1Traditional theories of truth, such as the correspondence or coherence accounts, assume there is something substantive in common between all truths, no matter what the subject, and they endeavor to say what that something is. Such theories, in other words, are monist : truth is identical to some single first-order property of propositions; and the truth concept univocally expresses that property.
- 1 Sher  calls it the “disunity challenge”; she argues that Kant was the first to see the probl (...)
2A persistent problem for alethic monism is that it is exceedingly difficult to find that common property in the face of the sheer diversity of our thought. Theories that seem plausible when applied to propositions about the physical world around us (such as the correspondence theory) are less plausible when applied to propositions about norms. And theories that seem plausible when applied to the propositions about norms (such as, perhaps, the coherence theory) seem much less convincing when applied to propositions about the physical world. Indeed, and as a number of philosophers have suggested, the history of the debate over truth suggests that for any sufficiently robustly characterized truth property F, there appears to be some kind of propositions K which lack F but which are intuitively true (or capable of being true). This can be called the scope problem [Lynch, 2001]1.
3Philosophers generally adopt one of two strategies in response to this problem. Those adopting the first strategy hold fast to their favored theory of truth and deny that various troublesome propositions are true, or even capable of being true. This is the strategy favored by expressivists, error-theorists, fictionalists and so on. The second strategy dismisses the whole project of giving a metaphysical theory of truth, and declares that all propositions are equally apt for truth in a uniform but entirely thin sense. This is the deflationary strategy.
- 2 See, for example, [Wright 1992], [Sher 2004; 2005]; [Cory Wright 2005]; [Pedersen 2006]; [Vision 2 (...)
- 3 In what follows, I will use “proposition” as my favored term for whatever bears the property of tr (...)
4In this paper, I want to examine the prospects for a third response, namely that propositions can be true in different ways. This is alethic pluralism. Pluralism has been getting an increasing amount of attention, and perhaps it is not hard to see why2. If the pluralist position can be made coherent, then there is more to say about truth than the deflationist believes, but the more there is to say depends on the type of proposition in question3. Moral propositions, for example, might be true by being part of a coherent moral theory, while propositions about physical objects might be true by corresponding to the facts about those objects. If so, then we might be able to both heed Wittgenstein’s command to mind the differences between forms of thought and yet still hold onto the idea that we can have true beliefs about morality or economics or mathematics. We would have semantic diversity and our cognitivist cake too.
5So much for motivation; in this paper I am interested not so much in proving (or disproving) alethic pluralism as understanding it. I will be particularly concerned with whether there is a plausible metaphysical theory underpinning the pluralist’s intuition that there is more than one way for propositions to be true. I will examine three different ways of giving such a theory and argue that each has significant flaws. Nonetheless, I end on a hopeful note: from the flaws of the above theories the pluralist can at least extract the seeds of a more realistic position.
6There is more than one way to interpret “there is more than one way for x to be F”. One way is to see it as advocating that “F” is simply ambiguous, or that the word conveys different concepts in differing contexts. Applied to the present case, the thought is that “true” is ambiguous: sometimes it picks out one of the traditionally cited properties (e.g. correspondence), sometimes we use it to pick out another (e.g. coherence). Call this simple alethic pluralism (or SAP). I’m not sure anyone actually advocates SAP, but lots of folks seem to think alethic pluralists must be committed to it. They’re wrong, and it’s a good thing too; SAP is a non-starter.
7There are three reasons to think so: they range from something of a cheap-shot to the level of profound problem. The cheap-shot is that, to quote Kripke: “it is very much the lazy man’s approach in philosophy to posit ambiguities when in trouble” [Kripke 1977, 19]. It just seems too easy a way to get out of the vexing counterexamples to traditional theories of truth to claim that “is true” means, for example, “corresponds to the facts” when dealing with propositions about physical objects and “is a member of a coherent system of propositions” when dealing with moral propositions. The suggestion smells of having all the virtue of grand theft auto over gainful employment. It is fun, but crime doesn’t pay.
8This is not to say that positing ambiguity is never helpful in philosophy. But it is justified only on the basis of serious theoretical pressure. I don’t feel any such pressure here. Indeed, what pressure there is goes in quite the opposite direction, as others have noted [see Tappolet 1997], [Pedersen 2006]. In particular — and the second reason that SAP is a non-starter — is that it ignores the fact that a generally applicable concept of truth fulfills some important logical needs.
