Why 0-adic Relations Have Truth Conditions: Essence, Ground, and Non-Hylomorphic Russellian Propositions

In Chris Tillman (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Propositions. London: Routledge (forthcoming)
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I formulate an account, in terms of essence and ground, that explains why atomic Russellian propositions have the truth conditions they do. The key ideas are that (i) atomic propositions are just 0-adic relations, (ii) truth is just the 1-adic version of the instantiation (or, as I will say, holding) relation (Menzel 1993: 86, note 27), and (iii) atomic propositions have the truth conditions they do for basically the same reasons that partially plugged relations, like being an x and a y such that Philip gave x to y, have the holding conditions they do. The account is meant to be mainly of intrinsic interest, but I hope that it goes some distance toward answering an objection to classical theories of propositions put forward by King (2014), who writes that ‘since the classical conception of propositions as things that have truth conditions by their very natures and independently of minds and languages is incapable of explaining how or why propositions have truth conditions, it is unacceptable’ (2014: 47). Propositions do have their truth conditions ‘by their very natures’ and ‘independently of minds and languages’. But a fact about a given entity can hold by the very nature of that entity without being a fundamental fact. I argue that this is plausibly the case for atomic Russellian propositions and the facts about their truth conditions. A fact about the truth conditions of such a proposition holds by the very nature of the given proposition but is metaphysically grounded in facts about that proposition’s parts and their essences. If my account is correct, then the supposedly intractable problem of explaining why the given propositions have the truth conditions they do reduces to the problem of explaining why relations have the holding essences they do, which few seem to have found worrisome
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