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Thursday, April 27, 2017


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Hi Bill,
Thanks - I agree with much of this.

You said: "Dan grants that some truthbearers need truthmakers, but thinks that truthmakers needn't be entities. Right here I must lodge an objection. A truthmaker is an entity by definition."

Well, I granted that some truthbearers must (if true) be made true. I used the passive voice ('made true'), and avoided saying there are (i.e., there exist entities that are) truthmakers. So I can agree that a truthmaker would be an entity by definition, and accordingly, I am happy to say that "there is no need for truthmakers". Perhaps it was a mistake to not just say that outright. One reason I didn't was that I didn't want to give the impression that the the truth of (the relevant) truthbearers needs no explanation, which is one thing one might mean in saying "there is no need for truthmakers". The view I expressed was that a true sentence can be *made true* (i.e. have its truth explained in a non-causal and non-logical sense) without being made true *by a truthmaker*. If you think talk of being "made true" in the absence of a commitment to truthmakers is misleading or otherwise problematic, I'm happy to discard that way of putting it. The question is whether a truthbearer's truth could only be accounted for, or explained (in the relevant sense), *by an entity/item*. I think not, but let me turn to your reasons to reject this proposal.

I had said we could make sense of the "making true" of the sentence 'Al is fat' in terms of the following claim:

(*) The sentence 'Al is fat' is true because Al is fat.

I think some of what you say in objection to (*) can be dealt with by recognizing, as I've tried to clarify above, that I don't intend (*) to be providing a truthmaker for the sentence. (*) doesn't purport to identify an *entity* that explains the truth of 'Al is fat'.

But you also object that (*) only offers a truth condition for 'Al is fat', where a truth condition is "just another sentence, proposition, or cognate item." I disagree. If I say 'Al is fat', I'm talking about the world, or non-linguistic reality. To be sure, I *use* a linguistic item ('Al is fat') to do so, but I'm not talking about the sentence. In saying 'Al is fat', I *am* getting "off the level of propositions" and talking about non-linguistic (non-mental, etc.) reality. The point here is perfectly general. Turning now to (*). To be sure, the independent clause appearing to the right of 'because' is a sentence. But that sentence is being used to talk about the world, specifically, being used to express what it is about the world in virtue of which 'Al is fat' is true. You quote Rhoda saying: "Truth conditions are semantic explications of the meaning of statements." But (*) isn't doing this. It isn't offering an account of the meaning of 'Al is fat'; it's offering an account of why the sentence is true. Perhaps you think (*) is false or otherwise problematic, but I don't see how it can be legitimately accused of merely giving truth conditions as opposed to grounds for truth; it *purports* to give grounds for truth. Of course, a truthmaker theorist won't be happy with the proposal (since it doesn't posit an entity to make the sentence true), but my aim here is to spell out an alternative way of understanding grounds of truth.

You raise a final pair of objections to the proposal: "Another important point has to do with the asymmetry of truthmaking: if T makes true p, it does not follow that p makes true T[...snip...]Dan's (*), however, entails the following non-explanatory biconditional:

(**) The sentence 'Al is fat' is true iff Al is fat.

But (**) has nothing to do with truthmaking[...snip]"

First, (*) respects the idea that the relevant kind of explanation is asymmetric, because the explanatory connection signaled by 'because' is asymmetric. If

(*) The sentence 'Al is fat' is true because Al is fat

is true, then the following is false:

(^) Al is fat because the sentence 'Al is fat' is true.

Second, it's not clear why the fact that (*) *entails* a non-explanatory biconditional is a problem for (*). Just because a certain entailment of (*) has nothing to do with a certain thing (say, grounds for truth) doesn't mean that (*) has nothing to do with it. The same kind of thing could be said to the truthmaker theorist. Suppose he thinks that the sentence 'a is F' is made true by the atomic state of affairs a's being F. Well, one might take this proposal to entail:

(^^) The sentence 'a is F' is true iff the concrete state of affairs a's being F exists.

(^^) doesn't have anything to do with truthmaking, but that doesn't mean the theory that entails it doesn't.

In sum, I am indeed denying the need for "truthmakers" (entities that make sentences/propositions true), but my contention is that I'm doing so in a way that *retains* the intuitive idea that truth must be accounted for, or have worldly grounds. If we consider (*) and then (^) in turn, isn't it quite intuitive that the former is true and the latter false? That suggests that (*) is a legitimate way of expressing grounds of truth for 'Al is fat'. It seems to me that the most promising move for the truthmaker theorist to make, at this point, is to say that, even though (*) is in good order, it somehow commits us to a concrete state of affairs of Al's being fat. That is, even though (*) doesn't mention any such entity, it couldn't be true unless there were one.

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