Actualism is the doctrine that the only things there are, that have being in any sense, are the things that actually exist. In particular, actualism eschews possibilism, the doctrine that there are merely possible objects. It is widely held that one cannot both be an actualist and at the same time take possible world semantics seriously — that is, take it as the basis for a genuine theory of truth for modal languages, or look to it for insight (...) into the modal structure of reality. For possible world semantics, it is supposed, commits one to possibilism. In this paper I take issue with this view. To the contrary, I argue that one can take possible world semantics seriously and yet remain in full compliance with actualist scruples. (shrink)
To understand the thesis of actualism, consider the following example. Imagine a race of beings — call them ‘Aliens’ — that is very different from any life-form that exists anywhere in the universe; different enough, in fact, that no actually existing thing could have been an Alien, any more than a given gorilla could have been a fruitfly. Now, even though there are no Aliens, it seems intuitively the case that there could have been such things. After all, life (...) might have evolved very differently than the way it did in fact. So in virtue of what is it true that there could have been Aliens when in fact there are none, and when, moreover, nothing that exists in fact could have been an Alien? So-called "possibilists" offer the following answer: ‘It is possible that there are Aliens’ is true because there are in fact individuals that could have been Aliens. At first blush, this might appear directly to contradict the premise that no existing thing could possibly have been an Alien. The possibilist's thesis, however, is that existence, or actuality, encompasses only a subset of the things that, in the broadest sense, are. So for the possibilist, ‘It is possible that there are Aliens’ is true simply in virtue of the fact that there are possible-but-nonactual Aliens, i.e., things that could have existed (but do not) and which would have been Aliens if they had. Actualists reject this answer; they deny that there are any nonactual individuals. Thus, actualism is the philosophical position that everything there is — everything that can in any sense be said to be — exists, or is actual. (shrink)
Suppose we believe that God created the world. Then surely we want it to be the case that he intended, in some sense at least, to create THIS world. Moreover, most theists want to hold that God didn't just guess or hope that the world would take one course or another; rather, he KNEW precisely what was going to take place in the world he planned to create. In particular, of each person P, God knew that P was to exist. (...) Call this the "standard" conception. Most theists find the standard conception appealing. Unfortunately, the view seems to conflict with the equally appealing idea — call it "temporal actualism" — that there are no "future" individuals beyond those that already exist in the present moment. For, on this view, for any historical person P, prior to creation, there was no such person as P and hence nothing about P for God to know. Hence, in particular, God couldn't have known that P was to exist. This is of course not a new problem. But past solutions to it are highly problematic. In this paper, after canvassing previous approaches, I will propose a solution that seems to preserve both temporal actualism and a suitably robust form of the standard conception while avoiding the pitfalls of the past. (shrink)
In this paper, I distinguish between two varieties of actualism—hardcore actualism and softcore actualism—and I critically discuss Ross Cameron’s recent arguments for preferring a softcore actualist account of the truthmakers for modal truths over hardcore actualist ones. In the process, I offer some arguments for preferring the hardcore actualist account of modal truthmakers over the softcore actualist one.
Dispositional essentialists are typically committed to two claims: that properties are individuated by their causal role (‘causal structuralism’), and that natural necessity is to be explained by appeal to these causal roles (‘dispositional actualism’). I argue that these two claims cannot be simultaneously maintained; and that the correct response is to deny dispositional actualism. Causal structuralism remains an attractive position, but doesn’t in fact provide much support for dispositional essentialism.
Bernard Linsky and Edward Zalta have recently proposed a new form of actualism. I characterize the general form of their view and the motivations behind it. I argue that it is not quite new – it bears interesting similarities to Alvin Plantinga’s view – and that it definitely isn’t actualist.
In this essay I critique a particular reading of Bergson that places an excessive weight on the concept of the ‘virtual’. Driven by the popularity of Deleuze’s use of the virtual, this image of Bergson (seen especially through his text of 1896, Matter and Memory, where the idea is introduced) generates an imbalance that fails to recognise the importance of concepts of actuality, like space or psychology, in his other works. In fact, I argue that the virtual is not the (...) key concept for Bergsonism and that there is a good deal of evidence in Bergson’s other writings, especially those connected with his actualist notion of ‘refraction’, to think of him as a perspectivist philosopher. Moreover, it will be seen that Virtualism resides within an economy of reflection that is subsumed within the broader paradigm of Actualist refraction. Taking these optical metaphors seriously, the virtual becomes a perspectival image seen from an actual position, or rather, an interacting set of actual positions. This interaction is termed ‘virtualization’, denoting the substitution of a substantive conception with a processual one. In the first two parts of the essay, I direct my remarks more towards Deleuzian readings of the actual rather than Deleuze himself (Deleuze is so open about the biases he brings to his reading of Bergson as to be beyond criticism). In the second two sections, I pursue a philosophical argument for the probity of a non-Virtualist position as such within philosophy, based upon the concept of refraction. This is done not only because it is important that we remain open to other readings of Bergson that are not so heavily mediated in one direction, but also in view of the power of refraction as a new concept for reconciling actual modes such as molar identity, the present, and extension, with their virtual opposites. (shrink)
