Tuesday, November 4, 2008

King's response to objection 2

In chapter 3, King goes over some objections to his theory of propositions. I am going to go over the second objection he addresses.

Objection 2 looks something like this:

1) According to King, propositions came into existence at a certain time in the past (namely, at the time when language, semantic values, and the like were invented).

2) If (1), then there was a time, before which propositions did not exist.

3) Propositions are the bearers of truth and falsity.

4) If (2) and (3), then before propositions came into existence, nothing was true or false.

5) But, obviously some things were true and false before propositions came into existence.

6) (4) and (5), therefore King's theory of propositions is flawed.

The time that King uses as an example of when propositions did not exist is right after the big bang. At this time there were no sentences or language of any kind, yet according to (5) there were still things that were true (such as the fact that particles had certain charges and certain masses).

To respond to this objection, King looks at it from two different viewpoints; presentism and eternalism.

King's presentist response:

Basically, King says that the presentist could claim that the objector fails to distinguish between two similar, but different, claims:

i) Nothing was true in the remote past.

ii) Things weren't a determinate way in the remote past.

King says that the presentist could reject claim (i) while accepting claim (ii). The reason he gives for this is that facts and propositions are separate according to his theory. There is no reason why there could not be facts (ways the world is, states of being, etc...), while at the same time there being no propositions. In a way, King bites the bullet here and says "it is the case that nothing was true or false before propositions came around... but it does not matter/it does not affect us".

I like King's line of thought here, but there is a way to respond to it. Someone in favour of objection 2 might say that King has not actually denied any premise in the objection, he has simply softened the blow a bit. If someone were to hold steady to the idea that "things were true and false before propositions existed", King would still have to provide evidence for why we should accept the distinction he offers. He would not be able to say "we should think that there is a distinction between truth values and factual states because it is in line with my theory of propositions".

King's eternalist response:

I am pretty sure I understand King's response here, but please correct me if I am wrong.

King says that the eternalist holds that anything that has, does, or will exist exists at all times, but in different temporal locations. This means that a propostion could actually be true (have properties) at a time where it does not exist. This might seem to support the objection (that things were true and false before propositions existed). However, King says that in the end "the objector incorrectly inferred that on the present view propositions in the remote past were not true from the fact that on the present view they are not temporally located in the remote past" (pg 79). What this means is that objection 2 is based on there being truths and falsities without propositions, whereas the eternalist is still able to attribute truth and falsity to propositions even though they do not exist. More formally:

i) Objection 2 assumes that there are true and false things before the existence of propositions.

ii) The eternalist holds that propositions can be true and false even at times when they do not exist.

iii) Therefore, objection 2 does not apply to the eternalist view.

I think this is a good response to premise (5) of the objection and I can't really see anything wrong with it at this time. The best way to support objection 2 would be to press King for a better explanation on why we should accept the distinction his position offers of truth values and factual states.

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