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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

537 found
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Actualism and Possibilism
  1. Actualism and Thisness.Robert Merrihew Adams - 1981 - Synthese 49 (1):3-41.
  2. 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.
  3. Theories of Actuality.Robert Merrihew Adams - 1974 - Noûs 8 (3):211-231.
  4. La función de los universales en metafísica modal.Jose Tomas Alvarado Marambio - 2010 - Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy 29 (3):77-101.
  5. Plantinga on Actualism and Essences.David F. Austin - 1981 - Philosophical Studies 39 (1):35 - 42.
  6. Quantificational Logic and Empty Names.Andrew Bacon - 2013 - Philosophers' Imprint 13.
    The result of combining classical quantificational logic with modal logic proves necessitism – the claim that necessarily everything is necessarily identical to something. This problem is reflected in the purely quantificational theory by theorems such as ∃x t=x; it is a theorem, for example, that something is identical to Timothy Williamson. The standard way to avoid these consequences is to weaken the theory of quantification to a certain kind of free logic. However, it has often been noted that in order (...)
  7. 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.
  8. Two Axes of Actualism.Karen Bennett - 2005 - Philosophical Review 114 (3):297-326.
    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 (...)
  9. (Serious) Actualism and (Serious) Presentism.Michael Bergmann - 1999 - Noûs 33 (1):118-132.
  10. A New Argument From Actualism to Serious Actualism.Michael Bergmann - 1996 - Noûs 30 (3):356-359.
  11. Un mondo di possibilità. Realismo modale senza mondi possibili.Andrea Borghini - 2004 - Rivista di Estetica 26 (2):87-100.
    While preparing my suitcase for Padua, I took care to put my favorite cds in a secured spot since they could have broken along the way. Which (non-mental) fact, if any, could possibly justify my action – i.e. what, if anything, makes it the case that my cds could have broken? The paper explores the nature of possibility. The three theories most widely endorsed thus far – fictionism, actualism, and modal realism – are introduced, with a particular attention to their (...)
  12. Troubles with Plantinga's Actualism.Donald Brownstein - 1985 - Theoria 51 (3):174-189.
  13. 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 (...)
  14. Worlds and Individuals, Possible and Otherwise.R. Cameron - 2010 - Analysis 70 (4):783-792.
  15. On Characterizing the Presentism/Eternalism and Actualism/Possibilism Debates.Ross P. Cameron - 2016 - Analytic Philosophy 57 (2):110-140.
  16. 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 (...)
  17. 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 (...)
  18. Metaphysical Accounts of Modality: A Comparative Evaluation of Lewisian and Neo-Aristotelian Modal Metaphysics.David Chua - unknown
    In this essay I comparatively evaluate two realist metaphysical accounts of modality: David Lewis’ (1986) genuine modal realism (GMR), and neo-Aristotelian modal realism (AMR) as put forth by Alexander Pruss (2011). GMR offers a reductive analysis of modal claims of possibility and necessity in terms of claims quantifying over concrete worlds and counterparts, and is in this way committed the existence of a plurality of concrete worlds other than the actual world; AMR, on the other hand, offers an analysis of (...)
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. Modal Truthmakers and Two Varieties of Actualism.Gabriele Contessa - 2010 - Synthese 174 (3):341 - 353.
    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.
  22. 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 (...)
  23. Knowledge and Reality: Essays in Honor of Alvin Plantinga.Thomas M. Crisp, Matthew Davidson & David Vander Laan (eds.) - 2006 - Springer.
    This volume comprises essays presented to Alvin Plantinga on the occasion of his 70th birthday.
  24. Essays in the Metaphysics of Modality.Matthew Davidson (ed.) - 2003 - Oxford University Press USA.
    This volume contains some of the best work in metaphysics from the past 30 years, and will remain a source of critical contention and keen interest among ...
  25. Possible Worlds for Modal Primitivists.Louis deRosset - 2014 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 43 (1):109-131.
    Among the most remarkable developments in metaphysics since the 1950’s is the explosion of philosophical interest in possible worlds. This paper proposes an explanation of what possible worlds are, and argues that this proposal, the interpreted models conception, should be attractive to anyone who thinks that modal facts are primitive, and so not to be explained in terms of some non-modal notion of “possible world.” I articulate three constraints on any acceptable primitivist explanation of the nature of possible worlds, and (...)
  26. 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 (QML) 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 (...)
  27. Sustaining Actualism.Michael Devitt - 2001 - Noûs 35 (s15):415 - 419.
  28. Worlds and Individuals, Possible and Otherwise, by Takashi Yagisawa. [REVIEW]J. Divers - 2011 - Mind 120 (478):570-574.