How is what an agent ought to do related to what an agent ought to prefer that she does? More precisely, suppose we know what an agent’s preference ordering ought to be over the prospects of performing the various courses of action open to her. Can we infer from this information how she ought to act, and if so, how can we infer it? One view (which, for convenience, I will call ‘actualism’) is that an agent ought to (...) just in case she ought to prefer the prospect of her -ing to the prospect of her not -ing. Another view (which, for convenience, I will call ‘possibilism’) is that an agent ought to just in case she ought to prefer the prospect of some maximally specific option that involves her -ing to the prospect of any maximally specific option that does not involve her -ing (with the quantifiers appropriately restricted). After making some preliminary clarifications in part 1, I will discuss actualism and possibilism in parts 2 and 3, respectively. I will argue, in part 2, that actualism is very far from the truth. And I will argue, in part 3, that while the standard version of possibilism faces significant problems, there are much better versions of possibilism that avoid the objections to the standard view. Ultimately, however, I will argue that even the best forms of possibilism are not acceptable. Then, in part 4, I will propose what I take to be the best view, one that is neither strictly possibilist nor actualist, and that avoids the shortcomings of both these views. (shrink)
Particular possibilities -- such as that this particular chair occupy the only vacant corner of my office -- are commonly supposed to depend on what actual things there are and what they are like, whereas general possibilities -- such as that some chair or other occupy some vacant corner or other of some office or other -- are commonly supposed not to be so dependent. I articulate a different conception whereby general possibilities are no less determined by what actual things (...) there are and what they are like than particular possibilities. Ramifications of this approach are highlighted and brought to bear on a problem often raised for actualist essentialism. (shrink)
Karen Bennett has recently argued that the views articulated by Linsky and Zalta (Philos Perspect 8:431–458, 1994) and (Philos Stud 84:283–294, 1996) and Plantinga (The nature of necessity, 1974) are not consistent with the thesis of actualism, according to which everything is actual. We present and critique her arguments. We first investigate the conceptual framework she develops to interpret the target theories. As part of this effort, we question her definition of ‘proxy actualism’. We then discuss her main (...) arguments that the theories carry a commitment to actual entities that do not exist. We end by considering and addressing a worry that might have been the driving force behind Bennett’s claim that Linsky and Zalta’s view is not fully actualistic. (shrink)
In Thinking About Consciousness , David Papineau  presents a criticism of so-called 'actualist HOT theories of consciousness'. The HOT theory, held most notably by David Rosenthal, claims that the best explanation for what makes a mental state conscious is that it is the object of an actual higher-order thought directed at the mental state. Papineau contends that actualist HOT theory faces an awkward problem in relation to higher-order memory judgements; for example, that the theory cannot explain how one could (...) later recall an earlier experience that was not introspected. He argues that, on the HOT theory, we are even left with the absurd conclusion that the consciousness of, say, an earlier visual experience might even depend on the later act of memory. I show that Papineau's criticism of actualist HOT theory not only fails, but also that it seriously mischaracterizes and underestimates the theory. In particular, Papineau badly conflates the crucial difference between an introspective state (i.e., where a conscious HOT is directed at a mental state) and an outer-directed first-order conscious state (i.e., a case where one has a nonconscious HOT). (shrink)
It has been argued that actualism – the view that there are no non-actual objects – cannot deal adequately with statements involving iterated modality, because such claims require reference, either explicit or surreptitious, to non-actual objects. If so, actualists would have to reject the standard semantics for quantified modal logic (QML). In this paper I develop an account of modality which allows the actualist to make sense of iterated modal claims that are ostensibly about non-actual objects. Every occurrence of (...) a modal operator involves the stipulation of a possible world, and nested modal operators require stipulation of nested possible worlds. I provide an actualistically acceptable (AA) semantics for QML wherein the nesting relation is irreflexive and intransitive and forms a tree. Despite these restrictions, AA models can beshown to be sound and complete for a wide variety of modal logics. (shrink)
This article concerns the prescriptive function of decision analysis. Consider an agent who must choose an action yielding welfare that varies with an unknown state of nature. It is often asserted that such an agent should adhere to consistency axioms which imply that behavior can be represented as maximization of expected utility. However, our agent is not concerned the consistency of his behavior across hypothetical choice sets. He only wants to make a reasonable choice from the choice set that he (...) actually faces. Hence, I reason that prescriptions for decision making should respect actuality. That is, they should promote welfare maximization in the choice problem the agent actually faces. Any choice respecting weak and stochastic dominance is rational from the actualist perspective. (shrink)
Already in 1863, Jules Verne knew about Caselli's "pantelegraphy," which was what he described as a "photographic telegraphy, invented during the last century by Professor Giovanni Caselli of Florence."1 Following the mistaken belief that facsimile machines could not been invented until well after the nineteenth century, and wrongly assuming that Caselli was a fictional inventor, merely a figment of Verne's most productive fertile imagination (as such imaginative elements characterize his latter writings), some of Verne's readers mistakenly ascribed to him the (...) discovery of the possibility of the fax machine. They thus committed what I will call soon "a reversed actualist fallacy."In challenging actualist mistakes .. (shrink)
In 'Axiological Actualism' Josh Parsons argues that 'axiological actualism', which is 'the doctrine that ethical theory should refrain from assigning levels of welfare, or preference orderings, or anything of the sort to merely possible people', lends plausibility to 'the converse intuition'. This is the proposition that 'the welfare a person would have, were they actual, can give us a reason not to bring that person into existence'. I show that Parsons's argument delivers less than he promises. It could (...) be convincing only to actualists who hold certain views about normative ethics, and could at most convince them to heed the converse intuition only under certain circumstances. (shrink)
