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Summary De re modality concerns the modal properties that an object has in virtue of itself. This contrasts with de dicto modality, which concerns modal properties that are merely "said of" an object. More formally: De dicto: Necessarily, some x is such that it is F.  De re: Some x is such that it is necessarily F. The essence of an entity in contemporary metaphysics is generally regarded as being constituted by the entity's de re modal properties. For instance, if we consider it necessary for John to be human, then this is part of John's essence. Different varieties of essentialism can be distinguished by the kind of de re modal properties in question. If we debate whether it is necessary for John to have the very parents that he actually has, we are debating origins essentialism. It should also be noted that essences may be individual or general. John's essence is an individual essence, and it may be essential for John to belong to the (natural) kind human. But we can also ask what is essential for the kind, e.g. whether humans are essentially rational. In that case we are concerned with the general essence of humans. Essentialism about species is a good example of a debate concerning general essences. Essences are commonly considered to be synonymous with de re modal properties, following the work of Kripke and others. However, the more traditional view, following Aristotle, may in fact be that essence is ontologically prior to modality. Recently, such non-modal accounts of essence have been defended in the literature, with one suggestion being that essence should be explicated via real definition.
Key works The most influential modern contributions are no doubt Kripke 1980, and Putnam 1975 which reintroduced essentialism into metaphysics. Quine's classic critique (Turquette 1953) of De Re Modality was largely undermined by the contributions of Kripke and Putnam, but Marcus 1967 and Hintikka 1970 should also be mentioned. Wiggins 1980, Plantinga 1974, and Salmon 1981 are also classics. One important application of essentialism is counterpart theory, e.g. Lewis 1968. The secondary literature on different aspects of the topic is enormous, but recent, often cited contributions include Bealer 1987, Shalkowski 1994, Ellis 2007, Della Rocca 2002, LaPorte 2003, Paul 2006, Mackie 2006, and Devitt 2008. Non-modal accounts of essence have been gaining popularity, especially due to the work of Kit Fine (e.g. Fine 1994). Other recent works in this tradition include Paul 2006Oderberg 2007, Lowe 2008, Tahko 2009, Correia 2012, Dumsday 2012, and Vaidya 2010.
Introductions Robertson & Atkins 2013, Cameron 2010, Roca-Royes 2011, Roca-Royes 2011.
Related categories
Subcategories:See also:History/traditions: De Re Modality

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  1. Essence and Logical Properties.Hashem Morvarid - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies.
    Since Kit Fine presented his counter-examples to the standard versions of the modal view, many have been convinced that the standard versions of the modal view are not adequate. However, the scope of Fine's argument has not been fully appreciated. In this paper, I aim to carry Fine’s argument to its logical conclusion and argue that once we embrace the intuition underlying his counter-examples, we have to hold that properties obtained, totally or partially, by application of logical operations are not (...)
Actualism and Possibilism
  1. In Defense of the Possibilism-Actualism Distinction.Christopher Menzel - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies.
    In Modal Logic as Metaphysics, Timothy Williamson claims that the possibilism-actualism (P-A) distinction is badly muddled. In its place, he introduces a necessitism-contingentism (N-C) distinction that he claims is free of the confusions that purportedly plague the P-A distinction. In this paper I argue first that the P-A distinction, properly understood, is historically well-grounded and entirely coherent. I then look at the two arguments Williamson levels at the P-A distinction and find them wanting and show, moreover, that, when the N-C (...)
  2. Phenomenological Actualism. A Husserlian Metaphysics of Modality?Michael Wallner - 2014 - In Sonja Rinofner-Kreidl & Harald A. Wiltsche (eds.), Analytical and Continental Philosophy: Methods and Perspectives. Papers of the 37th International Wittgenstein Symposium. pp. 283-285.
