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Summary Modal conventionalism is the thesis that modal truths depend, wholly or in part, on conventions of talk or thought. This basic idea can be cashed out in a wide variety of ways: traditional conventionalism leans heavily on the notion of analyticity, while some modern versions are explicitly non-linguistic theses.
Key works Ayer 1946 presents a clear version of traditional modal conventionalism. The most prominent contemporary conventionalist proposal is defended by Sider 2011Sidelle 1989 provides a thorough discussion and defense of conventionalism about de re modality.
Introductions Sider 2003
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  1. Jamin Asay (2013). Truthmaking for Modal Skeptics. Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 2 (4):303-312.
    Standard truthmaker theory has generally assumed a realist account of de re modality and essences. But there are reasons to be skeptical about such a view, and for considering antirealist alternatives. Can truthmaker theory survive in the face of such skepticism? I argue that it can, but that only certain antirealist perspectives on de re modality are acceptable for truthmaker theory. In particular, either a quasi-realist or conventionalist account of de re modality is needed to provide the best account of (...)
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  2. Ross P. Cameron (2010). The Grounds of Necessity. Philosophy Compass 5 (4):348-358.
    Some truths are necessary, others could have been false. Why? What is the source of the distinction between the necessary and the contingent? What's so special about the necessary truths that account for their necessity? In this article, we look at some of the most promising accounts of the grounds of necessity: David Lewis' reduction of necessity to truth at all possible worlds; Kit Fine's reduction of necessity to essence; and accounts of necessity that take the distinction between the necessary (...)
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  3. Hans-Johann Glock (2010). Necessity, a Priority and Analyticity: A Wittgensteinian Perspective. In Daniel Whiting (ed.), The Later Wittgenstein on Language. Palgrave Macmillan.
  4. Hans-Johann Glock (2003). The Linguistic Doctrine Revisited. Grazer Philosophische Studien 66 (1):143-170.
    At present, there is an almost universal consensus that the linguistic doctrine of logical necessity is grotesque. This paper explores avenues for rehabilitating a limited version of the doctrine, according to which the special status of analytic statements like 'All vixens are female' is to be explained by reference to language. Far from being grotesque, this appeal to language has a respectable philosophical pedigree and chimes with common sense, as Quine came to realize. The problem lies in developing it in (...)
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  5. Bob Hale & Aviv Hoffmann (eds.) (2010). Modality: Metaphysics, Logic, and Epistemology. Oxford University Press.
    The philosophy of modality investigates necessity and possibility, and related notions--are they objective features of mind-independent reality? If so, are they irreducible, or can modal facts be explained in other terms? This volume presents new work on modality by established leaders in the field and by up-and-coming philosophers. Between them, the papers address fundamental questions concerning realism and anti-realism about modality, the nature and basis of facts about what is possible and what is necessary, the nature of modal knowledge, modal (...)
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  6. Peter W. Hanks (2008). A Dilemma About Necessity. Erkenntnis 68 (1):129 - 148.
    The problem of the source of necessity is the problem of explaining what makes necessary truths necessarily true. Simon Blackburn has presented a dilemma intended to show that any reductive, realist account of the source of necessity is bound to fail. Although Blackburn's dilemma faces serious problems, reflection on the form of explanations of necessities reveals that a revised dilemma succeeds in defeating any reductive account of the source of necessity. The lesson is that necessity is metaphysically primitive and irreducible.
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  7. Mark Heller (2008). The Donkey Problem. Philosophical Studies 140 (1):83 - 101.
    The Donkey Problem (as I am calling it) concerns the relationship between more and less fundamental ontologies. I will claim that the moral to draw from the Donkey Problem is that the less fundamental objects are merely conventional. This conventionalism has consequences for the 3D/4D debate. Four-dimensionalism is motivated by a desire to avoid coinciding objects, but once we accept that the non-fundamental ontology is conventional there is no longer any reason to reject coincidence. I therefore encourage 4Dists to become (...)
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  8. Toby Meadows, Modality Without Metaphysics: A Metalinguistic Approach to Possibility.
