About this topic
Summary Modal realism is the view that there are many possible worlds and and that they are concrete entities of the same kind as the world we live in.
Key works The most prominent version of modal realism is that of Lewis 1986. Other important varieties of modal realism include those of Bricker 2008 and McDaniel 2004.
Introductions For a good introduction to modal realism, see Sider 2003 and chapter 5 of Melia 2003.
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  1. Adélékè Adéẹ̀kọ́ (2010). Specterless Spirits/Spiritless Specters: Magical Realism's Two Faces. The European Legacy 12 (4):469-480.
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  2. Michael Almeida (2011). Theistic Modal Realism. Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion 3:1-15.
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  3. Eugen Andreansky (2009). The Fortunes of Modal Realism. Filozofia 64 (6):535-544.
    There are several difficulties in understanding the concept of modal realism in our philosophical context. The author shows various types of modal realism as a theory. The analyses of the main theories of modal worlds and modal individuals show the problems of identity and identification as the fundamental questions. One of the key problems is the place of individuals in modals worlds.
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  4. Adriano Angelucci (2011). “Another World Is Possible”: Conference On David Lewis. Humana.Mente 19.
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  5. Tom Baldwin (2002). The Inaugural Address: Kantian Modality: Tom Baldwin. Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 76 (1):1–24.
    Kant's claim that modality is a 'category' provides an approach to modality to be contrasted with Lewis's reductive analysis. Lewis's position is unsatisfactory, since it depends on an inherently modal conception of a world. This suggests that modality is 'primitive'; and the Kantian position is a prima facie plausible position of this kind, which is filled out by considering the relationship between modality and inference. This provides a context for comparing the Kantian position with Wright's non-cognitivist 'conventionalism'. Wright's position is (...)
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  6. Joseph A. Baltimore (2014). Modal Realism, Counterpart Theory, and Unactualized Possibilities. Metaphysica 15 (1):209–217.
    It is a commonsense thesis that unactualized possibilities are not parts of actuality. To keep his modal realism in line with this thesis, David Lewis employed his indexical account of the term “actual.” I argue that the addition of counterpart theory to Lewis’s modal realism undermines his strategy for respecting the commonsense thesis. The case made here also reveals a problem for Lewis’s attempt to avoid haecceitism.
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  7. Joseph A. Baltimore (2011). Lewis' Modal Realism and Absence Causation. Metaphysica 12 (2):117-124.
    A major criticism of David Lewis’ counterfactual theory of causation is that it allows too many things to count as causes, especially since Lewis allows, in addition to events, absences to be causes as well. Peter Menzies has advanced this concern under the title “the problem of profligate causation.” In this paper, I argue that the problem of profligate causation provides resources for exposing a tension between Lewis’ acceptance of absence causation and his modal realism. The result is a different (...)
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  8. Karen Bennett (2005). Book Review. Possible Worlds. John Divers. [REVIEW] Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (2):282-85.
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  9. 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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  10. Jiri Benovsky (2008). Two Concepts of Possible Worlds – or Only One? Theoria 74 (4):318-330.
    In his "Two concepts of possible worlds", Peter Van Inwagen explores two kinds of views about the nature of possible worlds : abstractionism and concretism. The latter is the view defended by David Lewis who claims that possible worlds are concrete spatio-temporal universes, very much like our own, causally and spatio-temporally disconnected from each other. The former is the view of the majority who claims that possible worlds are some kind of abstract objects – such as propositions, properties, states of (...)
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  11. Jiri Benovsky (2005). Branching Versus Divergent Possible Worlds. Kriterion: Journal of Philosophy 19 (1):12-20.
    David Lewis' modal counterpart theory falls prey to the famous Saul Kripke's objection, and this is mostly due to his 'static' ontology (divergence) of possible worlds. This paper examines a genuinely realist but different, branching ontology of possible worlds and a new definition of the counterpart relation, which attempts to provide us with a better account of de re modality, and to meet satisfactorily Kripke's claim, while being also ontologically more 'parsimonious'.
