Journal of Philosophy 99 (6):279-315 (2002)
|Abstract||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” in these sets can be anything at all; they can be numbers, or people, or sh. The set of worlds, together with the accessibility relation and the rest of the model, is used as a purely formal structure.2 One can even go beyond establishing results about formal systems and apply Kripke models to English, as Charles Chihara has recently argued.3 Chihara shows, for instance, how to use Kripke models (plus primitive modal notions) to give an account of validity for English modal sentences. In other cases worlds are not really needed at all. It is often vivid to give a counterexample thus: “There is a possible world in which P. Since your theory implies that in all worlds, not-P, your theory is wrong.” But the counterexample could just as easily be given using modal operators: “Possibly, P. Since your theory implies that it is necessary that not-P, your theory is wrong.”.|
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