Ontology and realism about modality

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 77 (3):292 – 302 (1999)
To be a realist about modality, need one claim that more exists than just the various objects and properties that populate the world—e.g. worlds other than the actual one, or maximal consistent sets of propositions? Or does the existence of objects and properties by itself involve the obtaining of necessities (and possibilities) in re? The latter position is now unpopular but not unfamiliar. Aristotle held that objects have essences, and hence necessarily have certain properties. Recently it has been argued that the identity of any property is tied to the natural laws in which it figures, which entails that the occurrence of properties involves the obtaining of nomological necessities ([24], pp. 206-33 and 234-60; [23]; cf. [25] and [6]). Somewhat less recently, Wittgenstein ([28], p. 168) worried that the reality of at least some properties—precise shades of colors being a prime example—involved the obtaining in re of certain impossibilities. This paper argues that Wittgenstein’s worries were right, and not just concerning some properties, but all properties whatever. That there are objects and properties in the world at all, then, amounts to there obtaining modal states of affairs. This argument supplements, rather than replaces, the others. The position on property incompatibility advanced here actually helps defend Aristotelian essentialism against epistemological objections, or so I have argued ([15]). And while this paper’s position on property incompatibility diverges from the idea that a property’s nomic profile is essential to it—more on this in the next section—it is at least compatible with the thought that the necessity involved in the laws of nature enters into ontology at the ground level
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DOI 10.1080/00048409912349051
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D. M. Armstrong (1993). A World of States of Affairs. Philosophical Perspectives 7 (3):429-440.

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