About this topic
Summary If something could not have been otherwise, no matter how the world had turned out, that thing is metaphysically necessary. Traditional examples of metaphysical necessity include analytic statements such as 'All bachelors are unmarried', mathematical statements such as '2 + 2 = 4', identity statements such as 'Hesperus is Phosphorus', and theoretical identifications such as 'Water is H2O'. Philosophical issues surrounding metaphysical necessity include: its relationship to other forms of necessity (e.g. physical necessity), its relationship to a priori knowledge, its relationship to meaning and language, and its metaphysical grounds (i.e. what makes it the case that something is metaphysically necessary). The very status of the notion and its role in human thought is also up for debate.
Key works Although Kripke 1980 will surely remain the classic on the topic of metaphysical necessity, more recent discussion is abundant. For a discussion of the relationship between different types of necessity and the idea that narrower notions of necessity could be defined by restriction of metaphysical necessity, see Fine 2002. Fine 1994 presents an influential case in favour of reducing metaphysical necessity to essence, different aspects of which have since been discussed, e.g., in Hale 1996, Shalkowski 1997, Lowe 1998, Zalta 2006, Cameron 2010, and Correia 2012. For discussion on Kripke's and Putnam's contributions to the literature, see for instance Edgington 2004Soames 2011, Ballarin 2013, and Tahko 2013. Rosen 2006 argues that more than one notion fits Kripke's characterization of metaphysical necessity and his key examples. Divers 2018 argues for a form of 'pragmatic scepticism' about the notion.
Introductions Kripke 1980 Cameron 2010
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  1. added 2018-12-20
    New Frontiers in Ground, Essence, and Modality: Introduction.Donnchadh Ó Conaill & Tuomas E. Tahko - forthcoming - Synthese:1-12.
    Ground, essence, and modality seem to have something to do with each other. Can we provide unified foundations for ground and essence, or should we treat each as primitives? Can modality be grounded in essence, or should essence be expressed in terms of modality? Does grounding entail necessitation? Are the notions of ground and essence univocal? This volume focuses on the links—or lack thereof—between these three notions, as well as the foundations of ground, essence, and modality more generally, bringing together (...)
  2. added 2018-12-15
    Metaphysical and Absolute Possibility.Justin Clarke-Doane - forthcoming - Synthese (special issue).
    It is widely alleged that metaphysical possibility is “absolute” possibility (Kripke [1980], Lewis [1986], Rosen [2006, 16], Stalnaker [2005, 203], Williamson [2016, 460]). Indeed, this is arguably its metaphysical significance. Kripke calls metaphysical necessity “necessity in the highest degree” ([1980, 99]). Williamson calls metaphysical possibility the “maximal objective modality” [2016, 459]. Rosen says that “metaphysical possibility is the [most inclusive] sort of real possibility” ([2006, 16]). And Stalnaker writes, “we can agree with Frank Jackson, David Chalmers, Saul Kripke, David Lewis, (...)
  3. added 2018-12-07
    Nicholas Stang, Kant's Modal Metaphysics. [REVIEW]Colin McLear - 2018 - Philosophical Review 127 (4):523-528.
  4. added 2018-12-05
    On a Priori Knowledge of Necessity.Juhani Yli-Vakkuri & Margot Strohminger - manuscript
    The idea that the epistemology of modality is in some sense a priori is a popular one, but it has turned out to be difficult to precisify in a way that does not expose it to decisive counterexamples. The most common precisifications follow Kripke’s suggestion that cases of necessary a posteriori truth that can be known a priori to be necessary if true ‘may give a clue to a general characterization of a posteriori knowledge of necessary truths’. The idea is (...)
  5. added 2018-12-05
    On the Alleged Knowledge of Metaphysical Modality.Duen-Min Deng - forthcoming - Philosophia:1-17.
    Many metaphysical controversies can be understood as debates over whether some alleged entities are metaphysically possible. No doubt, with regard to these matters, we may have opinions or theories, commonsensical or sophisticated. But do we have knowledge of them? Can we really know that something is metaphysically possible, and if so, how? Several different answers have been offered in the literature, intending to illustrate how we may have knowledge of metaphysical modality. In this paper, I concentrate on a proposal by (...)
  6. added 2018-12-05
    Wither Metaphysical Necessity?John Divers - 2018 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 92 (1):1-25.