  29. 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.
  30. Causal Structuralism, Dispositional Actualism, and Counterfactual Conditionals.Antony Eagle - 2009 - In Toby Handfield (ed.), Dispositions and Causes. Oxford University Press. pp. 65--99.
    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.
  31. Combinatorialism and the Possibility of Nothing.David Efird & Tom Stoneham - 2006 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 84 (2):269 – 280.
    We argue that Armstrong's Combinatorialism allows for the possibility of nothing by giving a Combinatorial account of the empty world and show that such an account is consistent with the ontological and conceptual aims of the theory. We then suggest that the Combinatorialist should allow for this possibility given some methodological considerations. Consequently, rather than being 'spoils for the victor', as Armstrong maintains, deciding whether there might have been nothing helps to determine which metaphysics of modality is to be preferred.
  32. The Problem of Possibilia.Kit Fine - 2003 - In Michael J. Loux & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics. Oxford University Press. pp. 161-179.
    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 (...)
  33. First-Order Modal Theories III — Facts.Kit Fine - 1982 - Synthese 53 (1):43-122.
  34. First-Order Modal Theories. II: Propositions.Kit Fine - 1980 - Studia Logica 39 (2-3):159-202.
    This paper is part of a general programme of developing and investigating particular first- order modal theories. In the paper, a modal theory of propositions is constructed under the assumption that there are genuinely singular propositions, ie. ones that contain individuals as constituents. Various results on decidability, axiomatizability and definability are established.
  35. Actuality, Possibility, and Being.Frederic B. Fitch - 1949 - Review of Metaphysics 3 (3):367 - 384.
  36. John Divers, Possible Worlds. [REVIEW]G. Fitch - 2003 - Philosophy in Review 23:332-333.
  37. In Defense of Aristotelian Actualism.G. W. Fitch - 1996 - Philosophical Perspectives 10:53 - 71.
  38. Time, Modality, and the Unbearable Lightness of Being.Akiko M. Frischhut & Alexander Skiles - 2013 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 2 (1):264-273.
    We develop a theory about the metaphysics of time and modality that combines the conceptual resources devised in recent sympathetic work on ontological pluralism (the thesis that there are fundamentally distinct kinds of being) with the thought that what is past, future, and merely possible is less real than what is present and actual (albeit real enough to serve as truthmakers for statements about the past, future, and merely possible). However, we also show that despite being a coherent, distinctive, and (...)
  39. Modal Ontology and Generalized Quantifiers.Peter Fritz - 2013 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 42 (4):643-678.
    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 (...)
  40. FINE, K. And PRIOR, A. N. "Worlds, Times and Selves". [REVIEW]R. Gallie - 1979 - Mind 88:625.
  41. Actuality and Necessity.Pieranna Garavaso - 1992 - Journal of Critical Analysis 9 (2):35-40.
    In a recent contribution to the discussion of the necessary and the apriori, Philip Kitcher claims that "appropriate insertion of 'actual' and 'actually' can yield a necessary true sentence from anyl true sentence." The general thrust of Kitcher's discussion is the denial of the equivalence of necessity and apriority. I do not discuss any of the epistemological issues that are discussed by Kitcher. The focus of this paper is on the above quoted claim. What follows illustrate my reasons for doubting (...)
  42. Change and Actuality.William Godfrey-Smith - 1980 - Philosophical Quarterly 30 (121):350-355.
  43. Functionalism About Possible Worlds.Dominic Gregory - 2006 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 84 (1):95 – 115.
    Various writers have proposed that the notion of a possible world is a functional concept, yet very little has been done to develop that proposal. This paper explores a particular functionalist account of possible worlds, according to which pluralities of possible worlds are the bases for structures which provide occupants for the roles which analyse our ordinary modal concepts. It argues that the resulting position meets some of the stringent constraints which philosophers have placed upon accounts of possible worlds, while (...)
  44. The Problem of Possibilia.Cf Gupta - unknown
    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 (...)
  45. 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 (...)
  46. Actualism and Higher-Order Worlds.Reina Hayaki - 2003 - Philosophical Studies 115 (2):149 - 178.
    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 (...)
  47. Actualism Again.A. P. Hazen - 1996 - Philosophical Studies 84 (2-3):155 - 181.
  48. One of the Truths About Actuality.Allen Hazen - 1979 - Analysis 39 (1):1 - 3.
  49. 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 (...)
  50. Plantinga's Defence of Serious Actualism.Mark Hinchliff - 1989 - Analysis 49 (4):182 - 185.
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