    An account of modality is produced which takes as its foundation the idea that modal concepts are parasitic upon our background theoretical commitments. This position is distinguished from the majority of philosophies of modality, which are either primitivist or reductionist. It is in this sense that our account is less burdened by metaphysics. The primary purpose of the document is to demonstrate that our approach is a coherent one. It supports this claim in three stages. First, we identify the historical (...)
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  9. Gillian Russell (2010). A New Problem for the Linguistic Doctrine of Necessary Truth. In Cory D. Wright & Nikolaj J. L. L. Pedersen (eds.), New Waves in Truth. Palgrave Macmillan. 267--281.
    My target in this paper is a view that has sometimes been called the ‘Linguistic Doctrine of Necessary Truth’ (L-DONT) and sometimes ‘Conventionalism about Necessity’. It is the view that necessity is grounded in the meanings of our expressions—meanings which are sometimes identified with the conventions governing those expressions—and that our knowledge of that necessity is based on our knowledge of those meanings or conventions. In its simplest form the view states that a truth, if it is necessary, is necessary (...)
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  10. Thomas Schwartz (1979). Necessary Truth as Analyticity, and the Eliminability of Monadic de Re Formulas. Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 20 (2):336-340.
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  11. Alan Sidelle (2010). Modality and Objects. Philosophical Quarterly 60 (238):109-125.
    A not-unpopular position in the metaphysics of material objects (Ted Sider's, for instance) combines realism about what objects there are and the conditions of objecthood with conventionalism about de re modality. I argue that this is not a coherent combination of views: one must go fully conventionalist, or fully realist. The central argument displays the difficulty for the modal conventionalist/object realist in specifying the object that satisfies de re modal predicates. I argue that if this is a mind-independent object, contradictions (...)
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  12. Alan Sidelle (2009). Conventionalism and the Contingency of Conventions. Noûs 43 (2):224-241.
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  13. Alan Sidelle (1989). Necessity, Essence, and Individuation: A Defense of Conventionalism. Cornell University Press.
  14. Theodore Sider (2003). Reductive Theories of Modality. In Michael J. Loux & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics. Oxford University Press. 180-208.
    Logic begins but does not end with the study of truth and falsity. Within truth there are the modes of truth, ways of being true: necessary truth and contingent truth. When a proposition is true, we may ask whether it could have been false. If so, then it is contingently true. If not, then it is necessarily true; it must be true; it could not have been false. Falsity has modes as well: a false proposition that could not have been (...)
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  15. Theodore Sider (2001). The Worlds of Possibility. [REVIEW] Philosophical Review 110 (1):88-91.
    Possible worlds present a formidable challenge for the lover of desert landscapes. One cannot ignore their usefulness; they provide, as David Lewis puts it, “a philosophers’ paradise”.1 But to enter paradise possibilia must be fit into a believable ontology. Some follow Lewis and accept worlds at face value, but most prefer some other choice from the current menu. Part of Chihara’s book is a critical discussion of some of these menu options: Lewis’s modal realism, Alvin Plantinga’s abstract modal realism, (...)
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  16. Margot Strohminger (2013). Modal Humeanism and Arguments From Possibility. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 113 (3pt3):391-401.
    Sider (2011, 2013) proposes a reductive analysis of metaphysical modality—‘(modal) Humeanism’—and goes on to argue that it has interesting epistemological and methodological implications. In particular, Humeanism is supposed to undermine a class of ‘arguments from possibility’, which includes Sider's (1993) own argument against mereological nihilism and Chalmers's (1996) argument against physicalism. I argue that Sider's arguments do not go through, and moreover that we should instead expect Humeanism to be compatible with the practice of arguing from possibility in philosophy.
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  17. Tuomas E. Tahko (2013). Soames's Deflationism About Modality. Erkenntnis 78 (6):1367-1379.
    One type of deflationism about metaphysical modality suggests that it can be analysed strictly in terms of linguistic or conceptual content and that there is nothing particularly metaphysical about modality. Scott Soames is explicitly opposed to this trend. However, a detailed study of Soames’s own account of modality reveals that it has striking similarities with the deflationary account. In this paper I will compare Soames’s account of a posteriori necessities concerning natural kinds with the deflationary one, specifically Alan Sidelle’s account, (...)
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  18. Robert Wachbroit (1987). Logical Compulsion and Necessity. Erkenntnis 26 (1):45 - 56.
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