    I argue that a pragmatic scepticism about metaphysical modality is a perfectly reasonable position to maintain. I then illustrate the difficulties and limitations associated with some strategies for defeating such scepticism. These strategies appeal to associations between metaphysical modality and the following: objective probability, counterfactuals and distinctive explanatory value.
  7. added 2018-12-05
    Thought Experiments and Knowledge of Metaphysical Modality.Benoit Gaultier - 2016 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 93 (4):525-547.
  8. added 2018-12-05
    Meditations on Metaphysical Modality.Edmund Lindsay James Willis - unknown
    Although metaphysical modality has been much discussed and exploited by philosophers, its precise nature is often left unanalysed and obscure. This dissertation marks an attempt to understand it better. After examining modality in general, the specific topic is introduced through consideration of the views of Kripke and Lewis. Comparisons are then made with logical, scientific and conceptual modalities. Finally, it is argued that metaphysical modality is that variety of modality which is alethic, absolute and all-encompassing in its subject matter.
  9. added 2018-12-05
    Metaphysical Theories of Modality: Properties, Relations and Possibilities.David A. Denby - 1997 - Dissertation, University of Massachusetts Amherst
    Many theories assimilate the idioms of modality to those of quantification; they hold that so-and-so is possible iff there is a "world" at which it is true that so-and-so. "Modal realism" identifies worlds with certain concrete particulars, and truth at a world with what is true of it. Rival "ersatz" theories identify worlds with certain abstract entities and identify what is true at them with what they represent. ;David Lewis argues that pre-theoretic modal intuitions are best explained by modal realism. (...)
  10. added 2018-11-19
    Nothing Is Impossible.Peter van Inwagen - 2015 - In Miroslaw Szatkowski (ed.), God, Truth, and Other Enigmas. De Gruyter. pp. 33-58.
  11. added 2018-11-19
    On the Inflation of Necessities.Peter Baumann - 2012 - Metaphysica 13 (1):51-54.
    This brief paper argues that Kripke’s thesis of the necessity of origin has some implausible consequences.
  12. added 2018-11-19
    Writing the Book of the World.Theodore Sider - 2011 - Oxford University Press.
    In order to perfectly describe the world, it is not enough to speak truly. One must also use the right concepts - including the right logical concepts. One must use concepts that "carve at the joints", that give the world's "structure". There is an objectively correct way to "write the book of the world". Much of metaphysics, as traditionally conceived, is about the fundamental nature of reality; in the present terms, this is about the world's structure. Metametaphysics - inquiry into (...)
  13. added 2018-11-19
    A Powers Theory of Modality: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Reject Possible Worlds.Jonathan D. Jacobs - 2010 - Philosophical Studies 151 (2):227-248.
    Possible worlds, concrete or abstract as you like, are irrelevant to the truthmakers for modality—or so I shall argue in this paper. First, I present the neo-Humean picture of modality, and explain why those who accept it deny a common sense view of modality. Second, I present what I take to be the most pressing objection to the neo-Humean account, one that, I argue, applies equally well to any theory that grounds modality in possible worlds. Third, I present an alternative, (...)
  14. added 2018-11-19
    Modality & Other Matters: An Interview with Timothy Williamson.Timothy Williamson & Paal Antonsen - 2010 - Perspectives: International Postgraduate Journal of Philosophy 3 (1):16-29.
    An interview with Timothy Williamson on Modality and other matters. Williams is asked three main questions: the first about the difference between philosophical and non-philosophical knowledge, the second concerns the epistemology of modality, and the third is on the emerging metaphysical picture.
  15. added 2018-11-19
    The Foundations of Two-Dimensional Semantics.David J. Chalmers - 2006 - In Manuel Garcia-Carpintero & Josep Macia (eds.), Two-Dimensional Semantics: Foundations and Applications. Oxford University Press. pp. 55-140.
    Why is two-dimensional semantics important? One can think of it as the most recent act in a drama involving three of the central concepts of philosophy: meaning, reason, and modality. First, Kant linked reason and modality, by suggesting that what is necessary is knowable a priori, and vice versa. Second, Frege linked reason and meaning, by proposing an aspect of meaning (sense) that is constitutively tied to cognitive signi?cance. Third, Carnap linked meaning and modality, by proposing an aspect of meaning (...)
  16. added 2018-11-19
    From Metaphysics to Ethics: A Defence of Conceptual Analysis.Frank Jackson - 1998 - Philosophical Quarterly 49 (197):539-542.
