, Volume 156, Issue 2, pp 383-401

Negative truths and truthmaker principles

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Abstract

This paper argues that a consideration of the problem of providing truthmakers for negative truths undermines truthmaker theory. Truthmaker theorists are presented with an uncomfortable dilemma. Either they must take up the challenge of providing truthmakers for negative truths, or else they must explain why negative truths are exceptions to the principle that every truth must have a truthmaker. The first horn is unattractive since the prospects of providing truthmakers for negative truths do not look good neither absences, nor totality states of affairs, nor Graham Priest and J.C. Beall’s ‘polarities’ (Beall, 2000; Priest, 2000) are up to the job. The second horn, meanwhile, is problematic because restricting the truthmaker principle to atomic truths, or weakening it to the thesis that truth supervenes on being, undercuts truthmaker theory’s original motivation. The paper ends by arguing that truthmaker theory is, in any case, an under-motivated doctrine because the groundedness of truth can be explained without appeal to the truthmaker principle. This leaves us free to give the ommonsensical and deflationary explanation of negative truths that common-sense suggests.