Impossible Worlds

Edited by Barak Krakauer (University of California, Santa Cruz)
About this topic
Summary Impossible worlds are structures that have been proposed to make sense of certain kinds of modal phenomena. Unlike the possible worlds, impossible worlds are incomplete, inconsistent, or both; nonetheless, impossible worlds are employed in a similar way, intended to represent or model certain kinds of scenarios. A possible worlds theorist may attempt to give an account of propositions, properties, intentional attitudes, or various flavors of necessity and possibility, yet run into trouble in "hyperintensional" contexts: she might, for example, want to distinguish properties that are necessarily co-extensive (such as triangularity and trilateraltiy) or propositions that are true in the same set of worlds (such as <2 + 2 = 4> and ). Impossible worlds could be added to such a system to make the kinds of distinctions in modal space that seem to be required, since there would be impossible worlds where a figure has three sides but not three angles, or where all bachelors are male but 2 + 2 does not equal 4. Some impossible worlds theorists hold that these structures are sui generis entities, entities of the same kind as possible worlds, or entities constructed from the possible worlds.
Introductions Francesco Berto's Stanford Encyclopedia entry is a good introduction to some of the motivations for impossible worlds as well as their metaphysics. 
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  1. added 2020-04-22
    Sensitivity, Safety, and Impossible Worlds.Guido Melchior - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies:1-17.
    Modal knowledge accounts that are based on standards possible-worlds semantics face well-known problems when it comes to knowledge of necessities. Beliefs in necessities are trivially sensitive and safe and, therefore, trivially constitute knowledge according to these accounts. In this paper, I will first argue that existing solutions to this necessity problem, which accept standard possible-worlds semantics, are unsatisfactory. In order to solve the necessity problem, I will utilize an unorthodox account of counterfactuals, as proposed by Nolan, on which we also (...)
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  2. added 2020-01-23
    Hyperlogic: A System for Talking About Logics.Alexander W. Kocurek - 2019 - Proceedings for the 22nd Amsterdam Colloquium.
    Sentences about logic are often used to show that certain embedding expressions, including attitude verbs, conditionals, and epistemic modals, are hyperintensional. Yet it not clear how to regiment “logic talk” in the object language so that it can be compositionally embedded under such expressions. This paper does two things. First, it argues against a standard account of logic talk, viz., the impossible worlds semantics. It is shown that this semantics does not easily extend to a language with propositional quantifiers, which (...)
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  3. added 2019-09-12
    Counterfactuals of Ontological Dependence.Sam Baron - forthcoming - Journal of the American Philosophical Association.
    A great deal has been written about 'would' counterfactuals of causal dependence. Comparatively little has been said regarding 'would' counterfactuals of ontological dependence. The standard Lewis-Stalnaker semantics is inadequate for handling such counterfactuals. That's because some of these counterfactuals are counterpossibles, and the standard Lewis-Stalnaker semantics trivializes for counterpossibles. Fortunately, there is a straightforward extension of the Lewis-Stalnaker semantics available that handles counterpossibles: simply take Lewis's closeness relation that orders possible worlds and unleash it across impossible worlds. To apply the (...)
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  4. added 2019-09-05
    On the Pragmatic Approach to Counterpossibles.Maciej Sendłak - 2019 - Philosophia 47 (2):523-532.
    Nina Emery and Christopher Hill proposed a pragmatic approach toward the debate about counterpossibles—i.e., counterfactuals with impossible antecedents. The core of this approach is to move the burden of the problem from the notion of truth value into the notion of assertion. This is meant to explain our pre-theoretical intuitions about counterpossibles while claiming that each and every counterpossible is vacuously true. The aim of this paper is to indicate a problematic aspect of this view.