    Considering the importance of possible-world semantics for modal logic and for current debates in the philosophy of modality, a phenomenologist may want to ask whether it makes sense to speak of “possible worlds” in phenomenology. The answer will depend on how "possible worlds" are to be interpreted. As that latter question is the subject of the debate about possibilism and actualism in contemporary modal metaphysics, my aim in this paper is to get a better grip on the former question by (...)
  3. Hardcore Actualism and Possible Non‐Existence.Samuel Kimpton‐Nye - 2018 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 7 (2):122-131.
    According to hardcore actualism (HA), all modal truths are grounded in the concrete constituents of the actual world. In this paper, I discuss some problems faced by HA when it comes to accounting for certain alleged possibilities of non‐existence. I focus particular attention on Leech (2017)'s dilemma for HA, according to which HA must either sacrifice extensional correctness or admit mere possibilia. I propose a solution to Leech's dilemma, which relies on a distinction between weak and strong possibility. It remains (...)
  4. Actualism, Serious Actualism, and Quantified Modal Logic.William H. Hanson - 2018 - Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 59 (2):233-284.
    This article studies seriously actualistic quantified modal logics. A key component of the language is an abstraction operator by means of which predicates can be created out of complex formulas. This facilitates proof of a uniform substitution theorem: if a sentence is logically true, then any sentence that results from substituting a predicate abstract for each occurrence of a simple predicate abstract is also logically true. This solves a problem identified by Kripke early in the modern semantic study of quantified (...)
  5. Actualism and Modal Semantics.José L. Zalabardo - 2018 - Acta Analytica 33 (1):35-49.
    According to actualism, modal reality is constructed out of valuations. According to possibilism, modal reality consists in a set of possible worlds, conceived as independent objects that assign truth values to propositions. According to possibilism, accounts of modal reality can intelligibly disagree with each other even if they agree on which valuations are contained in modal reality. According to actualism, these disagreements are completely unintelligible. An essentially actualist semantics for modal propositional logic specifies which sets of valuations are compatible with (...)
  6. Strongly Millian Second-Order Modal Logics.Bruno Jacinto - 2017 - Review of Symbolic Logic (3):1-58.
    The most common first- and second-order modal logics either have as theorems every instance of the Barcan and Converse Barcan formulae and of their second-order analogues, or else fail to capture the actual truth of every theorem of classical first- and second-order logic. In this paper we characterise and motivate sound and complete first- and second-order modal logics that successfully capture the actual truth of every theorem of classical first- and second-order logic and yet do not possess controversial instances of (...)
  7. The Fragmentation of Being.Kris McDaniel - 2017 - Oxford University Press.
    Kris McDaniel argues that there are different ways in which things exist. For instance, past things don't exist in the same way as present things. Numbers don't exist in the same way as physical objects; nor do holes, which are real, but less real than what they are in. McDaniel's theory of being illuminates a wide range of metaphysical topics.
  8. Relativized Metaphysical Modality.Benj Hellie, Adam Russell Murray & Jessica Wilson - forthcoming - In Otávio Bueno & Scott Shalkowski (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Modality. New York: Routledge.
    Relativized Metaphysical Modality (RMM: Murray and Wilson, 'Relativized metaphysical modality', Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, 2012; Murray, Perspectives on Modal Metaphysics, 2017) exploits 'two-dimensionalist' resources to metaphysical, rather than epistemological, ends: the second dimension offers perspective-dependence without contingency, diverting attacks on 'Classical' analyses of modals (in effect, analyses validating S5 and the Barcan Formulae). Here, we extend the RMM program in two directions. First, we harvest resources for RMM from Lewis's 1980 'Context--Index' (CI) framework: (a) the ban in CI on binding (...)
  9. Impossibilia.Martin Vacek - 2016 - Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology 20 (1):81-97.
    The paper defends the so-called extended modal realism, a theory according to which there are concrete impossible worlds. Firstly, modal realism is presented. Next, the way of how its ontology enriched by impossible worlds should look like in order to save its main theoretical virtues is pursued. Finally, I argue for a claim that metaphysical impossibility equals to dissimilarity between worlds instantiating distinct metaphysical structures.
