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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: February 2013

9 - Facts and relations: the matter of ontology and of truth-making

from Part II - The current debate


Facts, or states of affairs, were taken by Bertrand Russell to be entities that sufficed to “make true” or be the “verifiers” for atomic sentences (judgements expressed by atomic sentences, propositions). Such truth-makers were atomic facts. The recognition of atomic facts led, in turn, to questions about what other kinds, if any, of facts there were. Such questions were often raised in the context of considering what one need recognize as grounds of truth: reasons or causes for truths being true. Thus specific issues arose about purported negative facts and general facts. While Russell, like G. E. Moore, appeared to recognize that propositions or “judgement contents” were linked to the existence and nonexistence of specific facts, he did not raise a specific question about a truth-making relation. Rather, his idea, at least for atomic facts, was that a definite description of a purported fact would serve to characterize or define a truth-predicate for the atomic case along the following loose lines:

(R) For any atomic sentence (proposition) Fn(x1, …, xn): Fn(x1, …, xn) is true if and only if there is a fact with Fn as relation and x1, …, xn as terms in that order.

On such a view, properly developed, there is neither a relation of truth-making that holds between a truth and a fact that “makes it true” nor a property of truth, as there appears to be for many of the recent advocates of “truth-making”. It is also obvious that there need not be, given the recognition of facts as entities and the role they play as grounds of truth, the further recognition of propositional-style entities as so-called “truth-bearers”. But these are further matters that will not be taken up here.

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