9Consider, for example, truth’s role in a ‘mixed inference’ like:
If you jail a person without charge, you have violated his rights. This person has been jailed without charge. Therefore, this person’s rights have been violated.
On a standard account of validity, an inference is valid when it preserves a single property — truth — from premises to conclusion. But the propositions forming this particular argument are from different domains — the conclusion is normative while one of the premises is not. Naturally then, one would expect the advocate of SAP to hold that the premises and the conclusion are true in literally different senses. If so, then contra the standard account of validity, there is no single property being preserved from premises to conclusion.
10We not only need a univocal concept of truth to explain the validity of mixed inferences: we also need it to explain mixed compounds [Lynch, 2004], [Tappolet 1997]. Consider the conjunction that two and two make four and murder is wrong. If “true” is ambiguous, in what sense is this conjunction true? A mixed “mathematical/moral” sense?
11Even more simply, SAP makes nonsense of blind generalizations involving truth [Lynch, 2004]. Suppose a devout believer says that “everything God believes is true”. She is not intending to say that “everything that God believes is true in one sense or another”. Her claim about God is not like my claim that “Everything Bush says is funny”—where I intentionally trade on the fact that “funny” is ambiguous between “comedic” and “suspicious”. She means that everything God believes is true period.
12The third point I’ll make about SAP is in some ways the simplest but also the most important. SAP isn’t even pluralist view of truth at all. It is a pluralist view of the meaning of the word “true”. As such, one might wonder if it even counts as a way of unpacking the basic pluralist intuition that there is more than one way of being true — since taken seriously, it simply denies this claim. Seen clearly, SAP would seem to fall victim to Nietzsche’s remark that, “there are many kinds of eyes — even the Sphinx has eyes. And there are many kinds of truth, and therefore there is no truth” [Nietzsche WP: 540]. In other words, simple pluralism about truth is really a disguised form of truth nihilism. If we really took it seriously, we’d just stop talking about what is true and talk about the various properties the word ambiguously picks out.
13Nietzsche, that old rascal, seems to have been right. So far, it seems like if you say there are many types of truths, you are really just saying there are none. Can we do better? That is, can we sympathizers to the basic pluralist intuition — that there are different ways in which propositions can be true — do better in explaining that intuition? I think we can. The key is to acknowledge that there is a unity to truth — that the truths form a kind, and therefore all share something in common. I suppose this means we can’t be pluralist all the way. But we can preserve what is worth preserving in the pluralist intuition.
14As is common in philosophy, our stance toward the nature of truth is somewhat schizophrenic. On the one hand, we are puzzled by the question of what truth is, one the other, there is quite a bit about truth that is common knowledge. The philosopher’s favorite examples of these commonly held beliefs are instances of the T-schema, such as the proposition that grass is green is true if and only if grass is green. But there are others. These include, for example, that it is good to believe what is true; that what is true can’t be false; that believing doesn’t make it so; and that what is justified may not be true and what is true may not be justified. So, on the one hand, we think that truth is deep, and on the other, we seem to already know what it is.
15This needn’t be puzzling. We can see these intuitive beliefs as being about truth’s job, or the role of true propositions in our cognitive economy. Seen this way, it is not surprising that we have some intuitive beliefs about truth that are common knowledge while remaining clueless about its nature. For it is a familiar fact that we can know about the job of something, what it does, without knowing much about how it gets that job done. And more to the present point, it is an even more familiar fact that one job can be done differently depending on the context.
16What I’ve elsewhere called alethic functionalism [Lynch 2004] begins with this thought. The basic idea is that to be true is to have a property that does a particular job or plays a particular role. That role is what is specified by our intuitive beliefs about truth. These beliefs form a theoretical structure — a folk theory of truth if you will. Some of these beliefs illustrate the connections between truth and related semantic properties, including e.g. “the proposition that p is true if and only if p” and “the negation of a true proposition is not true”; “to assert is to present is true” and so on. While others relate truth to other sorts of properties, such as: “Other things being equal, it is good to believe that which is true”; and “if a proposition is justified it may not be true”, and even “an honest person typically says what is true” and so on. Specifying the extent and limits of these folk beliefs, and determining which, if any, are more centrally weighted than others, is an important further project for the alethic functionalist, just as it is for functionalists in the philosophy of mind. But however those questions are decided, the basic functionalist idea is that these folk beliefs about truth to jointly constitute a job-description so to speak for truth: they specify the truth-role. Consequently, we can then say that a property plays that role just when it meets the conditions laid out in that job-description, and that a proposition is therefore true just when it has a property that plays that role.