  10. Ficta as Contingently Nonconcrete.Lightfield Ceth - 2014 - Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 21 (4):431-457.
    Fictional realism allows direct reference theorists to provide a straightfor- ward analysis of the semantics of fictional discourse by admitting into their ontology a set of objects (ficta) that serve as the referents of fictional names. Ficta may be modeled using an axiomatic object theory, but actualist interpretations of the formalism have been the subject of recent objections. In this paper, I provide an interpretation of object theory’s formalism that is consistent with actualism and avoids these objections. Drawing on insights (...)
  11. Logicism, Possibilism, and the Logic of Kantian Actualism.Andrew Stephenson - 2017 - Critique.
    In this extended critical discussion of 'Kant's Modal Metaphysics' by Nicholas Stang (OUP 2016), I focus on one central issue from the first chapter of the book: Stang’s account of Kant’s doctrine that existence is not a real predicate. In §2 I outline some background. In §§3-4 I present and then elaborate on Stang’s interpretation of Kant’s view that existence is not a real predicate. For Stang, the question of whether existence is a real predicate amounts to the question: ‘could (...)
  12. El estatus ontológico de los mundos posibles.Manuel Pérez Otero - 2009 - Critica 41 (122):69-96.
    Tanto la Fórmula Barcan como la postulación de possibilia contradicen los juicios intuitivos preteóricos de la mayoría de los sujetos, favorables al actualismo sobre la naturaleza de los mundos posibles. En este artículo discuto y rechazo dos argumentos que pretenderían contrarrestar tales juicios, y que conciben erróneamente la relación entre la semántica de mundos posibles y nuestros lenguajes naturales modales. El argumento más importante asume que el dominio de todas las entidades es idéntico al dominio de @. Desarrollo una interpretación (...)
  13. Logic for Contigent Beings.Harry Deutsch - 1994 - Journal of Philosophical Research 19:273-329.
    One of the logical problems with which Arthur Prior struggled is the problem of finding, in Prior’s own phrase, a “logic for contingent beings.” The difficulty is that from minimal modal principles and classical quantification theory, it appears to follow immediately that every possible object is a necessary existent. The historical development of quantified modal logic can be viewed as a series of attempts---due variously to Kripke, Prior, Montague, and the fee-logicians---to solve this problem. In this paper, I review the (...)
  14. On Characterizing the Presentism/Eternalism and Actualism/Possibilism Debates.Ross P. Cameron - 2016 - Analytic Philosophy 57 (2):110-140.
  15. The Things That Aren’T Actually There.Richard Woodward - 2011 - Philosophical Studies 152 (2):155-166.
    The standard Kripkean semantic theories for quantified modal logic allow the individuals that exist at other worlds to vary from those that exist at the actual world. This causes a problem for those who deny the existence of non-actual individuals. I focus on two prominent strategies for solving this problem, due respectively to Bernard Linsky and Edward Zalta (who identify the possible individuals with the actual individuals) and Alvin Plantinga (who identifies the possible individuals with the individual essences). I argue, (...)
  16. Is Everything A World?Josh Parsons - 2007 - Philosophical Studies 134 (2):165-181.
    This paper discusses “inclusionism” in the context of David Lewis’s modal realism (and in the context of parasitic accounts of modality such as John Divers’s agnosticism about possible worlds). This is the doctrine that everything is a world. I argue that this doctrine would be beneficial to Divers-style agnosticism; that it suggests a reconfiguration of the concept of actuality in modal realism; and finally that it suffers from an as-yet unsolved difficulty, the problem of the unmarried husbands. This problem also (...)
  17. Proxy “Actualism”.Karen Bennett - 2006 - Philosophical Studies 129 (2):263-294.
    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.