In three places Spinoza presents an argument from (a) determinism and (b) God’s “eternity” to (c) “actualism”, i.e., the doctrine that this is (in some sense) the only possible world. That he does so shows that he distinguishes (a) from (c), which he has been thought to conflate. On one reading of ‘eternal’, he is claiming that an infinite past entails no other world was a “real” possibility. As might be expected, the argument is a failure, but it may (...) help explain why Spinoza holds that there are no contingencies. (shrink)
Timothy Williamson has argued that in the debate on modal ontology, the familiar distinction between actualism and possibilism should be replaced by a distinction between positions he calls contingentism and necessitism. He has also argued in favor of necessitism, using results on quantified modal logic with plurally interpreted second-order quantifiers showing that necessitists can draw distinctions contingentists cannot draw. Some of these results are similar to well-known results on the relative expressivity of quantified modal logics with so-called inner and (...) outer quantifiers. The present paper deals with these issues in the context of quantified modal logics with generalized quantifiers. Its main aim is to establish two results for such a logic: Firstly, contingentists can draw the distinctions necessitists can draw if and only if the logic with inner quantifiers is at least as expressive as the logic with outer quantifiers, and necessitists can draw the distinctions contingentists can draw if and only if the logic with outer quantifiers is at least as expressive as the logic with inner quantifiers. Secondly, the former two items are the case if and only if all of the generalized quantifiers are first-order definable, and the latter two items are the case if and only if first-order logic with these generalized quantifiers relativizes. (shrink)
According to many actualists, propositions, singular propositions in particular, are structurally complex, that is, roughly, (i) they have, in some sense, an internal structure that corresponds rather directly to the syntactic structure of the sentences that express them, and (ii) the metaphysical components, or constituents, of that structure are the semantic values — the meanings — of the corresponding syntactic components of those sentences. Given that reference is "direct", i.e., that the meaning of a name is its denotation, an apparent (...) consequence of this view is that any proposition expressed by a sentence containing a name that denotes a contingent being S is itself contingent — notably, the proposition [S does not exist]. Assuming that an entity must exist to have a property, necessarily, [S does not exist] must exist in order to be true. It seems to follow that, necessarily, [S does not exist] is not true and, hence, that S is not contingent after all. Past approaches to the problem — notably, those of Prior and Adams — lead to highly undesirable consequences for quantified modal logic. In this paper, several solutions to this puzzle are developed that preserve actualism, the structured view of propositions, the direct theory of reference, and the intuition that [S does not exist] is indeed possible without the adverse consequences for QML of previous solutions. (shrink)
According to the TDT, no singular propositions about an individual and no "thisnesses" of individuals exist prior to the existence of the individual in question, where a thisness "is the property of being x, or of being identical with x" and a "singular proposition about an individual x is a proposition that involves or refers to x directly, perhaps by having x or the thisness of x as a constituent, and not merely by way of x's qualitative properties or relations (...) to other individuals" (p. 315) The support for this position comes from two sources, according to Adams. (shrink)
I offer solutions to a puzzle about intentional identity and a related puzzle about empty names. (This is part of a trilogy of papers on content; the other two are’Ontological Commitment’ and ‘On Specifying Content’.).
In this paper, I examine our intuitive understanding of metaphysical contingency, and ask what features a metaphysical picture must possess in order to satisfy our intuitions about modal matters. After spelling out what I think are the central intuitions in this domain, I examine the debate between the two most widely held views on the nature of modality, namely, modal realism and modal actualism. I argue that while each of these views is able to accommodate some of our intuitions, (...) it leaves others unsatisfied. I then present an alternative metaphysical picture, which I argue can accommodate our intuitions in a way that the traditional views cannot. More specifically, I argue that our intuitions about modality call for a pluralist view of the structure of reality—a view on which there is more than one ultimate ‘shape’ to the fundamental facts, each corresponding to a distinct metaphysically privileged perspective on reality. (shrink)
Consider two standard quantified modal languages and whose vocabularies comprise the identity predicate and the existence predicate, each endowed with a standard S5 Kripke semantics where the models have a distinguished actual world, which differ only in that the quantifiers of are actualist while those of are possibilist. Is it possible to enrich these languages in the same manner, in a non-trivial way, so that the two resulting languages are equally expressive—i.e., so that for each sentence of one language there (...) is a sentence of the other language such that given any model, the former sentence is true at the actual world of the model iff the latter is? Forbes (1989) shows that this can be done by adding to both languages a pair of sentential operators called Vlach-operators, and imposing a syntactic restriction on their occurrences in formulas. As Forbes himself recognizes, this restriction is somewhat artificial. The first result I establish in this paper is that one gets sameness of expressivity by introducing infinitely many distinct pairs of indexed Vlach-operators. I then study the effect of adding to our enriched modal languages a rigid actuality operator. Finally, I discuss another means of enriching both languages which makes them expressively equivalent, one that exploits devices introduced in Peacocke (1978). Forbes himself mentions that option but does not prove that the resulting languages are equally expressive. I do, and I also compare the Peacockian and the Vlachian methods. In due course, I introduce an alternative notion of expressivity and I compare the Peacockian and the Vlachian languages in terms of that other notion. (shrink)
This intuition may be contrasted with the incompatible intuitions that might support, say, average utilitarianism. According to average utilitarianism we should bring about that outcome which has the highest average utility. That someone would have a higher than average level of utility is, therefore, ceteris paribus a reason to act so that that person exists. Because of this, the basic intuition is a reason for rejecting average utilitarianism.