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  5. added 2019-08-06
    Impossible Worlds.Franz Berto & Mark Jago - 2013 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    We need to understand the impossible. Francesco Berto and Mark Jago start by considering what the concepts of meaning, information, knowledge, belief, fiction, conditionality, and counterfactual supposition have in common. They are all concepts which divide the world up more finely than logic does. Logically equivalent sentences may carry different meanings and information and may differ in how they're believed. Fictions can be inconsistent yet meaningful. We can suppose impossible things without collapsing into total incoherence. Yet for the leading philosophical (...)
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  6. added 2019-06-27
    Fictionalism, the Safety Result and Counterpossibles.Lukas Skiba - 2019 - Analysis 79 (4):647-658.
    Fictionalists maintain that possible worlds, numbers or composite objects exist only according to theories which are useful but false. Hale, Divers and Woodward have provided arguments which threaten to show that fictionalists must be prepared to regard the theories in question as contingently, rather than necessarily, false. If warranted, this conclusion would significantly limit the appeal of the fictionalist strategy rendering it unavailable to anyone antecedently convinced that mathematics and metaphysics concern non-contingent matters. I try to show that their arguments (...)
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  7. added 2019-06-06
    Encounters Possible and Impossible: Derrida and Butler on Mourning.Ewa Plonowska Ziarek - 2006 - Philosophy Today 50 (Supplement):144-155.
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  8. added 2019-06-05
    Counting Possibilia.Alfredo Tomasetta - 2010 - Theoria : An International Journal for Theory, History and Fundations of Science 25 (2):163-174.
    Timothy Williamson supports the thesis that every possible entity necessarily exists and so he needs to explain how a possible son of Wittgenstein’s, for example, exists in our world:he exists as a merely possible object, a pure locus of potential. Williamson presents a short argument for the existence of MPOs: how many knives can be made by fitting together two blades and two handles? Four: at the most two are concrete objects, the others being merely possible knives and merely possible (...)
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  9. added 2019-04-05
    Truth in Fiction, Impossible Worlds, and Belief Revision.Francesco Berto & Christopher Badura - 2019 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 97 (1):178-193.
    We present a theory of truth in fiction that improves on Lewis's [1978] ‘Analysis 2’ in two ways. First, we expand Lewis's possible worlds apparatus by adding non-normal or impossible worlds. Second, we model truth in fiction as belief revision via ideas from dynamic epistemic logic. We explain the major objections raised against Lewis's original view and show that our theory overcomes them.
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  10. added 2019-03-01
    Two Kinds of Logical Impossibility.Alexander Sandgren & Koji Tanaka - forthcoming - Noûs.
    In this paper, we argue that a distinction ought to be drawn between two ways in which a given world might be logically impossible. First, a world w might be impossible because the laws that hold at w are different from those that hold at some other world (say the actual world). Second, a world w might be impossible because the laws of logic that hold in some world (say the actual world) are violated at w. We develop a novel (...)
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  11. added 2019-02-08
    On the Substitution of Identicals in Counterfactual Reasoning.Alexander W. Kocurek - forthcoming - Noûs:1-32.
    It is widely held that counterfactuals, unlike attitude ascriptions, preserve the referential transparency of their constituents, i.e., that counterfactuals validate the substitution of identicals when their constituents do. The only putative counterexamples in the literature come from counterpossibles, i.e., counterfactuals with impossible antecedents. Advocates of counterpossibilism, i.e., the view that counterpossibles are not all vacuous, argue that counterpossibles can generate referential opacity. But in order to explain why most substitution inferences into counterfactuals seem valid, counterpossibilists also often maintain that counterfactuals (...)
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  12. added 2018-09-07
    The Impossible Has Already Occurred: Derrida and Negative Theology.Bruce Milem - 1997 - Philosophy Today 41 (Supplement):180-185.
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  13. added 2018-06-05
    Personification and Impossible Fictions.Daniel Nolan - 2015 - British Journal of Aesthetics 55 (1):57-69.