  18. Strong And Weak Possibility.Jason Turner - 2005 - Philosophical Studies 125 (2):191-217.
    The thesis of existentialism holds that if a proposition p exists and predicates something of an object a, then in any world where a does not exist, p does not exist either. If “possibly, p” entails “in some possible world, the proposition that p exists and is true,” then existentialism is prima facie incompatible with the truth of claims like “possibly, the Eiffel Tower does not exist.” In order to avoid this claim, a distinction between two kinds of world-indexed truth (...)
  19. Naturalism, Actualism, and Ontology.James E. Tomberlin - 1998 - Noûs 32 (S12):489-498.
  20. Principles for Possibilia.Christopher Peacocke - 2002 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 51:119-145.
    It seems to be an obvious truth that There could be something that doesn't actually exist. That is, it seems to be obiously true that ◊∃×). It is sufficient for the truth of that there could be more people, or trees, or cars, than there actually are. It is also sufficient for the truth of that there could be some pepole, or trees, or cars that are distinct from all those that actually exist. Do and suchlike statements involve a commitment (...)
  21. Modality, Quantification, and Many Vlach-Operators.Fabrice Correia - 2007 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 36 (4):473-488.
    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 (...)
  22. Actualist Counterpart Theory.Jennifer Wang - 2015 - Journal of Philosophy 112 (8):417-441.
    Actualist counterpart theory replaces David Lewis’s concrete possible worlds and individuals with ersatz worlds and individuals, but retains counterpart theory about de re modality. While intuitively attractive, this view has been rejected for two main reasons: the problem of indiscernibles and the Humphrey objection. I argue that in insisting that ersatz individuals play the same role as Lewisian individuals, actualists commit the particularist fallacy. The actualist should not require stand-ins for every Lewisian individual. Ersatz individuals should instead be construed as (...)
  23. Modal Difficulties with Singular Propositions.Filip Kawczyński - 2015 - Filozofia Nauki 23 (1):39-58.
    Singular propositions are structured entities which sometimes include macroscopic concrete things as their elements. That leads to numerous difficulties, also those concerning modalities, good example of which is the famous argument developed by Plantinga, who concludes that accepting a theory of singular propositions leads to necessary existence of (apparently contingent) objects — elements of such propos¬itions. In the paper I present a possible way to avoid such harmful consequences and to undermine Plantinga’s reasoning. My approach involves the idea of two (...)
  24. Modality.Joseph Melia - 2003 - Routledge.
    This introduction to modality places the emphasis on the metaphysics of modality rather than on the formal semetics of quantified modal logic. The text begins by introducing students to the "de re/de dicto" distinction, conventionalist and conceptualist theories of modality and some of the key problems in modality, particularly Quine's criticisms. It then moves on to explain how possible worlds provide a solution to many of the problems in modality and how possible worlds themselves have been used to analyse notions (...)
  25. Topics in the Philosophy of Possible Worlds.Daniel Patrick Nolan - 2002 - Routledge.
    This book discusses a range of important issues in current philosophical work on the nature of possible worlds. Areas investigated include the theories of the nature of possible worlds, general questions about metaphysical analysis and questions about the direction of dependence between what is necessary or possible and what could be.
  26. Possible Worlds.John Divers - 2002 - Routledge.
    _Possible Worlds_ presents the first up-to-date and comprehensive examination of one of the most important topics in metaphysics. John Divers considers the prevalent philosophical positions, including realism, antirealism and the work of important writers on possible worlds such as David Lewis, evaluating them in detail.
  27. Logic, Essence, and Modality — Review of Bob Hale's Necessary Beings. [REVIEW]Christopher Menzel - 2015 - Philosophia Mathematica 23 (3):407-428.
    Bob Hale’s distinguished record of research places him among the most important and influential contemporary analytic metaphysicians. In his deep, wide ranging, yet highly readable book Necessary Beings, Hale draws upon, but substantially integrates and extends, a good deal his past research to produce a sustained and richly textured essay on — as promised in the subtitle — ontology, modality, and the relations between them. I’ve set myself two tasks in this review: first, to provide a reasonably thorough (if not (...)