Regardless or independent of any actuality or actualization and exempt from spatiotemporal and causal conditions, each individual possibility is pure. Actualism excludes the existence of individual pure possibilities, altogether or at least as existing independently of actual reality. In this paper, I demonstrate, on the grounds of my possibilist metaphysics—panenmentalism—how some of the most fascinating scientific discoveries in chemistry could not have been accomplished without relying on pure possibilities and the ways in which they relate to each other (for (...) instance, in theoretical models). The discoveries are the following: Dan Shechtman’s discovery of quasicrystals; Linus Pauling’s alpha helix; the discovery of F. Sherwood Rowland and Mario J. Molina concerning the destruction of the atmospheric ozone layer; and Neil Bartlett’s noble gas compounds. On the grounds of the analysis of these cases, actualism must fail, whereas panenmentalism gains support. (shrink)
Many familiar forms of property realism identify properties with sui generis ontological categories like universals or tropes and posit a fundamental instantiation relation that unifies objects with their properties. In this paper, I develop and defend locationism, which identifies properties with locations and holds that the occupation relation that unifies objects with their locations also unifies objects with their properties. Along with the theoretical parsimony that locationism enjoys, I argue that locationism resolves a puzzle for actualists regarding the ontological status (...) of uninstantiated properties. I also note some promising applications of the locationist framework to the metaphysics of quantities and possible worlds. (shrink)
Recent work in philosophy of language has raised significant problems for the traditional theory of propositions, engendering serious skepticism about its general workability. These problems are, I believe, tied to fundamental misconceptions about how the theory should be developed. The goal of this paper is to show how to develop the traditional theory in a way which solves the problems and puts this skepticism to rest. The problems fall into two groups. The first has to do with reductionism, specifically attempts (...) to reduce propositions to extensional entities-either extensional functions or sets. The second group concerns problems of fine grained content-both traditional 'Cicero'/'Tully' puzzles and recent variations on them which confront scientific essentialism. After characterizing the problems, I outline a non-reductionist approach-the algebraic approach-which avoids the problems associated with reductionism. I then go on to show how the theory can incorporate non-Platonic (as well as Platonic) modes of presentation. When these are implemented nondescriptively, they yield the sort of fine-grained distinctions which have been eluding us. The paper closes by applying the theory to a cluster of remaining puzzles, including a pair of new puzzles facing scientific essentialism. (shrink)
The most commonly heard proposals for reducing possible worlds to language succumb to a simple cardinality argument: it can be shown that there are more possible worlds than there are linguistic entities provided by the proposal. In this paper, I show how the standard proposals can be generalized in a natural way so as to make better use of the resources available to them, and thereby circumvent the cardinality argument. Once it is seen just what the limitations are on these (...) more general proposals, it can be clearly seen where the real difficulty lies with any attempt to reduce possible worlds to language. Roughly, the difficulty is this: no actual language could have the descriptive resources needed to represent all the ways things might have been. I conclude by arguing that this same difficulty spells doom for any nominalist or conceptualist proposal for reducing possible worlds. (shrink)
In this paper, I first trace the course of Prior's struggles with the concepts and phenomena of modality and the reasoning that led him to his own rather peculiar modal logic Q. I find myself in almost complete agreement with Prior's intuitions and the arguments that rest upon them. However, I will argue that those intuitions do not of themselves lead to Q, but that one must also accept a certain picture of what it is for a proposition to be (...) possible. That picture, though, is not inevitable. Rather, implicit in Prior's own account is an alternative picture that has already appeared in various guises, most prominently in the work of Adams, Fine, Deutsch, and Almog. I, too, will opt for this alternative, though I will spell it out rather differently than these philosophers. I will then show that, starting with the alternative picture, Prior's intuitions can lead instead to a much happier and more standard quantified modal logic than Q. The last section of the paper is devoted to the formal development of the logic and its metatheory. (shrink)
An account of non-existing objects called 'classical possibilism', according to which objects that don't actually exist do exist in various other ways, is implemented in a two-dimensional modal logic with non-traditional predication theory. This account is very similar to Priest's, but preserves bivalence and does not endorse dialethism. The power of classical possibilism is illustrated by giving some examples that makes use of a description theory of reference. However, the same effect could also be achieved in a more Millian fashion. (...) It is argued that classical possibilism is ontologically more neutral than is commonly thought, because it allows for the formulation of various forms of reductionism within the object language. (shrink)
In the 1960’s, Lars Bergström and Hector-Neri Castañeda noticed a problem with alternative acts and consequentialism. The source of the problem is that some performable acts are versions of other performable acts and the versions need not have the same consequences as the originals. Therefore, if all performable acts are among the agent’s alternatives, act consequentialism yields deontic paradoxes. A standard response is to restrict the application of act consequentialism to certain relevant alternative sets. Many proposals are based on some (...) variation of maximalism, that is, the view that act consequentialism should only be applied to maximally specific acts. In this paper, I argue that maximalism cannot yield the right prescriptions in some cases where one can either (i) form at once the intention to do an immediate act and form at a later time the intention to do a succeeding act or (ii) form at once the intention to do both acts and where the consequences of (i) and (ii) differ in value. Maximalism also violates normative invariance, that is, the condition that if an act is performable in a situation, then the normative status of the act does not depend on what acts are performed in the situation. Instead of maximalism, I propose that the relevant alternatives should be the exhaustive combinations of acts the agent can jointly perform without performing any other act in the situation. In this way, one avoids the problem of act versions without violating normative invariance. Another advantage is that one can adequately differentiate between possibilities like (i) and (ii). (shrink)
This paper aims to reconcile presentism with truthmaker theory. I begin by motivating the reconciliation. In section 2 I ask what is wrong with the Lucretian strategy of grounding 'there were dinosaurs' in the world’s instantiating 'being such that there were dinosaurs'. I aim to pinpoint what is peculiar about such properties and hence to say what kind of properties the presentist needs in order to give an acceptable reconciliation; in section 3 I argue that certain distributional properties do the (...) job. In 4 I deal with some potential objections to the presentist appealing to such properties. In 5 I show how the presentist who accepts my view can deal with the open future; this raises questions concerning how to give truthmakers for indeterminate and determinate truths, which are dealt with in section 6. In section 7 I ask whether my solution can be generalised to reconcile actualism and here-now-ism with truthmaker theory and argue that in the former case at least, it can’t. (shrink)
I begin by contrasting three approaches one can take to the distinction between the essential and accidental properties: an ontological, a deflationary, and a mind-dependent approach. I then go on to apply that distinction to the necessary a posteriori, and defend the deflationist view. Finally I apply the distinction to modal truth in general and argue that the deflationist position lets us avoid an otherwise pressing problem for the actualist: the problem of accounting for the source of modal truth.
