‘No truth without truthmakers.’ This is the slogan of the truthmaker movement in metaphysics. The idea seems to be that a truth bearer, e.g. a proposition, could only be true if there were something to make it true. It’s not clear what kind of thing this something should be. Prominent candidates probably include states of affairs or facts, understood in some kind of metaphysically weighty way. There are, no doubt, other candidates as well.
I don’t consider myself to be anything like an expert on truthmaking. I do have some interest in truth, however, so I’m starting to think that I should become better informed about truthmaking since at least some people seem to think that truthmaking is related to truth.
I myself am skeptical on this point. (I am not the first to express skepticism; I believe, for instance, that David Lewis did as well.) Let’s consider a particular proposition:
(a) Some apples are red.
When restricted to (a), the truthmaking doctrine seems to amount to saying that if some apples are indeed red, then this fundamentally consists in there being something, e.g. a particular red-apple-state-of-affairs. It doesn’t appear that we need to bring in truth here. And, this example is, of course, representative. When we look at the situation on a case-by-case basis, truth drops out of the picture. (The point is that we only need the concept of truth as a device of generalization, in the way that Quine taught us.)
We can try to get at this skepticism in another way. The truthmaking doctrine seems to be roughly equivalent to the suggestion that any theoretical commitment is at base an ontological commitment. Again, this does not obviously look like a claim that is distinctively about truth.
I’ll end this post by expressing some concern about truthmaking. Suppose that the rephrase above is adequate so that the truthmaking doctrine is simply the idea that any theoretical commitment is at base an ontological commitment. The rephrase doesn’t strike me as especially compelling. I don’t know why any theoretical commitment should be an ontological commitment. Of course, any theoretical commitment (that isn’t a limiting case, e.g. a tautology) should be a genuine commitment. The one making the commitment should be ‘on the hook’ in some sort of way. But, it’s not clear why commitments need be ontological at base to be genuine.
Moreover, even if all theoretical commitments involve ontological commitments, that is not enough for all theoretical commitments to be ontological commitments at base. For instance, making claims about what is possible is a kind of theoretical commitment. Even if we suppose that such claims involve an ontological commitment to possibilities, it is not at all clear to me that this ontological commitment is more fundamental. It seems plausible enough that the existence of possibilities is fundamentally explained by what is possible, rather than vice-versa.