM and "veritas sequitur esse", though of course much depends on how one spells out the two principles. At bottom, I take TM to be merely a corollary of the correspondence theory of truth. How best to articulate the latter is itself a matter of contention, but I take it to be a commonsense intuition that truths are "made true" in virtue of "corresponding to" a something that "makes" them true. And I take that intuition to be conceptually prior to any proposed precisifications of either TM or correspondence.

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 - one that includes only essential properties. But if "Peter" denotes a certain thick particular, namely, "hungry Peter", i.e., Peter's having the non-essential intrinsic property *being hungry*, then it seems to me to do the job. If that's what you mean by the state of affairs *Peter's being hungry* then I'm cool with that. If you mean some else by that state of affairs, then I'm not sure what the difference is.


Now it gets interesting. In my book on existence I assayed concrete individuals as concrete states of affairs. If Peter is a state of affairs, then Peter himself can serve as truthmaker of the accidental predication *Peter is hungry.* But most philosophers would say that concrete individuals are not states of affairs. I have been assuming the latter view in my recent posts on truthmaking.

So are you thinking of concrete individuals as states of affairs? Is a thick particular ( a particular together with its intrinsic properties)a state of affairs or not? If Peter is a thick particular that is not a state of affairs, then Peter by himself cannot be the truthmaker of accidental predications about him.

How are you using 'thick particular'?

Hi Bill,

I think of a state of affairs as a catch-all term for a parcel of reality. The whole of reality is a state of affairs, and any part of it is a state of affairs. Concrete individuals are parts of reality. Ergo, concrete individuals are states of affairs.

I think of a "thick" particular as a complete concrete individual, one that retains the full complement of its intrinsic properties. A particular is more-or-less "thin" if some of its intrinsic properties have been prescinded.

Now, it may be that I'm deviating from standard usage regarding states of affairs. If so, then I would ask what the standard usage is and why it's better (don't say because it's "standard"). If one defines a state of affairs as an individual's having a property, and if the property in question is one that is intrinsic to the individual in question, and if one regards that individual as a "thick" particular, then the individual's having of the property is included in the individual qua thick particular. Hence, at least on this definition of states of affairs, thick particulars seem to qualify as such, or so it seems to me.

Happy Easter.

>>[Alan] Ergo, concrete individuals are states of affairs.

Isn't state of affairs something that corresponds to a proposition? I.e. something that 'is the case', something which exists when an affirmation is true, something which does not exist when the affirmation is false.

Aristotle gives four possiblities:

true affirmation (saying what is the case, when it is the case)
false affirmation (saying what is the case, when it is not)
true denial (saying what isn't the case, when it isn't the case)
false affirmation (saying what isn't the case, when it is)

I can see how a 'state of affairs' exists in the 1st and 4th case. I.e. perhaps there is a state of affairs corresponding to the affirmation 'snow is white' and the denial 'snow is not white'. This state of affairs makes the affirmation true, and the denial false.

I am not sure whether there is a state of affairs corresponding to the 2nd and 3rd case. E.g. 'snow is black' is false, and 'snow is not black' is true, is there a state of affairs corresponding to this? As for a state of affairs corresponding to snow (or Socrates, I don't know if snow counts as a concrete individual), I don't understand that.

Sorry the fourth case should of course be 'false negation'.

>>veritas sequitur esse.

Always intrigued by these neo-scholastic formulations which pop up. I have never seen it in any scholastic writing. Maritain certainly uses it. The Latin that the scholastics used was "Unumquodque sicut habet esse, ita et veritatem", from Aristotle (Metaph. II t. 4 993b 30-31):


See my latest post. Let's see if we can come to an agreement on this, or, failing that, come to see exactly what we are disagreeing about.


Happy Easter. See my latest post.

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