The Maverick Philosopher challenges me to lodge one clear objection against the idea of a truthmaker. Very well.
The background. I originally objected that in order to make its proposition p true, a truthmaker must exist. Let the truthmaker be T. Then, when the proposition ‘T exists’ is true, p will be true. But (I hold) the truthmaker of ‘T exists’ cannot be T, anymore than the truthmaker of ‘Socrates sits’ can be Socrates. Let it be T*. But now we must ask about the truthmaker of “T* exists”. This cannot be T*, by the same reasoning. Therefore there must be another truthmaker T**, and so on ad infinitum. The Maverick objects to my initial assumption that the truthmaker of ‘T exists’ cannot be T itself. For if it is, there is no regress (or at least, not a vicious one), and my argument fails.
That is by way of a preliminary. The whole dispute depends on whether the truthmaker of ‘T exists’ is T itself, and I shall now give two arguments that it cannot.
The first argument assumes that the meaning of a singular proposition (i.e. sentence) does not depend on whether its singular term has a referent. ‘Socrates sits’ means the same whether there is such a person as Socrates or not. Plenty of philosophers (direct referentialists) disagree with this assumption, but I believe Maverick does not. Thus it is contingent whether any object falls under the proper name ‘Socrates’ (used in the standard sense to mean a certain Athenian philosopher, the teacher of Plato). Thus it cannot be that Socrates makes the proposition ‘Socrates exists’ true. I.e. the proposition
(*) Socrates makes the proposition ‘Socrates exists’ true
is false, because Socrates does not exist. Maverick may object that in the past it made (past tense) the proposition true. I reply: even if that is conceded, (*) is still false. Maverick may then object that ‘makes’ is to be understood tenselessly, as in propositions like ‘2 plus 2 equals 4’. I reply: if so, he must then explain why Socrates sometimes (tenselessly) makes the proposition ‘Socrates exist’ true (i.e. when Socrates is alive) and sometimes (tenselessly) he fails to make it true (now he is dead, or before he is born). There must be some additional factor. Hence the truthmaker of ‘Socrates exists’ cannot be just Socrates himself, and I rest my case.
My second argument is from future tense propositions. Assume that it will rain tomorrow, and so ‘it will rain tomorrow’ is true. Does the truthmaker for that proposition exist today, or only tomorrow, when it rains? If only tomorrow, then I argue as before. What causes the truthmaker to come into existence. It cannot be the truthmaker itself, for the reasons already argued. But if the truthmaker exists today, and thus exists for all time, in a sort of date-stamped way like ‘it will rain in London on 11 November 2011’, then the future is already determined. But the future is not determined, ergo etc.