    Impossible fictions are not just the creations of puzzle-seeking philosophers or artists experimenting with the limits of fiction. Impossibilities can be found in relatively mundane fiction as well. This article argues that the device of personification, especially of abstract entities such as death or duty, yields impossible fictions, arguing against a number of strategies that might be tried to show that these cases of personification do not yield impossibilities.
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  14. added 2018-05-15
    Here Goes Nothing.Lee Barry - 2016 - European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 12 (1):27-45.
    Subtraction arguments support the view that there might have been nothing. The best-developed SA to date, due to David Efird and Tom Stoneham, is claimed by its authors to entail that there are worlds in which there are space-time points but no concrete objects: Efird and Stoneham hold that space-time points are not concrete and that a world made up from them alone contains nothing concrete. In this paper it is argued that whole space-times are concrete and subtractable, so that (...)
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  15. added 2018-05-09
    Constitutive Moral Luck and Strawson's Argument for the Impossibility of Moral Responsibility.Robert J. Hartman - 2018 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 4 (2):165-183.
    Galen Strawson’s Basic Argument is that because self-creation is required to be truly morally responsible and self-creation is impossible, it is impossible to be truly morally responsible for anything. I contend that the Basic Argument is unpersuasive and unsound. First, I argue that the moral luck debate shows that the self-creation requirement appears to be contradicted and supported by various parts of our commonsense ideas about moral responsibility, and that this ambivalence undermines the only reason that Strawson gives for the (...)
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  16. added 2018-03-21
    Williamson on Counterpossibles.Berto Francesco, David Ripley, Graham Priest & Rohan French - 2018 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 47 (4):693-713.
    A counterpossible conditional is a counterfactual with an impossible antecedent. Common sense delivers the view that some such conditionals are true, and some are false. In recent publications, Timothy Williamson has defended the view that all are true. In this paper we defend the common sense view against Williamson’s objections.
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  17. added 2018-02-17
    On Conceiving the Inconsistent.Francesco Berto - 2014 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 114 (1pt1):103-121.
    I present an approach to our conceiving absolute impossibilities—things which obtain at no possible world—in terms of ceteris paribus intentional operators: variably restricted quantifiers on possible and impossible worlds based on world similarity. The explicit content of a representation plays a role similar in some respects to the one of a ceteris paribus conditional antecedent. I discuss how such operators invalidate logical closure for conceivability, and how similarity works when impossible worlds are around. Unlike what happens with ceteris paribus counterfactual (...)
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  18. added 2018-02-04
    Logically Impossible Worlds.Koji Tanaka - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Logic 15 (2):489.
    What does it mean for the laws of logic to fail? My task in this paper is to answer this question. I use the resources that Routley/Sylvan developed with his collaborators for the semantics of relevant logics to explain a world where the laws of logic fail. I claim that the non-normal worlds that Routley/Sylvan introduced are exactly such worlds. To disambiguate different kinds of impossible worlds, I call such worlds logically impossible worlds. At a logically impossible world, the laws (...)
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  19. added 2018-01-03
    Worlds and Individuals, Possible and Otherwise, by Takashi Yagisawa. [REVIEW]J. Divers - 2011 - Mind 120 (478):570-574.
  20. added 2017-11-13
    Content, the Possible and the Impossible.Felappi Giulia - 2017 - Analysis 77 (3):648-658.
    What are contents? The answer provided by the possible worlds approach is that contents are sets of possible worlds. This approach incurs serious problems and to solve them Jago suggests, in The Impossible, to get rid of the ‘possible’ bit and allowing some impossible worlds to be part of the game. In this note, I briefly consider the metaphysics behind Jago’s account and then focus on whether Jago is right in thinking that his worlds and his worlds only can do (...)
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  21. added 2017-03-28
    Impossibility and Impossible Worlds.Daniel Nolan - forthcoming - In Otavio Bueno & Scott Shalkowski (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Modality. New York, USA: Routledge Press.
  22. added 2017-02-16
    Introduction.Marie Duží & Bjørn Jespersen - 2015 - Synthese 192 (3):525-534.
