David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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The Monist 87 (3):303-321 (2004)
The question of what truths are necessary in the broadest possible sense is a difficult one to answer, as is the question of what the limits are to what is possible. (Most people would see these two questions as different sides of the same coin, of course, since many think the question of what is possible is just the question of what is not necessarily ruled out). We have three general sorts of strategies for determining whether something is necessary (or possible). We can identify it in a class that we were previously sure was a class of things that are necessary – we might show it is a theorem of a logical system that we have confidence in, or that the sentence appears to be true simply in virtue of the meanings of the words, or that it is a true statement involving names or about natural kinds of the “necessary a posteriori” sort discussed by Kripke and Putnam, and there are perhaps other classes of claims which we are prepared to accept are necessary if true.1 Likewise, we might establish the possibility of something occurring by reference to a class of well-established or uncontroversial possibilities: e.g. we are inclined to think that it is possible (in the broadest sense) for an event to occur in the future if one of the same kind has occurred in the past.
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