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  12. Sandy Berkovski (2011). Lewis' Reduction of Modality. Acta Analytica 26 (2):95-114.
    I start by reconsidering two familiar arguments against modal realism. The argument from epistemology relates to the issue whether we can infer the existence of concrete objects by a priori means. The argument from pragmatics purports to refute the analogy between the indispensability of possible worlds and the indispensability of unobserved entities in physical science and of numbers in mathematics. Then I present two novel objections. One focusses on the obscurity of the notion of isolation required by modal realism. The (...)
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  13. 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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  14. Andrea Borghini & Giorgio Lando (2015). Natural Properties and Atomicity in Modal Realism. Metaphysica 16 (1):103-122.
    The paper pinpoints certain unrecognized difficulties that surface for recombination and duplication in modal realism when we ask whether the following inter-world fixity claims hold true: 1) A property is perfectly natural in a world iff it is perfectly natural in every world where it is instantiated; 2) Something is mereologically atomic in a world iff all of its duplicates in every world are atomic. In connection to 1), the hypothesis of idlers prompts four variants of Lewis’s doctrine of perfectly (...)
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  15. Andrea Borghini & Giorgio Lando (2011). Natural Properties, Supervenience, and Composition. Humana.Mente 19:79-104.
    The interpretation of Lewis?s doctrine of natural properties is difficult and controversial, especially when it comes to the bearers of natural properties. According to the prevailing reading ? the minimalist view ? perfectly natural properties pertain to the micro-physical realm and are instantiated by entities without proper parts or point-like. This paper argues that there are reasons internal to a broadly Lewisian kind of metaphysics to think that the minimalist view is fundamentally flawed and that a liberal view, according to (...)
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  16. Robert B. Brandom (2015). From Empiricism to Expressivism. Harvard University Press.
  17. Manuel Bremer (2003). Is There an Analytic Limit of Genuine Modal Realism? Mind 112 (445):79-82.
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  18. Phillip Bricker (2008). Concrete Possible Worlds. In Theodore Sider, John Hawthorne & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics. Blackwell Pub. 111--134.
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  19. Phillip Bricker (2006). Absolute Actuality and the Plurality of Worlds. Philosophical Perspectives 20 (1):41–76.
    According to David Lewis, a realist about possible worlds must hold that actuality is relative: the worlds are ontologically all on a par; the actual and the merely possible differ, not absolutely, but in how they relate to us. Call this 'Lewisian realism'. The alternative, 'Leibnizian realism', holds that actuality is an absolute property that marks a distinction in ontological status. Lewis presents two arguments against Leibnizian realism. First, he argues that the Leibnizian realist cannot account for the contingency of (...)
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  20. Phillip Bricker (2006). David Lewis: On the Plurality of Worlds. In John Shand (ed.), Central Works of Philosophy, Vol. 5: The Twentieth Century: Quine and After. Acumen Publishing
    David Lewis's book 'On the Plurality of Worlds' mounts an extended defense of the thesis of modal realism, that the world we inhabit the entire cosmos of which we are a part is but one of a vast plurality of worlds, or cosmoi, all causally and spatiotemporally isolated from one another. The purpose of this article is to provide an accessible summary of the main positions and arguments in Lewis's book.
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  21. Phillip Bricker (2001). Island Universes and the Analysis of Modality. In G. Preyer & F. Siebelt (eds.), Reality and Humean Supervenience: Essays on the Philosophy of David Lewis. Rowman and Littlefield
    It follows from Humean principles of plenitude, I argue, that island universes are possible: physical reality might have 'absolutely isolated' parts. This makes trouble for Lewis's modal realism; but the realist has a way out. First, accept absolute actuality, which is defensible, I argue, on independent grounds. Second, revise the standard analysis of modality: modal operators are 'plural', not 'individual', quantifiers over possible worlds. This solves the problem of island universes and confers three additional benefits: an 'unqualified' principle of compossibility (...)
