The worlds of possibility [Book Review]

Philosophical Review 110 (1):88-91 (2001)
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, Graeme Forbes’s anti-realism and Gideon Rosen’s modal fictionalism. These discussions are very detailed and conversant with the literature. The discussions of Forbes (pp. 142-167) and of paradox within Plantinga’s system (pp. 120-141) are particularly enlightening. The rest of the book is devoted to Chihara’s positive project: developing an account of the status of model theory for non-modal logic, and then applying it to the modal case. The prize is an understanding of possible worlds semantics that requires no commitment to possible worlds at all (beyond the purely formal “possible worlds” of the standard Kripke-models.) What does the relativized notion of truth in an interpretation studied in (non-modal) model theory have to do with plain old truth? Chihara’s answer involves “connecting theorems” that relate truth-in to truth (chapter 5). A “natural-language proto-interpretation of the sentential calculus” (NLPI of SC) is a function that assigns meanings of declarative sentences of English to sentence letters. Where I is an NLPI of SC and φ is a sentence letter, Chihara uses ‘[φ/I ]’ to refer to “φ with the meaning it has been assigned by I ” (p. 191); where φ is not atomic, he says (p. 192).
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