17One obvious advantage of this general approach, and the one I’m highlighting here, is that it would seem to allow us to capture, in a very straightforward and familiar way, the basic intuition behind pluralism. That basic intuition is that there is more than one way for propositions to be true. The functionalist framework obviously allows for this: it allows for the possibility that truth is multiply realized. Problem solved: propositions could be true in more than one way because it might turn out that there is more than one way to realize the truth-role. Moreover, the metaphysical picture here, as opposed to SAP, seems abundantly clear: multiply realizable properties, after all, are a dime a dozen, and not mysterious.
18But of course this isn’t quite right. As anyone who has paid attention to the philosophy of mind over the last three decades knows, there is a lot more to say about how to understand the metaphysics of functionalism. Of particular relevance to our discussion is whether the alethic functionalist should identify truth with the realizer of the truth-role or the role property itself.
19To see the point here, note that so far, the alethic functionalist has suggested is essentially this:
(1) A proposition in some domain is true just when it has the property T that plays the truth-role in that domain.
20And we’ve defined that role relationally, by saying that something like this:
(2) For any domain, < p > has a property T that plays the truth-role just when to assert < p > is to present it as T, the negation of < p > is not T; it is good, other things being equal to believe < p > when T and avoid believing it when not...
21Principles (1) and (2) state the conditions under which “x is true” is true, according to the functionalist. But they do not tell us what the property of truth is. This is because (1) can be read in more than one way.
22One way of reading (1) is to see it as claiming that truth is identical to whatever property plays or realizes the truth-role. If there was only one such property and it was correspondence say, then on this interpretation, (1) tells us that truth is correspondence. But if we are sympathetic to pluralism, we’ll want to leave open the possibility that the truth-role can be occupied by more than one property. Accordingly, we’ll take it on this view that “ x is true” functions as a non-rigid definite description, one which can be satisfied by propositions have very different properties. In short hand: one descriptive concept: many properties picked out by that concept.
- 4 For a fuller account of the relevant principles, see [Wright 1999, 227; 2001, 759— 761].
23This is the easiest way to understand how Crispin Wright looks at truth. Wright argues that we can give an account of the concept of truth by laying out those few basic principles or “platitudes” which seem to describe the most fundamental facts about truth. These principles are included among the folk beliefs about truth I mentioned above4. Together, Wright says, these and similar principles provide “a body of conceptual truths that, without providing any reductive account, nevertheless collectively constrain and locate the target concept and sufficiently characterize some of its relations with other concepts and its role and purposes” [Wright 2001, 759]. Nonetheless, this account of the concept is consistent with the idea that there may be more to say about truth, and “that the more there is to say may well vary from discourse to discourse [Wright 1992: 38]. Thus in some discourses or domains, the concepts we employ therein impose what Wright calls an evidential constraint: that is, that it is impossible for truth in that domain to outrun all evidence available in principle. In such domains, he suggests, a proposition might be true just when it is superassertible, or ”justified by some (in principle accessible) state of information and then remaining justified no matter how that state of information might be enlarged upon or improved“ [Wright 2001,771]. In other, more unrestrained domains, ”the structure of truth is best conceived as by correspondence“ [Wright 1999, 225].
24Early commentators took Wright to be advocating SAP. Wright rightly protested that this was a mistake. For on his account as I’ve just described it, there obviously is a single concept that ”admits of a uniform characterization wherever it is applied — the characterization given by the minimal platitudes... [Wright 1996, 101]. The form of pluralism relevant to his position, Wright contended, was therefore not SAP, but one that allowed that there is one concept of truth, but that concept picks out more than one property.
