Truthmaking, entailment, and the conjunction thesis

Mind 115 (460):957-982 (2006)
In this paper I undermine the Entailment Principle according to which if an entity is a truthmaker for a certain proposition and this proposition entails another, then the entity in question is a truthmaker for the latter proposition. I argue that the two most promising versions of the principle entail the popular but false Conjunction Thesis, namely that a truthmaker for a conjunction is a truthmaker for its conjuncts. One promising version of the principle understands entailment as strict implication but restricts the field of application of the principle to purely contingent truths (i.e. those that contain no necessary proposition at any level of analysis). But a conjunction of purely contingent truths strictly implies its conjuncts. So this version of the principle is committed to the Conjunction Thesis. The same is true of the version of the principle where entailment is understood in the sense of systems T, R, and E of relevant logic, since in these systems conjunctions entail their conjuncts. I argue that the Conjunction Thesis is false because a truthmaker is that in virtue of what a certain proposition is true and it is false that, for example, what the proposition that Peter is a man is true in virtue of is the conjunctive fact that Peter is man and Saturn is a planet (or the facts that Peter is a man and that Saturn is a planet taken together). I also argue against other versions of the principle.
Keywords truthmaking  entailment principle  conjunction thesis  relevant logic
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DOI 10.1093/mind/fzl957
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Benjamin Schnieder (2011). A Logic for 'Because'. Review of Symbolic Logic 4 (3):445-465.
Tuomas E. Tahko (2013). Truth‐Grounding and Transitivity. Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 2 (4):332-340.
Donnchadh O'Conaill & Tuomas E. Tahko (2016). Minimal Truthmakers. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 97 (2):228-244.

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Cross-posted from

My handout for the seminar yesterday is here – the paper we were discussing is here (subscription required). We were glad to have Cian Dorr drop in for the discussion – he really livened up what might have turned into an hour and a half of Gonzalo teaching everybody about how truthmakers work!

My take on the contribution which Gonzalo’s paper makes to the big-picture debate over truthmakers is as follows. Conceptions of truthmaking which appeal only to entailment, or to necessitation, get things importantly wrong. The way to fix up the account of truthmaking is to appeal to a metaphysical ‘in virtue of’ relation. Truthmaking is not mere sufficiency for the truth of a proposition. However, this undermines much of the appeal that truthmaker theory had for some of its original proponents – it does not, after all, allow us to avoid primitive metaphysical ‘grounding’ or ‘dependence’ relations. Still, it does not make truthmaker theory alto ... (read more)