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  22. Phillip Bricker (1996). Isolation and Unification: The Realist Analysis of Possible Worlds. Philosophical Studies 84 (2-3):225 - 238.
    If realism about possible worlds is to succeed in eliminating primitive modality, it must provide an 'analysis' of possible world: nonmodal criteria for demarcating one world from another. This David Lewis has done. Lewis holds, roughly, that worlds are maximal unified regions of logical space. So far, so good. But what Lewis means by 'unification' is too narrow, I think, in two different ways. First, for Lewis, all worlds are (almost) 'globally' unified: at any world, (almost) every part is directly (...)
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  23. Phillip Bricker (1983). Worlds and Propositions: The Structure and Ontology of Logical Space. Dissertation, Princeton University
    In sections 1 through 5, I develop in detail what I call the standard theory of worlds and propositions, and I discuss a number of purported objections. The theory consists of five theses. The first two theses, presented in section 1, assert that the propositions form a Boolean algebra with respect to implication, and that the algebra is complete, respectively. In section 2, I introduce the notion of logical space: it is a field of sets that represents the propositional structure (...)
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  24. Otávio Bueno & Scott Shalkowski (2004). Modal Realism and Modal Epistemology: A Huge Gap. In Erik Weber Tim De Mey (ed.), Modal Epistemology. Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie van Belgie Vor Wetenschappen En Kunsten 93--106.
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  25. Ross Cameron, Critical Notice.
    In this book, Yagisawa defends a type of realism about merely possible worlds and individuals.1 The view defended is much closer to David Lewis’s genuine modal realism than it is to any kind of actualist or ersatzist modal realism, and I think the best way of understanding Yagisawa’s view will be to see where it differs from Lewis’s. To that end, let’s briefly remind ourselves of Lewis’s theory.
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  26. Ross Cameron (2007). Lewisian Realism: Epistemology, Methodology, and Circularity. Synthese 156 (1):143-159.
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  27. Ross P. Cameron (2012). Why Lewis's Analysis of Modality Succeeds in its Reductive Ambitions. Philosophers' Imprint 12 (8).
    Some argue that Lewisian realism fails as a reduction of modality because in order to meet some criterion of success the account needs to invoke primitive modality. I defend Lewisian realism against this charge; in the process, I hope to shed some light on the conditions of success for a reduction. In §1 I detail the resources the Lewisian modal realist needs. In §2 I argue against Lycan and Shalkowski’s charge that Lewis needs a modal notion of ‘world’ to ensure (...)
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  28. 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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  29. Ross P. Cameron (2007). Lewisian Realism: Methodology, Epistemology, and Circularity. Synthese 156 (1):143 - 159.
    In this paper I argue that warrant for Lewis’ Modal Realism is unobtainable. I consider two familiar objections to Lewisian realism – the modal irrelevance objection and the epistemological objection – and argue that Lewis’ response to each is unsatisfactory because they presuppose claims that only the Lewisian realist will accept. Since, I argue, warrant for Lewisian realism can only be obtained if we have a response to each objection that does not presuppose the truth of Lewisian realism, this circularity (...)
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  30. Charles S. Chihara (1998). The Worlds of Possibility: Modal Realism and the Semantics of Modal Logic. Oxford University Press.
    A powerful challenge to some highly influential theories, this book offers a thorough critical exposition of modal realism, the philosophical doctrine that many possible worlds exist of which our own universe is just one. Chihara challenges this claim and offers a new argument for modality without worlds.
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  31. David Chua, Metaphysical Accounts of Modality: A Comparative Evaluation of Lewisian and Neo-Aristotelian Modal Metaphysics.
    In this essay I comparatively evaluate two realist metaphysical accounts of modality: David Lewis’ (1986) genuine modal realism (GMR), and neo-Aristotelian modal realism (AMR) as put forth by Alexander Pruss (2011). GMR offers a reductive analysis of modal claims of possibility and necessity in terms of claims quantifying over concrete worlds and counterparts, and is in this way committed the existence of a plurality of concrete worlds other than the actual world; AMR, on the other hand, offers an analysis of (...)