25Seen through the clarifying light of functionalism, Wright’s suggestion amounts to our first interpretation above. On this view, “is true” is more like “is the color of the sky at noon” than “is magnetic”. It is a disguised definite description of a property. But unlike “the color of the sky at noon”, which picks out different properties in different environmental contexts, as it were, “truth”, on Wright’s view, refers to different properties in different propositional domains. Thus when saying it is true that acts of cruelty are wrong we ascribe one property; when saying that it is true that there is a book on the table, we ascribe another. Nonetheless, in both cases as with “the color of the sky at noon” we employ a single concept, even though what property we pick out with that concept differs.
26Seen this way, Wright’s pluralism is reductive in nature, and thus akin to other reductive functionalisms, such as those championed by David Lewis  and more recently, by Jaegwon Kim with regard to psychological properties . On this sort of view, there is no fact about whether, e.g., x is in pain over and above whether x has some physical property P, and so “there is no need to think of [pain] itself as a property in its own right” [Kim 1998, 104]. A reductive alethic func-tionalism is parallel: there is no fact of the matter whether a proposition is true over and above whether it has some lower-level property like su-perassertibility or correspondence. Consequently, “truth” does not name a property shared by all truths.
27Is reductive alethic pluralism an improvement over SAP? I don’t see that it is. To my ear, it is prima facie implausible that “truth” functions in this way that it does not rigidly pick out the same property in every possible domain. Admittedly using my own intuitions as a guide, it certainly feels like I’m talking about the same property when I talk about the truth of moral propositions and the truth of mathematical propositions. My semantic intuitions, in other words, don’t lead me to think that “truth” is like “the color of the sky at noon”.
28Further, reductive functionalism/pluralism is hard to distinguish from deflationism about truth. Deflationists take our concept of truth to be a mere logical device for making generalizations: it is a handy conceptual tool for generalizing over potentially infinite strings of propositions. In particular, appeals to the property of truth serve no explanatory purpose: we don’t need to appeal to it to explain any philosophically important phenomena. Nonetheless, the leading contemporary deflationists can and often do grant there is a “property” of truth in an honorific sense [Horwich, 1998], [Field, 2001]. True propositions all have the property of falling under the concept of truth or being correctly called “true”. But for deflationists, to admit this is to admit nothing important: the honorific property of truth is explanatorily inert and metaphysically transparent: it does nothing over and above the logical work done by the concept, and there is nothing to say about it.
- 5 Wright can point out that there remain at least two senses in which his view is not deflationary. (...)
29Reductive functionalism is quite close to this position: there is no property picked out by “truth” that is shared by all and only the true propositions. Rather, there is simply a uniform concept shorthand for the truth job description. Of course, like the deflationist, the reductive functionalist could admit that there is an honorific property of falling under the description that all truths share in common. But and this is the important point the reductive functionalist about truth is barred from identifying even this wafer-thin property with the property of truth. For the property of being a property that falls under the descriptive concept of truth doesn’t itself fall under that description. At least not obviously. But if not, it is not itself a realizer of the truth-role. Hence a view which identifies truth with whatever property realizes the truth-role must hold that the honorific property is distinct from truth: call it truth*. And this in turn makes it hard to see how realizer functionalism really avoids the problems incurred by SAP. There is a property preserved by valid mixed inferences, yes, truth*, but it isn’t truth5. Truth itself becomes an idle wheel.
30For antideflationists like me, this couldn’t be more wrong: truth is a very useful explanatory property indeed. Among other things, we think that we need to appeal to truth, for example, to explain the normative facts of assertion and belief why some assertions and beliefs are correct and others not. Moreover we need it to explain intentionality how our mind represents the physical world around us. Deflationists obviously disagree that we need a substantive property of truth to explain these things, and I won’t get into those debates here. My point is that if Wright wants to avoid deflationism — and he does — then he shouldn’t hold Wright’s view of truth. For deflationism is what Wright’s minimal pluralism essentially is; it is more minimal than pluralist. Like SAP,
31Wright ends up less of a pluralist about truth then he seems.
32So if alethic functionalism is going to make sense as a genuine alternative view of truth, not to mention the best chance for unpacking the intuition behind pluralism, then realizer functionalism is not the way to go. It will come as no surprise to hear that I think a somewhat better route is the more traditional functionalist one: identify truth with the role property not the realizer.