    The topic of this special issue of Synthese is hyperintensionality. This introduction offers a brief survey of the very notion of hyperintensionality followed by a summary of each of the papers in this collection. The papers are foundational studies of hyperintensionality accompanied by ample philosophical applications.Hyperintensionality concerns the individuation of non-extensional entities such as propositions and properties, relations-in-intension and individual roles, as well as, for instance, proofs and judgments and computational procedures, in case these do not reduce to any of (...)
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  23. added 2017-02-16
    Between Words and Worlds. A Festschrift for Pavel Materna.Marián Zouhar - 2001 - Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 8 (3):347-350.
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  24. added 2017-02-15
    Beyond Potentialities?: Politics Between the Possible and the Impossible.Mark Potocnik, Frank Ruda & Jan Völker (eds.) - 2011 - Diaphanes.
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  25. added 2017-02-12
    Characterization and Existence in Modal Meinongianism.Fred Kroon - 2012 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 86 (1):23-34.
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  26. added 2017-02-12
    ""Constructing" America": Architectural Thought-Worlds.Michael J. Shapiro - 2005 - Theory and Event 7 (4).
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  27. added 2017-02-12
    The Communication of the Impossible.Joseph Suglia - 2001 - Diacritics 31 (2):49-69.
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  28. added 2017-02-10
    Freedom, God, and Worlds.Michael J. Almeida - 2012 - Oxford University Press.
    A Moderate Anselmian Plea -- Metaphysical Atheological Arguments and the Free Will Defense -- Three Important Objections -- Unrestricted Actualization, Freedom and Morally Perfect Worlds -- The Logical Problem of Evil Redux -- Four Important Objections -- Four More Objections -- Redeeming Worlds -- Conclusions.
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  29. added 2017-02-08
    Constructing Possible Worlds.Aarne Ranta - 1991 - Theoria 57 (1-2):77-99.
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  30. added 2017-01-31
    Impossible Worlds and the Logic of Imagination.Francesco Berto - 2017 - Erkenntnis 82 (6):1277-1297.
    I want to model a finite, fallible cognitive agent who imagines that p in the sense of mentally representing a scenario—a configuration of objects and properties—correctly described by p. I propose to capture imagination, so understood, via variably strict world quantifiers, in a modal framework including both possible and so-called impossible worlds. The latter secure lack of classical logical closure for the relevant mental states, while the variability of strictness captures how the agent imports information from actuality in the imagined (...)
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  31. added 2017-01-29
    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.
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  32. added 2017-01-27
    The Impossible Nude.François Jullien - 2007 - University of Chicago Press.
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  33. added 2017-01-27
    L'alkahest, Universal Solvent or When the Theory Make Thinkable an Impossible Practice.Bernard Joly - 1996 - Revue d'Histoire des Sciences 49 (2):305-344.
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  34. added 2017-01-27
    [The Alkahest, Universal Dissolvent or When Theory Turns an Impossible Practice Into the Imaginable].B. Joly - 1995 - Revue d'Histoire des Sciences 49 (2-3):305-344.
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  35. added 2017-01-26
    When Inconsistency is Logically Impossible.D. Goldstick - 1989 - Logique Et Analyse 125 (25):139-42.
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  36. added 2017-01-22
    Professor Hanson Imagining the Impossible.Roy J. Cox - 1959 - Analysis 20 (4):87 - 93.
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  37. added 2017-01-22
    “It is Impossible to Be Told Anyone's Name'.Al Tajtelbaum - 1956 - Analysis 17 (3):52--3.
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  38. added 2017-01-22
    Is Metaphysics Impossible?A. C. Ewing - 1947 - Analysis 8 (3):33 - 38.
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  39. added 2017-01-21
    What's Wrong with Impossible Objects?Kenneth J. Perszyk - 1989 - Philosophical Papers 18 (3):241-251.
