Explanation has played myriad roles in truthmaker theory. The notion of explanation is sometimes thought to give content to the very idea of truthmaking, and is sometimes used as a weapon to undermine the entire point of truthmaker theory. I argue that the notion of explanation is dialectically useless in truthmaker theory: while it’s true that truthmaking offers a form of explanation, this claim is theoretically unilluminating, and leaves truthmaker theorists vulnerable to various kinds of attack. I advocate an alternative approach to truthmaker theory that downplays the role of explanation, and show how it releases the enterprise from a variety of problematic commitments that have troubled truthmaker theorists. The “ontology-first” approach to truthmaking that I advocate not only restores the initial impulse behind truthmaking, but also has a number of theoretical advantages. Most prominently, it dodges the infamous problem of negative existentials, and lessens truthmaker theory’s dependence on contentious intuitive judgments about both explanation and truthmaking.
KeywordsExplanation Truthmaking Ontology
This paper was presented at the Explananza workshop and conference at the University of Western Australia in December 2015. My thanks go to all the participants there, particularly David Braddon-Mitchell, Mark Colyvan, Lina Jansson, Kristie Miller, Michael Rubin, Jonathan Tallant, and Al Wilson, and especially to Sam Baron for bringing everyone together. Sam and Jonathan also provided very helpful feedback on later drafts. Thanks also go to the referees for the journal. The work described in this paper was substantially supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (HKU 23400014).
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