  28. Review of Bob Hale's Necessary Beings. [REVIEW]Nils Kürbis - 2015 - Disputatio (40).
    Review of Bob Hale's "Necessary Beings: An Essay on Ontology, Modality, and the Relations Between Them". Oxford: Oxford University Press 2013, ISBN 9780199669578.
  29. On Modal Meinongianism.Nicola Ciprotti - 2014 - In Marian David & Mauro Antonelli (eds.), Logical, Ontological, and Historical Contributions on the Philosophy of Alexius Meinong. De Gruyter. pp. 1-36.
    The paper has a two-fold objective; firstly, scrutinising neo-Meinongianism as recently championed by Francesco Berto. Secondly, trying and arguing that the dispute between Meinongianism and (various kinkds of) Actualism is hardly cutting some relevant ice.
  30. Dispositional Modal Truthmakers and the Necessary Origin.Chad Vance - 2014 - Philosophia 42 (4):1111-1127.
    Several philosophers have recently suggested that truths about unactualized metaphysical possibilities are true in virtue of the existence of actual objects and their dispositional properties. For example, on this view, it is true that unicorns are metaphysically possible only if some actual object has (or had) the disposition to bring it about that there are unicorns. This view, a dispositionalist version of what has recently been dubbed “The New Actualism,” is a proposal about the nature of modal truthmakers. But, I (...)
  31. Critical Notice: Times, Worlds and Selves.Paul Needham - 1979 - Synthese 40 (2):389-408.
    Review of A. N. Prior and Kit Fine, Times, Worlds and Seh,es, Duckworth London, 1977.
  32. Essentialism and Individuation in Modal Logic.Troy Thomas Catterson - 2003 - Dissertation, Boston University
    This dissertation addresses the problem of trans-world identity in possible worlds semantics, and argues that essentialism does not provide a satisfactory solution to it. If one takes possible worlds semantics seriously as a viable elucidation of the logic of the metaphysical modalities, one must also take a realistic stance toward possible worlds. But then, contrary to Kripke, Plantinga, Van Inwagen, and others, there is a problem with trans-world identity; the real problem being, not the problem of identifying individuals across possible (...)
  33. John Divers, Possible Worlds. [REVIEW]G. Fitch - 2003 - Philosophy in Review 23:332-333.
  34. The Truth About Possibility and Necessity.Johannes Bulhof - 1995 - Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania
    Recent attempts to understand modality have centered upon possible worlds. One view, offered by David Lewis, is that there are an infinite number of worlds that exist like our own, and that the existence of these worlds makes our modal claims true. This view is widely held to be unbelievable. Other philosophers hold an "actualist" position: the only world which exists is the actual world, and the only objects that exist are those that exist in the actual world. I assume (...)
  35. Actuality and Value.J. Laird, G. Hicks & W. G. de Burgh - 1931 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 10 (1):81-134.
  36. On Possibility and Possible Worlds.Tony Daniel Roy - 1991 - Dissertation, University of California, Davis
    Prima facie, modal statements are important, but it is less than obvious what their truth conditions are; my dissertation is an exploration of the relation between possible worlds and truth conditions for modal statements. What is it in virtue of which a modal statement is true or false? Some respond via an appeal to possible worlds: possibly ${\cal A}$ iff ${\cal A}$ in at least one possible world; necessarily ${\cal A}$ iff ${\cal A}$ in every possible world. I argue that (...)
  37. FINE, K. And PRIOR, A. N. "Worlds, Times and Selves". [REVIEW]R. Gallie - 1979 - Mind 88:625.
  38. Non-Actualism.Wen-Fang Wang - 1996 - Dissertation, The University of Iowa
    This essay is a study of Non-actualism, the thesis that there are objects which do not exist. There are several difficulties surrounding this thesis. First, there is the question about how to make sense of this very thesis. Second, there is the problem about what evidences there are for such a thesis. Third, there is a serious doubt about whether such thesis can be held consistently. ;The first question is usually claimed to be answered by Non-actualists by distinguishing two kinds (...)
