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Summary This category includes discussions of theories of possible worlds that either: a) hold that possible worlds are abstract entities or b) hold that, while there are no possible worlds, there are surrogates of possible worlds, or perhaps surrogates of the pluriverse of possible worlds, that can do much of the theoretical work possible worlds, or the pluriverse of possible worlds, are meant to do.
Key works Prominent accounts that hold that possible worlds are abstract objects include Plantinga 1992, and Stalnaker 1976. Prominent accounts that hold that there are surrogates of possible worlds include Melia 2001, and Sider 2002.
Introductions Two papers that provide a good introduction to ersatz theories of possible worlds are Menzel 2008 and Sider 2003. Two excellent book length introductions are Melia 2003 and Divers 2002.
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  1. Robert Merrihew Adams (1979). Theories of Actuality. In Michael J. Loux (ed.), The Possible and the Actual: Readings in the Metaphysics of Modality. Cornell University Press 190.
  2. Robert Merrihew Adams (1974). Theories of Actuality. Noûs 8 (3):211-231.
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  3. Karen Bennett (2005). Book Review. Possible Worlds. John Divers. [REVIEW] Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (2):282-85.
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  4. Jiri Benovsky (2015). Alethic Modalities, Temporal Modalities, and Representation. Kriterion: Journal of Philosophy 29:18-34.
    In this article, I am interested in four versions of what is often referred to as "the Humphrey objection". This objection was initially raised by Kripke against Lewis's modal counterpart theory, so this is where I will start the discussion. As we will see, there is a perfectly good answer to the objection. I will then examine other places where a similar objection can be raised: it can arise in the case of temporal counterpart theory (in fact, it can arise (...)
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  5. Francesco Berto (2010). Impossible Worlds and Propositions: Against the Parity Thesis. Philosophical Quarterly 60 (240):471-486.
    Accounts of propositions as sets of possible worlds have been criticized for conflating distinct impossible propositions. In response to this problem, some have proposed to introduce impossible worlds to represent distinct impossibilities, endorsing the thesis that impossible worlds must be of the same kind; this has been called the parity thesis. I show that this thesis faces problems, and propose a hybrid account which rejects it: possible worlds are taken as concrete Lewisian worlds, and impossibilities are represented as set-theoretic constructions (...)
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  6. Phillip Bricker (1987). Reducing Possible Worlds to Language. Philosophical Studies 52 (3):331 - 355.
    The most commonly heard proposals for reducing possible worlds to language succumb to a simple cardinality argument: it can be shown that there are more possible worlds than there are linguistic entities provided by the proposal. In this paper, I show how the standard proposals can be generalized in a natural way so as to make better use of the resources available to them, and thereby circumvent the cardinality argument. Once it is seen just what the limitations are on these (...)
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  7. Berit Brogaard (2006). Two Modal–Isms: Fictionalism and Ersatzism. Philosophical Perspectives 20 (1):77–94.
    It is sometimes said that no living philosopher is a genuine modal realist. This is no doubt an exaggeration. But at least this much is true: while we all partake of possible world talk when philosophizing, most of us regard this talk as incurring no commitment to a plurality of concrete worlds.
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  8. Otávio Bueno, Christopher Menzel & Edward N. Zalta (2013). Worlds and Propositions Set Free. Erkenntnis (4):1-24.
    The authors provide an object-theoretic analysis of two paradoxes in the theory of possible worlds and propositions stemming from Russell and Kaplan. After laying out the paradoxes, the authors provide a brief overview of object theory and point out how syntactic restrictions that prevent object-theoretic versions of the classical paradoxes are justified philosophically. The authors then trace the origins of the Russell paradox to a problematic application of set theory in the definition of worlds. Next the authors show that an (...)
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  9. Gabriele Contessa (2010). Modal Truthmakers and Two Varieties of Actualism. Synthese 174 (3):341 - 353.
    In this paper, I distinguish between two varieties of actualism—hardcore actualism and softcore actualism—and I critically discuss Ross Cameron’s recent arguments for preferring a softcore actualist account of the truthmakers for modal truths over hardcore actualist ones. In the process, I offer some arguments for preferring the hardcore actualist account of modal truthmakers over the softcore actualist one.
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  10. David A. Denby (2006). In Defence of Magical Ersatzism. In Philosophical Quarterly. 161-74.
    David Lewis' objection to a generic theory of modality which he calls ‘magical ersatzism’ is that its linchpin, a relation he calls ‘selection’, must be either an internal or an external relation, and that this is unintelligible either way. But the problem he points out with classifying selection as internal is really just an instance of the general problem of how we manage to grasp underdetermined predicates, is not peculiar to magical ersatzism, and is amenable to some familiar solutions. He (...)