33If we do so, we can still endorse (1) and (2) above. But we give them a different metaphysical gloss. What we conclude is that
RF: The property being true just is the property having a property that plays the truth-role.
Truth, in other words, is what is sometimes called a 2nd order property: a proposition has the property truth when it has the property of having a property that plays the truth-role.
34A full-dress account of this position, as I’ve given elsewhere, is of course more complicated [Lynch 2001], [Lynch 2004]. But even so bluntly put, we can see that there are clear advantages to role functionalism.
35First, it keeps what is good about monism. What the monists have right is that the word “true” is a rigid predicator; it neither changes its meaning or reference from context to context. If truth is the role property, then there is a single property that all true propositions share, and “truth” rigidly designates that property in every domain and every world. Consequently, it is that single property that is preserved in valid inferences and ascribed in blind generalizations involving truth.
36Second, it also keeps what we want in pluralism. Indeed, it explains the pluralist uber-thought — there is more than one way to be true — better than the above views by far. It takes that thought literally: by showing how one property truth can be realized in distinct ways.
37Third, it therefore avoids the Nietzschean worry: there is such a property of truth it is the role property.
38There is, alas, trouble in paradise. RF has its attractions; but contrary to what I’ve suggested elsewhere [Lynch 2004], I don’t think that role functionalism is the best way of capturing the core pluralist thought. Three worries count against it.
39The first worry concerns characterizing the relevant relation between truth and its bases as realization. We typically think of the relation between a realizing property and its associated role-property as contingent. The fact that a particular piece of metal realizes the cork-screw role is not metaphysically necessary. It is contingent on, among other things, the make-up of corks and the laws of nature. Of course, if we hold these facts fixed, then it will be necessary, relative to those facts, that being that hunk of metal realizes the being a cork-screw. But these further facts are themselves contingent. So it remains an a posteriori physical necessity that the hunk is a corkscrew.
40But now the problem is apparent: whatever relationship truth as such has to specific properties that play the truth-role — that is, however we understand property dependency in this case that relationship is not contingent. It isn’t a natural fact — if it is fact at all — that, for example, superassertibility is a way of being true. Nor is it plausibly a posteriori. We aren’t going to determine whether some property is a way of being true in the lab.
41The second worry concerns thinking of truth as a 2nd order property. 2nd order or “role” properties face familiar problems concerning explanatory power. Of course, whether truth is itself an explanatory property is a vexed issue. But assume for the moment that it is: that, for example, we need to appeal to truth to explain the success of our actions (by appealing to the fact that to succeed, I need to have true beliefs about how to get what I want). According to the present idea, whenever x has the role-property of truth, it also has the realizer property. So one might naturally wonder: if in a particular domain, truth is correspondence with fact, won’t appealing to our beliefs that do so correspond be an equally good explanation of the success of our relevant actions? Indeed, might it not be better, given that this is how truth is realized in that domain? And shouldn’t that make us suspicious of the reality of the role property?
42The third worry is simplest, and is an echo of one of the complaints we raised against Wright’s view above. The role functionalist says, in effect, that truth is the property of having some property that has certain features. But does the role property itself have those features? That is, it seems that we want to say that truth itself is objective and a goal of inquiry. But the property of having a property that is a goal of inquiry a goal of inquiry? Not obviously; indeed, obviously not.
43This point brings to light a flaw in the whole 2nd order property approach to functional properties. The basic functionalist strategy looks to identify a property via certain features the property is said to have by our folk understanding of the property. Together, we take these features to be analogous to a job-description, and we then set off to find out what in the world does that job. This, it seems, gives us a choice: we can either identify the original property we were interested in with the things or properties in the world which do its job, or we can identify it with the job itself. In the case of truth, I’ve argued, the latter route is preferable, since we need to respect the intuition that there is one property shared by all and only true propositions. So far, so good. The problem comes when we characterize the second route as the view that truth, or whatever property we are concerned with, is a 2nd order property. For doing so flies in the face of the original strategy. That strategy says that the property of F is the property that has the F-ish features specified in our folk theory of F. But the property of having a property that plays the F-role doesn’t have those F-ish features. So by adopting the 2nd order property approach, one seemingly undermines the original thought behind the functionalist strategy.
44The above considerations imply that the pluralist is in the unenviable position of having to meet two distinct and seemingly incompatible demands.