  39. Actualism, Singular Propositions, and Possible Worlds: Essays in the Metaphysics of Modality.Aviv Hoffmann - 2002 - Dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    My dissertation consists of three essays in the Metaphysics of Modality: In "A Puzzle about Truth and Singular Propositions," I consider two theses that seem to be true and then an argument for the conclusion that they form an inconsistent pair. One thesis is that a proposition that is singular with respect to a given object implies that the object exists. This is so because the proposition predicates something of the object. The other thesis is that some propositions are true (...)
  40. The Chauvinism Of Actualism.Kurt Torell - 2006 - Metaphysica 7 (2).
  41. Ridurre i mondi possibili al linguaggio.Vittorio Morato - 2006 - Annali Del Dipartimento di Filosofia 12:195-213.
    Aim of this paper is to present and evaluate linguistic ersatzism, an actualist metaphysics of modality according to which possible worlds are maximal and consistent sets of sentences. In the first section, I make some general considerations about reductive theories of modality and the relation between modality and possible worlds, in the second I present a specific version of linguistic ersatzism and in the last section I present what I take to be the major problem for this kind of theories, (...)
  42. Leibniz on Creation, Contingency and Pe-Se Modality.Paul McNamara - 1990 - Studia Leibnitiana 22 (1):29-47.
    Leibniz' first problem with contingency stems from his doctrine of divine creation (not his later doctrine of truth) and is solved via his concepts of necessity per se, etc. (not via his later concept of infinite analysis). I scrutinize some of the earliest texts in which the first problem and its solution occur. I compare his "per se modal concepts" with his concept of analysis and with the traditional concept of metaphysical necessity. I then identify and remove the main obstacle (...)
  43. Actualism Versus Possibilism in Formal Ontology.Nino Cocchiarella - 2010 - In Roberto Poli & Johanna Seibt (eds.), Theory and Applications of Ontology: Philosophical Perspectives. Springer Verlag. pp. 105--117.
  44. Theories of Actuality.Robert Merrihew Adams - 1979 - In Michael J. Loux (ed.), The Possible and the Actual: Readings in the Metaphysics of Modality. Cornell University Press. pp. 190.
  45. The Metaphysics of Possibilia.William G. Lycan - 2002 - In Richard M. Gale (ed.), The Blackwell Guide to Metaphysics. Blackwell. pp. 303.
  46. Problems with the Actualist Account.Christopher Menzel - 2008 - In Edward Zalta (ed.), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  47. Modal Logic as Metaphysics.Timothy Williamson - 2013 - Oxford University Press.
    Timothy Williamson gives an original and provocative treatment of deep metaphysical questions about existence, contingency, and change, using the latest resources of quantified modal logic. Contrary to the widespread assumption that logic and metaphysics are disjoint, he argues that modal logic provides a structural core for metaphysics.
  48. Duas teorias realistas para a interpretação da semântica dos mundos possíveis.Renato Mendes Rocha - 2010 - Inquietude 1 (1):72-79.
    O discurso a respeito dos Mundos Possíveis pode ser uma ferramenta bastante útil para a filosofia. Pode ser útil, por exemplo, para a compreensão das modalidades, da necessidade e da possibilidade. No entanto, para utilizar o discurso dos Mundos Possíveis devemos ter uma explicação satisfatória do caráter ontológico da Semântica dos Mundos Possíveis. Para isso, precisamos responder a questões do tipo: O que é um Mundo Possível? De que forma eles existem? Em quantos Mundos Possíveis podemos falar? Há diversas formas (...)
  49. From Actualism to Tensionalism.A. Simone - 1991 - Filosofia 42 (1):49-60.
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