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  11. Louis deRosset (2014). Possible Worlds for Modal Primitivists. Journal of Philosophical Logic 43 (1):109-131.
    Among the most remarkable developments in metaphysics since the 1950’s is the explosion of philosophical interest in possible worlds. This paper proposes an explanation of what possible worlds are, and argues that this proposal, the interpreted models conception, should be attractive to anyone who thinks that modal facts are primitive, and so not to be explained in terms of some non-modal notion of “possible world.” I articulate three constraints on any acceptable primitivist explanation of the nature of possible worlds, and (...)
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  12. Kit Fine (2003). The Problem of Possibilia. In Michael J. Loux & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics. Oxford University Press 161-179.
    Are there, in addition to the various actual objects that make up the world, various possible objects? Are there merely possible people, for example, or merely possible electrons, or even merely possible kinds? We certainly talk as if there were such things. Given a particular sperm and egg, I may wonder whether that particular child which would result from their union would have blue eyes. But if the sperm and egg are never in fact brought together, then there is no (...)
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  13. A. R. J. Fisher (forthcoming). On Lewis Against Magic: A Study of Method in Metaphysics. Synthese:1-19.
    David Lewis objected to theories that posit necessary connections between distinct entities and to theories that involve a magical grasping of their primitives. In On the Plurality of Worlds, Lewis objected to nondescript ersatzism on these grounds. The literature contains several reconstructions of Lewis ’ critique of nondescript ersatzism but none of these interpretations adequately address his main argument because they fail to see that Lewis ’ critique is based on broader methodological considerations. I argue that a closer look at (...)
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  14. Bob Hale (2013). Necessary Beings: An Essay on Ontology, Modality, and the Relations Between Them. OUP Oxford.
    Bob Hale presents a broadly Fregean approach to metaphysics, according to which ontology and modality are mutually dependent upon one another. He argues that facts about what kinds of things exist depend on facts about what is possible. Modal facts are fundamental, and have their basis in the essences of things--not in meanings or concepts.
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  15. Mark Heller (2002). Transworld Identity for the Ersatzist. Philosophical Topics 30 (1):77-101.
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  16. Peter Van Inwagen (1980). Indexicality and Actuality. Philosophical Review 89 (3):403 - 426.
  17. Mark Jago (forthcoming). Are Impossible Worlds Trivial? In Vit Puncochar & Petr Svarny (eds.), The Logica Yearbook 2012. College Publications
    Theories of content are at the centre of philosophical semantics. The most successful general theory of content takes contents to be sets of possible worlds. But such contents are very coarse-grained, for they cannot distinguish between logically equivalent contents. They draw intensional but not hyperintensional distinctions. This is often remedied by including impossible as well as possible worlds in the theory of content. Yet it is often claimed that impossible worlds are metaphysically obscure; and it is sometimes claimed that their (...)
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  18. Mark Jago (2013). Impossible Worlds. Noûs 47 (3):713-728.
    Impossible worlds are representations of impossible things and impossible happenings. They earn their keep in a semantic or metaphysical theory if they do the right theoretical work for us. As it happens, a worlds-based account provides the best philosophical story about semantic content, knowledge and belief states, cognitive significance and cognitive information, and informative deductive reasoning. A worlds-based story may also provide the best semantics for counterfactuals. But to function well, all these accounts need use of impossible and as well (...)
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  19. Mark Jago (2012). Constructing Worlds. Synthese 189 (1):59-74.
    You and I can differ in what we say, or believe, even though the things we say, or believe, are logically equivalent. Discussing what is said, or believed, requires notions of content which are finer-grained than sets of (metaphysically or logically) possible worlds. In this paper, I develop the approach to fine-grained content in terms of a space of possible and impossible worlds. I give a method for constructing ersatz worlds based on theory of substantial facts. I show how this (...)
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  20. William G. Lycan & Stewart Shapiro (1986). Actuality and Essence. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 11 (1):343-377.
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  21. Joseph Melia (2001). Reducing Possibilities to Language. Analysis 61 (269):19-29.
    Ehring, D. 1997. Causation and Persistence. New York: Oxford University Press. Fair, D. 1979. Causation and the flow of energy. Erkenntnis 14: 219–50. Goldman, A. 1977. Perceptual objects. Synthese 35: 257–84. Lewis, D. 1986a. Causation. In Philosophical Papers Vol. 2, 159–213. New York.
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  22. Christopher Menzel, Possible Worlds. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    This article includes a basic overview of possible world semantics and a relatively comprehensive overview of three central philosophical conceptions of possible worlds: Concretism (represented chiefly by Lewis), Abstractionism (represented chiefly by Plantinga), and Combinatorialism (represented chiefly by Armstrong).