Are there, in addition to the various actual objects that make up the world, various possible objects? Are there merely possible people, for example, or merely possible electrons, or even merely possible kinds? We certainly talk as if there were such things. Given a particular sperm and egg, I may wonder whether that particular child which would result from their union would have blue eyes. But if the sperm and egg are never in fact brought together, then there is no (...) actual object that my thought is about.1 Or again, in the semanti cs for modal logic we presuppose an ontology of possibilia twice over.2 For first, we coutenance various possible worlds, in addition to the actual world; and second, each of these worlds is taken to be endowed with its own domai n of objects. These will be the actual objects of the world in question, but they need not be actual simpliciter, i.e., actual objects of our world. W ha t a r e w e t o m a k e o f such discourse? There are four options: (i) the discourse is taken to be unintelligible; (ii) it is taken to be intelligible but nonfactual, i.e. as not in the business of stating facts; (iii) it is taken to be factual but reducible to discourse involving no reference to possibilia; (iv) it is taken to be both factual and irreducible.3 These options range from a fullblooded form of actualism at one extreme to a full-blooded form of possibilism at the other. The two intermediate positions are possibilist in that they accept the intelligibility of possibilist discourse but actualist in that they attempt to dispense with its prima facie commitment to possibilia. All four positions have found advocates in the literature. Quine, in his less irenic moments, favours option (i); Forbes (, p. 94) advocates option (ii), at least for certain parts of possibilist discourse; many philosophers, including Adams  and myself, opt for (iii); while Lewis  and Stalnaker  have endorsed versions of (iv), that differ in how full-blooded they take the possible objects to be.. (shrink)
How is the debate between presentism and eternalism to be characterized? It is usual to suggest that this debate about time is analogous to the debate between the actualist and the possibilist about modality. I think that this suggestion is right. In what follows I pursue the analogy more strictly than is usual and offer a characterization of what is at the core of the dispute between presentists and eternalists that may be immune to worries often raised about the substantiality (...) of the debate. I suggest that the debate be characterized in Lewisean terms and define positions I call *Lewisean* eternalism and anti-*Lewisean*’ presentism (analogous to Lewisean possibilism and anti-Lewisean actualism). I explain some advantages of the proposal and discuss some objections. I conclude that pursuing the analogy strictly offers the prospect of giving clear sense to a controversy which otherwise seems to many deeply obscure. Content Type Journal Article Category Original Article Pages 1-9 DOI 10.1007/s10670-011-9303-1 Authors Harold W. Noonan, Department of Philosophy, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG72RD UK Journal Erkenntnis Online ISSN 1572-8420 Print ISSN 0165-0106. (shrink)
Kant's speculative theistic proof rests on a distinction between “logical” and “real” modality that he developed very early in the pre-critical period. The only way to explain facts about real possibility, according to Kant, is to appeal to the properties of a unique, necessary, and “most real” being. Here I reconstruct the proof in its historical context, focusing on the role played by the theory of modality both in motivating the argument (in the pre-critical period) and, ultimately, in undoing it (...) as a source of knowledge of God's existence (in the critical period). Along the way I examine Kant's version of the now-popular “actualist” thesis that facts about what is possible must be explained by facts about what is actual. I conclude by discussing why the critical Kant claims both that there are rational grounds for accepting the conclusion of his theistic proof, and that such acceptance can not count as knowledge. This is important, I argue, because the same considerations ultimately motivate his prohibition on knowledge of things-in-themselves generally. -/- . (shrink)
You and I can differ in what we say, or believe, even though the things we say, or believe, are logically equivalent. Discussing what is said, or believed, requires notions of content which are finer-grained than sets of (metaphysically or logically) possible worlds. In this paper, I develop the approach to fine-grained content in terms of a space of possible and impossible worlds. I give a method for constructing ersatz worlds based on theory of substantial facts. I show how this (...) theory overcomes an objection to actualist constructions of ersatz worlds and argue that it naturally gives rise to useful notions of fine-grained content. (shrink)
This paper summarizes and extends the transmodal argument for the existence of universals (developed in full detail in "Universals"). This argument establishes not only the existence of universals, but also that they exist necessarily, thereby confirming the ante rem view against the post rem and in re views (and also anti-existentialism against existentialism). Once summarized, the argument is extended to refute the trope theory of properties and is also shown to succeed even if possibilism is assumed. A nonreductionist theory of (...) universals and properties is then outlined, and it is sketched how to reap the benefits of possibilism and Meinongianism in an actualist setting. (shrink)