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  32. Nicola Ciprotti (2006). A Puzzle About Restricted Recombination in Modal Realism. In Paolo Valore (ed.), Topics on General and Formal Ontology. Polimetrica 281.
    This paper addresses a specific issue inherent to David Lewis’s conception of possible worlds, namely whether or not they are liable to being limited in size. The paper purports to show that, if a certain argument against unlimited worlds’ size is valid, then the way of countering it by means of positing an upper limit to size (as Lewis himself and John Divers have suggested) leads to a troublesome distortion of some modal phenomena, such as de re ascriptions of properties. (...)
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  33. Michael J. Clark (2010). Inclusionism and the Problem of Unmarried Husbands. Erkenntnis 73 (1):123 - 131.
    I discuss a modification of Lewisian modal realism called 'inclusionism'. Inclusionism is the thesis that some worlds contain other worlds as proper parts. Inclusionism has some attractive consequences for theories of modality. Josh Parsons, however, has raised a problem for inclusionism: the problem of unmarried husbands. In this paper I reply to this problem. My strategy is twofold: first I claim, pace Parsons, that it is not clear why the inclusionist cannot avail herself of an obvious solution to the problem; (...)
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  34. E. Conee (2011). Modal Realism, Counterpart Theory, and the Possibility of Multiversal Rectitude. Analysis 71 (4):680-684.
    Jim Stone has argued that a multiversal version of Modal Realism together with Counterpart Theory cannot account for a certain intuitive possibility. Roughly, it is the possibility that all free moral choices of a certain sort are the right choices in all cases in the multiverse. The present work offers an explanation of how the metaphysics in question can account for the intuitive possibility in question.
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  35. Sorin Costreie (2008). Is Really David Lewis a Realist? In Ontology Studies: Cuadernos de Ontología. 119-129.
    Paradoxically, concerning the structure of the world, David Lewis endorses a very nominalistic point of view, whereas he approaches possible worlds from an extreme realistic position. The aim of the present paper is exactly to analyze the relation between the ontology of actual world and the possible worlds ontology in the case of David Lewis, and to see whether or not this tension between the two irreconcilable positions is based on an inner contradiction in his philosophy.
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  36. Sam Cowling (2013). The Way of Actuality. Australasian Journal of Philosophy (2):1-17.
    In this paper, I defend an indexical analysis of the abstract-concrete distinction within the framework of modal realism. This analysis holds the abstract-concrete distinction to be conceptually inseparable from the distinction between the actual and the merely possible, which is assumed to be indexical in nature. The resulting view contributes to the case for modal realism by demonstrating how its distinctive resources provide a reductive analysis of the abstract-concrete distinction. This indexical analysis also provides a solution to a sceptical problem (...)
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  37. Sam Cowling (2012). Haecceitism for Modal Realists. Erkenntnis 77 (3):399-417.
    In this paper, I examine the putative incompatibility of three theses: (1) Haecceitism, according to which some maximal possibilities differ solely in terms of the non-qualitative or de re possibilities they include; (2) Modal correspondence, according to which each maximal possibility is identical with a unique possible world; (3) Counterpart theory, according to which de re modality is analyzed in terms of counterpart relations between individuals. After showing how the modal realism defended by David Lewis resolves this incompatibility by rejecting (...)
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  38. Max Cresswell (2005). 1. Even Modal Realists Should Do The Best They Can. Logique Et Analyse 48.
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  39. Chris John Daly (2008). The Methodology of Genuine Modal Realism. Synthese 162 (1):37 - 52.
    David Lewis’s genuine modal realism is a controversial thesis in modal metaphysics. Charles Chihara and Ross Cameron have each argued that Lewis’s defence of his thesis involves his committing serious methodological errors; in particular, that his replies to two well-known and important objections are question-begging. Scott Shalkowski has further argued that Lewis’s attempt to analyse modal talk in non-modal terms is viciously circular. This paper considers the methodology which Lewis uses to argue for his thesis, and the paper tries to (...)
