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Monday, March 30, 2020

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Bill, my thoughts are half-baked, so bear with me. I’m wondering if it must be the case that every truthbearer of a contingently true proposition must be a concrete entity. What if, for every concrete state of affairs, there is a corresponding abstract entity - let’s call it a “fact” - and it is this fact that serves as the truthbearer of the proposition.

Sorry, but I have to stop you right there. Propositions are one species of truthbearer. So it makes no sense to speak of the truthbearer of a proposition. You appear also to be confusing truth bearers with truthmakers.

Apologies, that was indeed a typographical error. My question, corrected: I’m wondering if it must be the case that every truthmaker of a contingently true proposition must be a concrete entity. What if, for every concrete state of affairs, there is a corresponding abstract entity - let’s call it a “fact” - and it is this fact that serves as the truthmaker of the proposition.

How would you evaluate my suggested argument?

Eternal Truthmakers for Temporal Truthbearers

1) Suppose that simultaneously to me writing this, Barack Obama is sitting in his living room sofa.

2) Therefore, the truthbearer expressed by the English sentence, ‘Barack Obama is sitting in his living room sofa’ is true. Call this truthbearer B (set aside for the time being all questions of the nature of B, whether it is a Russellian proposition, a Fregean Thought, etc.).

3) Therefore, there exists a truthmaker in virtue of which B is true.

4) The truthmaker cannot consist of either Barack Obama, Barack Obama’s living room sofa, or even both Barack Obama and his living room sofa together.

5) Rather, the truthmaker is the *fact* that Barack Obama is sitting in his living room sofa. Call this fact F.

6) Facts are abstract objects, not concrete objects.

7) Abstract objects do not exist temporally, but eternally; that is, they do not exist in time, but outside of time.

8) Therefore, F does not exist temporally, but eternally; it does not exist in time, but outside of time. To restate this explicitly: The fact F which serves as the truthmaker for the truthbearer B expressed by the English sentence, ‘Barack Obama is [presently] sitting in his living room sofa’ exists eternally, even as Barack Obama is sitting in his living room sofa *now*.

9) Suppose that as I now write Argument Line 9, Barack Obama has stood up, and has walked to his kitchen.

10) Therefore, the truthbearer B expressed by the English sentence, ‘Barack Obama is sitting in his living room sofa’ is now false.

11) However, the truthbearer expressed by the English sentence, ‘Barack Obama *was* sitting in his living room sofa’ is true. Call this truthbearer B’.

12)The truthmaker in virtue of which B’ is true is the fact F. In other words, the truthmaker of B when B was true is numerically identical with the truthmaker of B’.

13) Therefore, the truthmaker of B’ does not exist temporally, but eternally.

14) According to the thesis of Presentism, only present objects and events, along with eternal objects, exist.

15) B’ concerns past objects and events.

16) Although B’ concerns past objects and events, the truthmaker of B’ consists of neither past objects and events nor present objects and events, but the eternally existing fact F.

17) Therefore, the truth of truthbearers that are concerned with past objects and events is consistent with the thesis of Presentism.

Q.E.D.

Good Morning, Bill, and thank you for those words of encouragement. I wrote that piece thinking that a presentist ought to be able to do better than say that contingent past tensed truths were brute, as here. Some kind of grounding needs to be offered. But also that truthmaking theory seems to leave out an important linguistic element. Namely that part of what makes 'Tom is red' true when Tom is red is that 'Tom' is the 'right' way to refer to your tomato friend, that 'red' is the right way to refer to his colour, and that 'is' is the right way of tensing the sentence.

You say that it is difficult to see how the truthmaker of (T) that DID exist, but does not now exist, can serve as the truthmaker of S. It seems the obvious candidate to my naive understanding of truthmaker theory. What does theory demand that I'm missing?

Good morning, David. Thanks for the response.

T: Kennedy commands PT 109.

S: Kennedy commanded PT 109.

We agree that (T) had a truthmaker in '43, but does not have one now, and that the absence of a truthmaker now is what accounts for (T)'s being false now.

We also agree that the past-tensed (S) needs a truthmaker. We disagree over whether the truthmaker of (T) is the truthmaker of (S). You say it is; I say it can't be.

Is that the point in dispute? I'd say it is.

I assume that a T-maker cannot do its job unless it exists. If x makes-true y, then (i) y is true and (ii) x exists. Is that not self-evident? Now on presentism, whatever exists, exists at present. This implies that wholly past items such as Kennedy and his commanding of the PT 109 do not exist, that they are nothing. But then it follows that the T-maker of (T) cannot be the T-maker of (S). This is because the T-maker of (T) does not exist.

Please explain why you do not accept this reasoning.

I agree that's the point in dispute. What I'm having trouble accepting is the characterisation of truth-making in the form x makes-true y where x is presumably a state of affairs and y a sentence. This may be satisfactory when everything is in the present but I think my Kennedy example shows it to be too coarse-grained when y is past-tensed. We need something more akin to x@t1 makes-true y@t2 understood as soa x holding at time t1 makes-true sentence y uttered at time t2. This allows interesting distinctions even with present-tensed y. For example, BV's blogging at 3pm does not makes-true "BV blogs" said at 2pm even though "BV blogs" may be true at 2pm.

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