Necessitism is the view that necessarily everything is necessarily something; contingentism is the negation of necessitism. The dispute between them is reminiscent of, but clearer than, the more familiar one between possibilism and actualism. A mapping often used to ‘translate’ actualist discourse into possibilist discourse is adapted to map every sentence of a first-order modal language to a sentence the contingentist (but not the necessitist) may regard as equivalent to it but which is neutral in the dispute. This mapping (...) enables the necessitist to extract a ‘cash value’ from what the contingentist says. Similarly, a mapping often used to ‘translate’ possibilist discourse into actualist discourse is adapted to map every sentence of the language to a sentence the necessitist (but not the contingentist) may regard as equivalent to it but which is neutral in the dispute. This mapping enables the contingentist to extract a ‘cash value’ from what the necessitist says. Neither mapping is a translation in the usual sense, since necessitists and contingentists use the same language with the same meanings. The former mapping is extended to a second-order modal language under a plural interpretation of the second-order variables. It is proved that the latter mapping cannot be. Thus although the necessitist can extract a ‘cash value’ from what the contingentist says in the second-order language, the contingentist cannot extract a ‘cash value’ from some of what the necessitist says, even when it raises significant questions. This poses contingentism a serious challenge. (shrink)
The paper is a critique of the widespread conception of logic as a neutral arbiter between metaphysical theories, one that makes no `substantive’ claims of its own (David Kaplan and John Etchemendy are two recent examples). A familiar observation is that virtually every putatively fundamental principle of logic has been challenged over the last century on broadly metaphysical grounds (however mistaken), with a consequent proliferation of alternative logics. However, this apparent contentiousness of logic is often treated as though it were (...) neutralized by the possibility of studying all these alternative logics within an agreed metalogical framework, typically that of first-order logic with set theory. In effect, metalogic is given the role of neutral arbiter. The paper will consider a variety of examples in which deep logical disputes re-emerge at the meta-level. One case is quantified modal logic, where some varieties of actualism require a modal meta-language (as opposed to the usual non-modal language of possible worlds model theory) in order not to make their denial of the Barcan formula self-defeating. Similarly, on some views the intended model theory for second-order logic can only be given in a second-order metalanguage—this may be needed to avoid versions of Russell’s paradox when the first-order quantifiers are read as absolutely unrestricted. It can be shown that the phenomenon of higher-order vagueness eventually forces fuzzy logical treatments of vagueness to use a fuzzy metalanguage, with consequent repercussions for what first-order principles are validated. The difficulty of proving the completeness of first-order intuitionistic logic on its intended interpretation by intuitionistically rather than just classically valid means is a more familiar example. These case studies will be discussed in some detail to reveal a variety of ways in which even metalogic is metaphysically contested, substantial and non-neutral. (shrink)
The simplest quantified modal logic combines classical quantification theory with the propositional modal logic K. The models of simple QML relativize predication to possible worlds and treat the quantifier as ranging over a single fixed domain of objects. But this simple QML has features that are objectionable to actualists. By contrast, Kripke-models, with their varying domains and restricted quantifiers, seem to eliminate these features. But in fact, Kripke-models also have features to which actualists object. Though these philosophers have introduced variations (...) on Kripke-models to eliminate their objectionable features, the most well-known variations all have difficulties of their own. The present authors reexamine simple QML and discover that, in addition to having a possibilist interpretation, it has an actualist interpretation as well. By introducing a new sort of existing abstract entity, the contingently nonconcrete, they show that the seeming drawbacks of the simplest QML are not drawbacks at all. Thus, simple QML is independent of certain metaphysical questions. (shrink)
The principal aim of this book is to develop and defend an analysis of the concept of moral obligation. The analysis is neutral regarding competing substantive theories of obligation, whether consequentialist or deontological in character. What it seeks to do is generate new solutions to a range of philosophical problems concerning obligation and its application. Amongst these problems are deontic paradoxes, the supersession of obligation, conditional obligation, prima facie obligation, actualism and possibilism, dilemmas, supererogation, and cooperation. By virtue of (...) its normative neutrality, the analysis provides a theoretical framework within which competing theories of obligation can be developed and assessed. This study is a major contribution to metaethics that will be of particular interest to all philosophers concerned with normative ethical theory. (shrink)
This paper attempts to locate, within an actualist ontology, truthmakers for modal truths: truths of the form or . In Sect. 1 I motivate the demand for substantial truthmakers for modal truths. In Sect. 21 criticise Armstrong's account of truthmakers for modal truths. In Sect. 31 examine essentialism and defend an account of what makes essentialist attributions true, but I argue that this does not solve the problem of modal truth in general. In Sect. 41 discuss, and dismiss, a theistic (...) account of the source of modal truth proposed by Alexander Pruss. In Sect. 5 I offer a means of (dis)solving the problem. (shrink)
I propose a way of thinking aboout content, and a related way of thinking about ontological commitment. (This is part of a series of four closely related papers. The other three are ‘On Specifying Truth-Conditions’, ‘An Actualist’s Guide to Quantifying In’ and ‘An Account of Possibility’.).