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  40. George Darby & Duncan Watson (2010). Lewis's Principle of Recombination: Reply to Efird and Stoneham. Dialectica 64 (3):435-445.
    According to Lewis's modal realism, all ways the world could be are represented by possible worlds, and all possible worlds represent some way the world could be. That there are just the right possible worlds to represent all and only the ways the world could be is to be guaranteed by the principle of recombination. Lewis sketches the principle (put roughly: anything can co-exist with anything else), but does not spell out a precise version that generates just the right possibilities. (...)
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  41. By David A. Denby (2006). In Defence of Magical Ersatzism. Philosophical Quarterly 56 (223):161–174.
    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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  42. Tom Stoneham David Efird (2008). What is the Principle of Recombination? Dialectica 62 (4):483-494.
    In this paper, we give a precise characterization of the principle of recombination and argue that it need not be subject to any restrictions.
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  43. David A. Denby (1997). Metaphysical Theories of Modality: Properties, Relations and Possibilities. Dissertation, University of Massachusetts Amherst
    Many theories assimilate the idioms of modality to those of quantification; they hold that so-and-so is possible iff there is a "world" at which it is true that so-and-so. "Modal realism" identifies worlds with certain concrete particulars, and truth at a world with what is true of it. Rival "ersatz" theories identify worlds with certain abstract entities and identify what is true at them with what they represent. ;David Lewis argues that pre-theoretic modal intuitions are best explained by modal realism. (...)
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  44. Louis Derosset (2011). On the Plurality of Worlds: David Lewis. [REVIEW] Humana.Mente 19.
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  45. Louis deRosset (2009). Possible Worlds I: Modal Realism. Philosophy Compass 4 (6):998-1008.
    It is difficult to wander far in contemporary metaphysics without bumping into talk of possible worlds. And reference to possible worlds is not confined to metaphysics. It can be found in contemporary epistemology and ethics, and has even made its way into linguistics and decision theory. What are those possible worlds, the entities to which theorists in these disciplines all appeal? This paper sets out and evaluates a leading contemporary theory of possible worlds, David Lewis's Modal Realism. I note two (...)
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  46. John Divers (2014). The Modal Status of the Lewisian Analysis of Modality. Mind 123 (491):861-872.
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  47. John Divers (2014). An Inconvenient Modal Truth. Analysis 74 (4):575-577.
    There is a de re modal truth that proves inconvenient for the canonical Lewisian theory of modality. For this truth requires on that theory, the existence of things (counterparts) that exist in distinct worlds but are also spatiotemporally related.
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  48. John Divers (2010). Modal Commitments. In Bob Hale & Aviv Hoffmann (eds.), Modality: Metaphysics, Logic, and Epistemology. OUP Oxford
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  49. John Divers (2006). Possible-Worlds Semantics Without Possible Worlds: The Agnostic Approach. Mind 115 (458):187-226.
    If a possible-worlds semantic theory for modal logics is pure, then the assertion of the theory, taken at face-value, can bring no commitment to the existence of a plurality of possible worlds (genuine or ersatz). But if we consider an applied theory (an application of the pure theory) in which the elements of the models are required to be possible worlds, then assertion of such a theory, taken at face-value, does appear to bring commitment to the existence of a plurality (...)
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  50. John Divers (2004). Agnosticism About Other Worlds: A New Antirealist Programme in Modality. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 69 (3):660–685.
    The modal antirealist, as presented here, aims to secure at least some of the benefits associated with talking in genuine modal realist terms while avoiding commitment to a plurality of Lewisian (or ersatz) worlds. The antirealist stance of agnosticism about other worlds combines acceptance of Lewis's account of what world-talk means with refusal to assert, or believe in, the existence of other worlds. Agnosticism about other worlds does not entail a comprehensive agnosticism about modality, but where such agnosticism about modality (...)
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