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  40. added 2017-01-21
    II. On 'the Durability of Impossible Objects'1.Karel Lambert - 1976 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 19 (1-4):251-253.
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  41. added 2017-01-21
    Commanding The Impossible.Harold M. Zellner - 1971 - Philosophy and Rhetoric 4 (3):150-158.
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  42. added 2017-01-20
    Must New Worlds Also Be Good?Robert Grant - 1995 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 38 (1-2):123 – 141.
    The activities analysed by Spinosa et al., viz entrepreneurship, citizen action, and cultural leadership, are all central to the American experience. They have a common phenomenological structure and a common purpose, which is to ?disclose new worlds?, i.e. so to reconfigure the collective perceptions as to bring about ?large?scale cultural and historical changes?. Each, more or less unselfconsciously, is an exercise of skill, an expression of freedom, and a building of solidarity through the recovery or discovery of human meanings. I (...)
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  43. added 2017-01-20
    I. The Durability of Impossible Objects.Richard Routley - 1976 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 19 (1-4):247 – 251.
    Meinong's theory of impossible objects is defended against a number of objections, in particular against Karel Lambert's argument (see Impossible Objects?, Inquiry, Vol. 17 [1974], pp. 303?14) that no objects are impossible.
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  44. added 2017-01-19
    Failing to Do the Impossible.Carolina Sartorio - manuscript
    A billionaire tells you: “That chair is in my way; I don’t feel like moving it myself, but if you push it out of my way I’ll give you a hundred dollars.” You decide you don’t want the billionaire’s money and you’d actually prefer that the chair stay in the billionaire’s way, so you graciously turn down the offer and go home. As it turns out, the billionaire is also a stingy old miser; he was never willing to let go (...)
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  45. added 2017-01-19
    How to Believe the Impossible.Curtis Brown - 1990 - Philosophical Studies 58 (3):271-285.
    Can we believe things that could not possibly be true? The world seems full of examples. Mathematicians have "proven" theorems which in fact turn out to be false. People have believed that Hesperus is not Phosphorus, that they themselves are essentially incorporeal, that heat is not molecular motion--all propositions which have been claimed to be not just false, but necessarily false. Some have even seemed to pride themselves on believing the impossible; Hegel thought contradictions could be true, and Kierkegaard seems (...)
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  46. added 2017-01-19
    On Propositions Neither Necessary nor Impossible.A. N. Prior - 1953 - Journal of Symbolic Logic 18 (2):105-108.
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  47. added 2017-01-17
    Co‐Hyperintensionality.Federico L. G. Faroldi - 2017 - Ratio 30 (3):270-287.
    Co-hyperintensionality, or hyperintensional equivalence, is a relation holding between two or more contents that can be substituted in a hyperintensional context salva veritate. I argue that two strategies used to provide criteria for co-hyperintensionality fail. I argue that there is no generalized notion of co-hyperintensionality that meets plausible desiderata, by showing that the opposite thesis leads to falsity. As a conclusion, I suggest to take co-hyperintensionality as a primitive and I provide a general criterion of co-hyperintensionality whose content depends on (...)
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  48. added 2017-01-17
    Impossible Worlds and Metaphysical Explanation: Comments on Kment’s Modality and Explanatory Reasoning.Nina Emery & Christopher S. Hill - 2017 - Analysis 77 (1):134-148.
    In this critical notice of Kment's _Modality and Explanatory Reasoning_, we focus on Kment’s arguments for impossible worlds and on a key part of his discussion of the interactions between modality and explanation – the analogy that he draws between scientific and metaphysical explanation.
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  49. added 2017-01-17
    L’Art Sacre, Un Art Impossible.Emmanuel Housset - 2016 - Revue des Sciences Philosophiques Et Théologiques 100 (2):249.
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  50. added 2017-01-17
    Is It Impossible to Keep Up to Date?Morreau Michael & Rott Hans - unknown
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