If an object has a property essentially, it has that property in every possible world according to which it exists.2 If an object has a property accidentally, it does not have that property in every possible world according to which it exists. Claims about an object’s essential or accidental properties are de re modal claims, and essential and accidental properties are de re modal properties. Take an object’s modal profile to specify its essential properties and the range of its accidental (...) properties. Note that “world” as I am using it is a term of art: a modal realist believes that there are many concrete worlds, while the actualist believes in only one concrete world, the actual world. The ersatzist is an actualist who takes nonactual possible worlds and their contents to be abstracta. Essentialism is the view that objects have properties essentially, but one should distinguish deep essentialism from shallow essentialism. Deep essentialists take the (nontrivial) essential properties of an object to determine its nature— such properties give sense to the idea that an object has a unique and distinctive character, and make it the case that an object has to be a certain way in order for it to be at all.3 As Stephen Yablo (1987, 297) describes it, the essence of a thing is “an assortment of properties in virtue of which it is the entity in question,” as well as “a measure of what is required for it to be that thing.” Intuitively, on the deep essentialist picture, an ordinary object has essential properties, and it must have its essential properties in order for it to exist. On this view, objects’ essential properties are absolute, i.e., are not determined by contexts of describing (or thinking, etc.) about the object, and truths about such properties are absolute truths.4 Shallow essentialists oppose deep essentialists: they reject the view that objects can be said to have essential properties independently of contexts of description or evaluation, and so substitute context-dependent truths for the deep essentialist’s context-independent ones.. (shrink)
– The paper defends a naturalistic version of modal actualism according to which what is metaphysically possible is determined by dispositions found in the actual world. We argue that there is just one world—this one—and that all genuine possibilities are anchored by the dispositions exemplified in this world. This is the case regardless of whether or not those dispositions are manifested. As long as the possibility is one that would obtain were the relevant disposition manifested, it is a genuine (...) possibility. Furthermore, by starting from actual dispositional properties and branching out, we are able to include possibilities that are quite far removed from any state of affairs that happens to obtain, while still providing a natural and actual grounding of possibility. Stressing the importance of ontological considerations in any theory of possibility, it is argued that the account of possibility in terms of dispositional properties provides a more palatable ontology than those of its competitors. Coming at it from the other direction, the dispositional account of possibility also provides motivation for taking an ontology of dispositions more seriously. As well as the relevant dispositional notions required to lay out the view, the paper discusses the dispositional realism needed as the basis for the account of possibility. (shrink)
Abstract There are two distinct views on how to formulate an objective consequentialist account of the deontic status of actions, actualism and possibilism. On an actualist account, what matters to the deontic status of actions is only the value of the outcome an action would have, if performed. By contrast, a possibilist account also takes into account the value of the outcomes that an action could have. These two views come apart in their deontic verdicts when an agent is (...) imperfect in an avoidable way, viz., when agent brings about less good than she could. In this paper, I offer an argument against actualism that draws on the connection between moral obligation and practical reasons. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-12 DOI 10.1007/s10677-012-9362-7 Authors Rob van Someren Greve, Department of Philosophy, University of Amsterdam, Oude Turfmarkt 141-147, 1012 GC Amsterdam, The Netherlands Journal Ethical Theory and Moral Practice Online ISSN 1572-8447 Print ISSN 1386-2820. (shrink)
This book is a survey, fortified by original material, of metaphysical theories of modality set in terms of possible worlds. Those theories include what Divers calls “genuine realism”, or “GR” — this is David Lewis’s “genuine modal realism” — and what Divers calls “actualist realism”, or “AR” — this seems to be the same as what Lewis called “ersatz modal realism”, which has also become widely know as “ersatzism”. Two important kinds of theory are not included: those that treat modality (...) by means not involving possible worlds at all (for example, modalism, various kind of non-cognitivism, and Quinean eliminativism about modality); and those that, while treating modality by talking about possible worlds, go on to deny that there are any possible worlds in one way or another (for example, Rosen’s fictionalism, and Divers’ own agnosticism about possible worlds). These get a short discussion towards the end of the introductory part of the book (sections 2.4–2.6), and Divers is planning to write a companion volume covering them. (shrink)
Robert Stalnaker is an actualist who holds that merely possible worlds are uninstantiated properties that might have been instantiated. Stalnaker also holds that there are no metaphysically impossible worlds: uninstantiated properties that couldn't have been instantiated. These views motivate Stalnaker's "two dimensional" account of the necessary a posteriori on which there is no single proposition that is both necessary and a posteriori. For a (metaphysically) necessary proposition is true in all (metaphysically) possible worlds. If there were necessary a posteriori propositions, (...) that would mean that there were propositions true in all possible worlds but which could only be known to be true by acquiring empirical evidence. Consider such a purported proposition P. The role of empirical evidence for establishing P's truth would have to be to rule out worlds in which P is false. If there were no such worlds to be ruled out, we would not require evidence for P. But by hypothesis, P is necessary and so true in all metaphysically possible worlds. And on Stalnaker's view, the metaphysically possible worlds are all the worlds there are. So there can be no proposition that is true in all possible worlds, but that we require evidence to know. In this way, the motivation for Stalnaker's two dimensional account of the necessary a posteriori rests on his denying that there are metaphysically impossible Worlds. I argue that given his view of what possible worlds are, Stalnaker has no principled reason for denying that there are metaphysically impossible worlds. If I am right, this undercuts Stalnaker's motivation for his two dimensional account of the necessary a posteriori. (shrink)
In this critical review I discuss the main themes of the papers in Kit Fine's Modality and Tense: Philosophical Papers. These themes are that modal operators are intelligible in their own right and that actualist quantifiers are to be taken as basic with respect to possibilist quantifiers. I also discuss a previously unpublished paper of Fine's on modality and existence.
