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.
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)
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.
Actualists routinely characterize their view by means of the slogan, “Everything is actual.” They say that there aren’t any things that exist but do not actually exist—there aren’t any “mere possibilia.” If there are any things that deserve the label ‘possible world’, they are just actually existing entities of some kind—maximally consistent sets of sentences, or maximal uninstantiated properties, or maximal possible states of affairs, or something along those lines. Possibilists, in contrast, do think that there are mere possibilia, that (...) there are things that are not actual. They think that more exists than what actually exists. All I have done so far, though, is rephrase the slogan in various ways. To say that everything is actual is precisely to say that there are no things that do not actually exist, which is precisely to say that there are no mere possibilia, and which is also precisely to say that we cannot sep- arately quantify over what exists and what is actual. These claims all amount to the same thing. But what is that, exactly? What on earth does it mean to say that everything is actual, that there are no mere possibilia, and so on? What does the actualist slogan really come to? I think the literature is far from clear on this point, and that people work themselves into unnecessary muddles because of it. Indeed, certain confusions that I shall discuss in the first half of this article seem to be on the rise. It is high time to lay out the issues and the choice points as clearly as possible. There are two primary choices to be made; there are two axes along which versions of actualism can vary. One choice has to do with how to treat claims about things that merely could exist. The other choice has to do with the modal status of the view and of how we should think about the “actual” in actualism. I make no claim that the positions I will eventually endorse are star- tlingly new. I think that most people will agree with the decisions I make at both choice points and will in fact find some bits of this essay obvious. But not everyone agrees with my decisions, and it has been my experience that people differ remarkably about which bits they find obvious—a fact I find rather telling. My goal, then, is to show that the two axes are there and to clarify the consequences of the choices. (shrink)
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)
Actualists who believe in possible worlds typically regard them as "abstract" objects of some special sort. For example, Alvin plantinga takes worlds to be maximal possible states-Of-Affairs, All of which "exist", As actualism requires, But only one of which "obtains". Views like plantinga's run into difficulty in the interpretation of statements of "iterated" modality, Statements about what is "possible" for individuals that "could" exist but that do not actually exist. These statements seem to require the existence of "singular" states-Of-Affairs (...) that have nonactual individuals as constituents, A requirement that is incompatible with actualism. One can try to avoid the troublesome singular states-Of-Affairs by introducing "unexemplified individual essences" and maintaining that these are the true constituents of the required states-Of-Affairs, Rather than the nonactual possibles themselves. However, Serious arguments are raised against this employment of individual essences. (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)
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. (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)
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)
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)
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 A and P 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 A are actualist while those of P 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)
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)
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.