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  23. Christopher Menzel (2012). Sets and Worlds Again. Analysis 72 (2):304-309.
    Bringsjord (1985) argues that the definition W of possible worlds as maximal possible sets of propositions is incoherent. Menzel (1986a) notes that Bringsjord’s argument depends on the Powerset axiom and that the axiom can be reasonably denied. Grim (1986) counters that W can be proved to be incoherent without Powerset. Grim was right. However, the argument he provided is deeply flawed. The purpose of this note is to detail the problems with Grim’s argument and to present a sound alternative argument (...)
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  24. Christopher Menzel (1989). On an Unsound Proof of the Existence of Possible Worlds. Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 30 (4):598-603.
    In this paper, an argument of Alvin Plantinga's for the existence of abstract possible worlds is shown to be unsound. The argument is based on a principle Plantinga calls "Quasicompactness", due to its structural similarity to the notion of compactness in first-order logic. The principle is shown to be false.
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  25. Christopher Menzel (1986). On Set Theoretic Possible Worlds. Analysis 46 (2):68 - 72.
  26. Vittorio Morato (2006). Ridurre i mondi possibili al linguaggio. Annali Del Dipartimento di Filosofia 12:195-213.
    Aim of this paper is to present and evaluate linguistic ersatzism, an actualist metaphysics of modality according to which possible worlds are maximal and consistent sets of sentences. In the first section, I make some general considerations about reductive theories of modality and the relation between modality and possible worlds, in the second I present a specific version of linguistic ersatzism and in the last section I present what I take to be the major problem for this kind of theories, (...)
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  27. Daniel Nolan (forthcoming). It's a Kind of Magic: Lewis, Magic and Properties. Synthese:1-25.
    David Lewis’s arguments against magical ersatzism are notoriously puzzling. Untangling different strands in those arguments is useful for bringing out what he thought was wrong with not just one style of theory about possible worlds, but with much of the contemporary metaphysics of abstract objects. After setting out what I take Lewis’s arguments to be and how best to resist them, I consider the application of those arguments to general theories of properties and relations. The constraints Lewis motivates turn out (...)
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  28. Daniel Nolan (2013). Topics in the Philosophy of Possible Worlds. Routledge.
    This book discusses a range of important issues in current philosophical work on the nature of possible worlds. Areas investigated include the theories of the nature of possible worlds, general questions about metaphysical analysis and questions about the direction of dependence between what is necessary or possible and what could be.
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  29. T. Parent (2012). Modal Metaphysics. In J. Feiser & B. Dowden (eds.), Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    This summarizes of some prominent views about the metaphysics of possible worlds.
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  30. Theodore Sider (2002). The Ersatz Pluriverse. Journal of Philosophy 99 (6):279-315.
    While many are impressed with the utility of possible worlds in linguistics and philosophy, few can accept the modal realism of David Lewis, who regards possible worlds as sui generis entities of a kind with the concrete world we inhabit.1 Not all uses of possible worlds require exotic ontology. Consider, for instance, the use of Kripke models to establish formal results in modal logic. These models contain sets often regarded for heuristic reasons as sets of “possible worlds”. But the “worlds” (...)
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  31. Robert C. Stalnaker (1976). Possible Worlds. Noûs 10 (1):65-75.
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  32. Jim Stone (2010). Counterpart Theory V. The Multiverse: Reply to Watson. Analysis 71 (1):96-100.
    (No abstract is available for this citation).
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  33. Peter van Inwagen (1986). Two Concepts of Possible Worlds. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 11 (1):185-213.
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  34. Chad Vance (forthcoming). Modal Truthmakers, Truth Conditions, and Analyses: Or, How to Avoid the Humphrey Objection. Acta Analytica:1-15.
    Truthmakers, truth conditions, and analyses are closely related, but distinct in rather important ways. A failure to properly appreciate their differences has led to some confusion regarding the role that possible worlds ought to play with respect to modality. Those philosophers who initially proposed the existence of possible worlds were understood as providing an analysis of modality. More recently, many have interpreted them as providing modal truthmakers. But, possible worlds are (at best) only suited to serve as truth conditions for (...)
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  35. Jennifer Wang (2015). Actualist Counterpart Theory. Journal of Philosophy 112 (8):417-441.
    Actualist counterpart theory replaces David Lewis’s concrete possible worlds and individuals with ersatz worlds and individuals, but retains counterpart theory about de re modality. While intuitively attractive, this view has been rejected for two main reasons: the problem of indiscernibles and the Humphrey objection. I argue that in insisting that ersatz individuals play the same role as Lewisian individuals, actualists commit the particularist fallacy. The actualist should not require stand-ins for every Lewisian individual. Ersatz individuals should instead be construed as (...)
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