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Sylvia Barnett

PhD thesis

The link between truthmaking and grounding


Research interests

Metaphysics, philosophy of language

Research details

My thesis presents a response to the emerging thought that the relation of ‘making true’ can be accounted for in terms of grounding. 

The theory of truthmaking states that propositions have their truth because of the existence of a truthmaking entity.  So for instance, the proposition that the rose is red is, according to truthmaker theory, made true by the trope of the rose’s redness; the proposition that trees exist is made true by trees, and so on.  We can add to this the claim that the existence of the truthmaker necessitates the truth of the proposition, so that provided that the truthmaker exists then the proposition cannot fail to be true.  Truthmaking can therefore be understood as the relation which holds between an entity and a proposition, whereby the proposition is true because that truthmaker exists.  The problem which presents advocates of truthmaking is that of providing an acceptable account of the nature of the relation.  Which relation is to be employed to account for the relation which obtains between truthmaker and proposition?

An emerging thesis advanced by theorists such as Johnathan Schaffer and Ross Cameron, takes the relation involved in instances of truthmaking to be the in virtue of or grounding relation.  Grounding is a relation of metaphysical dependence whereby one thing is said to obtain in virtue of something more fundamental.  This relation is said to be asymmetric (if A grounds B, then B does not ground A), irreflexive (nothing is the grounds of itself), and transitive (if A grounds B and B grounds C, then A grounds C).  The fact that murder is wrong therefore is grounded in its propensity to cause harm; the wall’s being red is grounded in its being scarlet; the aesthetic properties of a painting are grounded in its physical features. According to the thesis advanced by Schaffer and Cameron, the relation between truthmaker and true proposition is that of grounding.

My thesis presents a response to this claim.  I am looking to show that the truthmaking relation cannot be accounted for in terms of grounding.

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