The desire-satisfaction theory of welfare says, roughly, that one's life goes well to the extent that one's desires are satisfied. On standard 'actualist' versions of the theory, it doesn't matter what you desire. So long as you are getting what you actually want – whatever it is – things are going well for you. There is widespread agreement that these standard versions are incorrect, because we can desire things that are bad for us -– in other words, because there are (...) 'defective desires'. The aim of this paper is to defend the actualist desire-satisfaction theory against the problem of defective desires. I aim to show how the theory can accommodate the obvious fact that we can desire things that are bad for us. Admittedly, there are kinds of allegedly defective desire the theory cannot accommodate, but these desires, I argue, turn out not to be defective in the relevant way. (shrink)
There are many parallels between the role of possible worlds in modal logic and that of times in tense logic. But the similarities only go so far, and it is important to note where the two come apart. This paper argues that even though worlds and times play similar roles in the model theories of modal and tense logic, there is no tense analogue of the possible-worlds analysis of modal operators. An important corollary of this result is that presentism cannot (...) be the tense analogue of actualism. (shrink)
Following a short introduction, this chapter begins by contrasting two different forms of higher-order perception (HOP) theory of phenomenal consciousness - inner sense theory versus a dispositionalist kind of higher-order thought (HOT) theory - and by giving a brief statement of the superiority of the latter. Thereafter the chapter considers arguments in support of HOP theories in general. It develops two parallel objections against both first-order representationalist (FOR) theories and actualist forms of HOT theory. First, neither can give an adequate (...) account of the distinctive features of our recognitional concepts of experience. And second, neither can explain why there are some states of the relevant kinds that are phenomenal and some that aren. (shrink)
In "Actualism or Possibilism?" (Philosophical Studies, 84 (2-3), December 1996), James Tomberlin develops two challenges for actualism. The challenges are to account for the truth of certain sentences without appealing to merely possible objects. After canvassing the main actualist attempts to account for these phenomena, he then criticizes the new conception of actualism that we described in our paper "In Defense of the Simplest Quantified Modal Logic" (Philosophical Perspectives 8: Philosophy of Logic and Language, Atascadero, CA: Ridgeview, (...) 1994). We respond to Tomberlin's criticism by showing that we wouldn't analyze the problematic claim (e.g., "Ponce de Leon searched for the fountain of youth") in the way he suggests. (shrink)
This paper defends an interventionist treatment of mechanisms and contrasts this with Waskan (forthcoming). Interventionism embodies a difference-making conception of causation. I contrast such conceptions with geometrical/mechanical or “actualist” conceptions, associating Waskan’s proposals with the latter. It is argued that geometrical/mechanical conceptions of causation cannot replace difference-making conceptions in characterizing the behavior of mechanisms, but that some of the intuitions behind the geometrical/mechanical approach can be captured by thinking in terms of spatio-temporally organized difference-making information.
If we agree with Michael Jubien that propositions do not exist, while accepting the existence of abstract sets in a realist mathematical ontology, then the combined effect of these ontological commitments has surprising implications for the metaphysics of modal logic, the ontology of logically possible worlds, and the controversy over modal realism versus actualism. Logically possible worlds as maximally consistent proposition sets exist if sets generally exist, but are equivalently expressed as maximally consistent conjunctions of the same propositions in (...) corresponding sets. A conjunction of propositions, even if infinite in extent, is nevertheless itself a proposition. If sets and hence proposition sets exist but propositions do not exist, then whether or not modal realism is true depends on which of two apparently equivalent methods of identifying, representing, or characterizing logically possible worlds we choose to adopt. I consider a number of reactions to the problem, concluding that the best solution may be to reject the conventional model set theoretical concept of logically possible worlds as maximally consistent proposition sets, and distinguishing between the actual world alone as maximally consistent and interpreting all nonactual merely logically possible worlds as submaximal. (shrink)
These essays defend Christian, socialist and realist positions against Nietzsche’s critiques. Each essay addresses a problem in Nietzsche’s work. The first deals with perspectivism. On his view, the idea of objectivity disappears, becoming no more than simply a multiplicity of perspectives. The essay shows how Nietzsche’s approach to knowledge commits the epistemic fallacy, i.e. evades questions about truth by collapsing them into questions about knowing. The second essay addresses Nietzsche’s moral psychology in which there is no being behind doing, no (...) agent distinct from her actions. The essay demonstrates how this actualist account of persons is false by showing that the distinction between agent and action is needed for any understanding of moral action. The final essay concerns the history of ideas, rather than philosophical analysis. First, it looks at Nietzsche’s account of slave morality couched in terms of envy. Social justice, however, cannot be understood in this way. A section on class, religion and morality in late antiquity reinforces this with evidence that it was far more likely to find vindictiveness in the master class than the servant. The section on theism and ethics deals with Nietzsche’s notion of ‘eternal recurrence’: the idea that everything that happens will happen again an infinity of times, a notion that sustains an ethic of passive acceptance. The final part decries contemporary attachments to the Nietzschean virtues of pride, self-assertiveness, competitiveness and contempt for the less successful, preferring a Christian path to self-perfection through the pursuit of goals outside ourselves. (shrink)