45The first demand, suggested by the problems faced by SAP and reductive alethic functionalism, is that the pluralism must still respect:
Truth is One: there is a single property named by “truth” that all and only true propositions share.
Nonetheless if the pluralist is still going to be pluralist in any sense she must maintain:
Truth is Many: there is more than one way to be true.
Is a view that answers both these demands possible? One reason to be optimistic — which I can only sketch here — comes to light by considering the following fact. The pluralist wishes to say that propositions can be true in different ways. At a minimum, this suggests that truth is dependent on these different ways of being true. That is,
ST: Necessarily, for any proposition of domain D, if it is true, then it has some property F such that, necessarily, if a proposition of D is F, it is true.
46What ST proposes is that truth is a supervenient property, in that it strongly co-varies with other properties, such as correspondence with fact or superassertibility, that propositions may have. And ST is compatible, clearly, with two further thoughts: first, that truth not just co-varies with these further properties but that it is metaphysically dependent in some way on those properties; and second, that which property determines truth can vary across context. That is, not only:
Necessarily, if x is F, then it is T
It is possible that x is T without being F.
47The natural thought, in short, is that truth is a single 1st order property which is asymmetrically dependent on other properties. Which property? The simplest answer, overlooked above, is to fall back on our truisms: to be true is to have the features picked out by the truisms, whatever they are. If, for example, our folk truisms tell us that truth is objective a norm of belief, and the property had by beliefs at the end of inquiry, then
Being true = being objective and normative of belief and had by beliefs at the end of inquiry.
48Thus, far from being a disjunctive property, according to this suggestion, truth is a complex conjunctive property. Since it identifies truth with a single property, this thought respects commonality. But since that property has multiple subvening bases, it holds out a promise that we might be able to understand how there can be more than one way for a judgment to be true.
49Obviously this is just a sketch. What the pluralist needs is (a) a fuller account of the features picked out by the truisms; and (b) an account of the dependency relation. We’ve already seen that this second demand can’t be unpacked by saying that truth is realized by more than one underlying property. As the reflections of the last section suggest, the relation between the ways of being true and truth as such would have to be much stronger and more intimate than the relation between mental states and brain states.
50What the pluralist needs is not realization but metaphysical determination. To invoke an overtly Aristotlean way of putting the point, rather than thinking of truth as multiply realized in some other properties, the pluralist should see truth as immanent in those properties. Specifying the nature of immanence is difficult, but at the very least, we can say that that a property X is immanent in property Y, where Y is a member of some set of base properties B, just when necessarily, X cannot be instantiated unless some member of B is instantiated; and to instantiate Y just is, in part, to instantiate X. One type of immanent property is a determinable property. The determinable property redness for example, is immanent in its determinates scarlet and crimson. It is a priori that to be red one must be red in some way. And it is similarly a priori that scarlet is one way of being red, and being red is part of what it is to be scarlet. Immanence, like identity, is therefore a metaphysically intimate relation, but unlike identity, it is, like realization, asymmetric.
- 6 Determinable immanent properties are distinct from manifested immanent properties in at least thre (...)
51Determinables are not the only type of immanent property. Nothing bars us from holding that certain functional properties are also immanent6. A functional property is defined by certain features, in particular its relational features. Intuitively then, some functional property F will be immanent in some other property Y just when it is a priori that the features definitive of F are a part of the features of Y. More carefully: a given functional property F is immanent in Y when it is a priori that the features and relations something has in virtue of its being F are a subset of the features and relations something has in virtue of being Y. Where this is the case, we could say that being F is manifested by being Y.
52Were the pluralist to see truth in this way, she would hold that a proposition is true if, and only if, it has some property Y that manifests truth. Intuitively put, a particular relation of correspondence would manifest truth were playing the truth-role having the features picked out by the folk theory of truth part of what it is for a proposition to correspond to objects and properties in the world.
- 7 This paper was originally presented at the (Anti)Realisms Conference in Nancy, France. Thanks to t (...)
53Whether these suggestions can be developed remains to be seen [see Lynch forthcoming]. Much more needs to be said. What is clear is that should alethic pluralism be made coherent, it must make sense of the thought that truth is neither one nor many but many and one.7