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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

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Hi Bill,

Thanks for your email and invitation to respond to this new post. Unfortunately, I’m extremely pressed for time, and so can only offer a couple of quick reactions.

First, it’s not obvious to me that the conclusion of your argument is absurd. I don’t see why, in principle, Socrates couldn’t be ontologically simple, in which case each he *would* be the truthmaker for each of the predications you mention.

Second, I don’t think anyone (such as yourself) who regards the conclusion of your argument as absurd should feel any pressure to accept its first premise:

a. Socrates is the truthmaker of ‘Socrates is human’ and like essential predications. (From TM)

You say this premise follows from TM, but it doesn’t. As you note in your post, TM is intended to provide only a *partial* analysis of truthmaking. And hence as we say in the paper, “the fact that an entity E necessitates the truth expressed by a predication P does not *guarantee* that E is P’s truthmaker” but only makes it a “a candidate—perhaps even a *prima facie* good candidate—for playing this role”. (For what it’s worth, I talk about my own preferred account of truthmaking in another paper, “Simplicity and Aseity,” where I also add some further qualifications on what’s required for entity to be a plausible truthmaker for a predication whose truth it necessitates.)

Best,
Jeff

Thanks for responding, Jeff. It's a bad time of the year, I know.

>>First, it’s not obvious to me that the conclusion of your argument is absurd. I don’t see why, in principle, Socrates couldn’t be ontologically simple, in which case each he *would* be the truthmaker for each of the predications you mention.<<

Well, on your approach, he is the truthmaker of each essential predication about him. The point, however, is that on your approach, he, like God, is ontologically simple at least in respect of his essential properties. And that I take to be a serious problem with your and Bergmann's view. If a defense of the divine simplicity issues in the conclusion that God and creatures are all of them simple, then that shows that there is something wrong with the defense. A successful defense must show how claims like 'God is his omniscience' are coherent but without letting in such claims as 'Socates is his humanity.'

As for your second point, you're right, (a) does not follow from TM. Nevertheless, you accept (a). I don't but you do. What I am doing in the post is putting myself on your ground and teasing out a consequence that is unacceptable, namely, (c). I thought you would resist the inference to (c), but is seems you acquiesce in it.

Hi Bill,

I’m just now getting a chance to return to this. I don’t understand why you say that I accept (a). I don’t accept it. Nor do Bergmann and I commit ourselves to accepting it in the article you’re referring to. On the contrary, we’re careful to commit ourselves only to the weaker principle that I mentioned in my first comment above: if an entity E necessitates the truth of a predication P, then E is a candidate—perhaps even a *prime facie* good candidate—for being P’s truthmaker. But, of course, that principle is consistent with Socrates’s necessitating the truth of ‘Socrates is human’ and not being its truthmaker.

Jeff

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for your response.

But then, by parity or reasoning, God could necessitate the truth of 'God is divine' without being its truthmaker. But only if such sentences as 'God is divine' have God himself as their truthmaker will your truthmaker defense of divine simplicity work.

I appreciate your first sentence, accept your second, but reject your third. Our truthmaker defense is not a defense of the *truth* of divine simplicity (as you seem to be assuming), but only a defense of its *coherence* in the face of the dominant contemporary objection (as we make explicit in n. 8). But for the latter sort of defense to work, we don't need anything more than the weaker principle to which we commit ourselves.

Jeff,

I appreciate that your aim is limited in two ways: it is a defense of coherence not truth, and indeed a defense of coherence against one particular objection. You say you need only the following weaker principle for your limited purposes: >> if an entity E necessitates the truth of a predication P, then E is a candidate—perhaps even a *prime facie* good candidate—for being P’s truthmaker.<<

So in the case of 'Socrates is human' you are not committed to saying that Socrates is the truthmaker, and in the case of 'God is divine' you are not committed to saying that God is the truthmaker. I suppose you will also tell me that you are not even committed to saying that the category of entity that serves as truthmaker for essential predications in the creaturely cases is the same category of entity that serves as truthmaker in the divine case. You will presumably tell me that in the case of Socrates the truthmaker could be a concrete state of affairs whereas in the divine case the truthmaker is an individual. But then I object that the coherence of your theory is affected by its being unacceptably ad hoc. Either individuals in both cases or non-individuals in both cases. After all, we are dealing with essential predications in both cases.

So I don't think you can evade my criticism by saying that your defense is a defense of coherence only. For if your theory is ad hoc then that affects its coherence.

Hi Bill,

Sorry for the delay in my response. I’m moving to Europe tomorrow (for the summer), and so things are pretty hectic. For the same reason, this will have to be my last post for a while, but I did want to clarify a few things before I have to drop it.

In your last comment, you suggest that I’ve been trying (but failing) to “evade” your criticism. That seems unfair for a couple of reasons. First, because it suggests that there is a single criticism that you’ve been pressing the whole time; second, because it suggests that I’m concerned to avoid the main conclusion you’ve been trying to saddle me with throughout. But neither of these things is true. As I see it, our discussion has gone through the following three stages, each with a point-counterpoint structure:

Stage 1: You presented an argument designed to reduce the Bergman-Brower position to absurdity. In response, I made the following points. First, I noted that I don’t myself regard the conclusion of your argument as absurd (which is to say that I don’t feel any need to “evade” it). Second, I pointed out that you’ve given us no reason to accept the first premise of your argument (contrary to what you said, it does *not* follow from TM). Finally, I cited evidence from our paper to show that Bergmann and I are careful not to commit ourselves to your first premise.

Stage 2: You re-asserted that the conclusion of your argument is absurd. You also admitted that your first premise doesn’t follow from TM, but you nonetheless insisted (to my surprise) that I accept it! In response, I assured you that I don’t accept it and again reminded you of the evidence I had cited from the paper in Stage 1.

Stage 3: You claimed that even if I don’t accept the first premise of your argument, I should have, since it’s required for the success of the Bergmann-Brower defense of divine simplicity. In response, I pointed out that this claim of yours seems rest on a misunderstanding of the nature of our defense.

This bring us to your final comment, which as far as I can tell is designed to present me with a dilemma: Either the category of entity that serves as truthmaker for essential predications in the creaturely cases is the same category of entity that serves as truthmaker in the divine case, or not. If so, then I’m stuck with the conclusion of your original argument; if not, then the Brower-Bergmann defense of simplicity is ad hoc. But either way, trouble!

In response, I have to say I don’t feel the bite of either of these horns. As for the first horn, I’ve already said that I don’t regard the conclusion of your original argument as absurd, so don’t have any problem accepting the consequence you say follows from grasping this horn. As for the second horn, I deny it has the consequence you say it has, and so don’t have any problem with grasping this horn either. The whole point of truthmaker theory is to allow the ontological category of truthmakers to be decided by metaphysical considerations. And presumably, if there are both simple and complex objects in our ontology, the former will be truthmakers for some essential predications, whereas the latter will be the truthmakers for others.

I think we have clarified our difference. I say the following is a dilemma: Either both God and Socrates are ontologically simple in respect of their intrinsic essential attributes or essential predications can have truthmakers that belong to different ontological categories. You seem to think it is not.

Thanks for your comments, and enjoy your European sojourn.

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