  17. added 2018-11-19
    The Tyranny of the Subjunctive.David J. Chalmers - manuscript
    (1a) If Prince Albert Victor killed those people, he is Jack the Ripper (and Jack the Ripper killed those people). (1b) If Prince Albert Victor had killed those people, Jack the Ripper wouldn't have (and Prince Albert wouldn't have been Jack the Ripper).
  18. added 2018-11-19
    Is Water Necessarily H2O.Hilary Putnam - 1990 - In James Conant (ed.), Realism with a Human Face. Harvard University Press. pp. 54--79.
  19. added 2018-11-19
    The Logic of What Might Have Been.Nathan Salmon - 1989 - Philosophical Review 98 (1):3-34.
  20. added 2018-11-19
    Necessity, Essence, and Individuation: A Defense of Conventionalism.Alan Sidelle - 1989 - Cornell University Press.
  21. added 2018-11-19
    On the Plurality of Worlds.David K. Lewis - 1986 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 49 (2):333-352.
  22. added 2018-11-19
    The Metaphysics of Modality.Graeme Forbes - 1985 - Clarendon Press.
    Analytic philosophy has recently demonstrated a revived interest in metaphysical problems about possibility and necessity. Graeme Forbes here provides a careful description of the logical background of recent work in this area for those who may be unfamiliar with it, moving on to d discuss the distinction between modality de re and modality de dicto and the ontological commitments of possible worlds semantics. In addition, Forbes offers a unified theory of the essential properties of sets, organisms, artefacts, substances, and events, (...)
  23. added 2018-11-19
    Reference and Contingency.G. Evans - 1979 - The Monist 62 (2):178--213.
  24. added 2018-11-19
    Internal and External Properties.Timothy Sprigge - 1962 - Mind 71 (282):197-212.
  25. added 2018-11-19
    Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1922 - Dover Publications.
    In this 1921 opus, Wittgenstein defined the object of philosophy as the logical clarification of thoughts and proposed the solution to most philosophic problems by means of a critical method of linguistic analysis. Beginning with the principles of symbolism, the author applies his theories to traditional philosophy, examines the logical structure of propositions and the nature of logical inference, and much more. Definitive translation. Introduction by Bertrand Russell.
  26. added 2018-10-26
    Reference and Necessity: A Rand-Kripke Synthesis? [REVIEW]Roderick T. Long - 2000 - Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 7 (1):209 - 228.
    The widespread assumption among academic philosophers that no truth can be simultaneously necessary and factual, founded on the analytic-synthetic dichotomy, was challenged from outside the profession by Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff in the 1960s, and from within the profession by Saul Kripke and Hilary Putnam in the 1970s. Gregory M. Browne's book Necessary Factual Truth represents a long-overdue attempt to synthesize the Rand-Peikoff and Kripke-Putnam approaches into an integrated theory. While Browne's project is partially successful, it gives up one (...)
  27. added 2018-09-13
    Modality is Not Explainable by Essence.Carlos Romero - forthcoming - The Philosophical Quarterly.
    Some metaphysicians believe that metaphysical modality is explainable by the essences of objects. In §II, I spell out the definitional view of essence, and in §III, a working notion of metaphysical explanation. Then, in §IV, I consider and reject five natural ways to explain necessity by essence: in terms of the principle that essential properties can't change, in terms of the supposed obviousness of the necessity of essential truth, in terms of the logical necessity of definitions, in terms of Fine's (...)
  28. added 2018-09-02
    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 (...)
  29. added 2018-08-17
    Diamonds Are Forever.Cian Dorr & Jeremy Goodman - forthcoming - Noûs.
    We defend the thesis that every necessarily true proposition is always true. Since not every proposition that is always true is necessarily true, our thesis is at odds with theories of modality and time, such as those of Kit Fine and David Kaplan, which posit a fundamental symmetry between modal and tense operators. According to such theories, just as it is a contingent matter what is true at a given time, it is likewise a temporary matter what is true at (...)
  30. added 2018-05-21
    Putting Modal Metaphysics First.Antonella Mallozzi - 2018 - Synthese:1-20.
    I propose that we approach the epistemology of modality by putting modal metaphysics first and, specifically, by investigating the metaphysics of essence. Following a prominent Neo-Aristotelian view, I hold that metaphysical necessity depends on the nature of things, namely their essences. I further clarify that essences are core properties having distinctive superexplanatory powers. In the case of natural kinds, which is my focus in the paper, superexplanatoriness is due to the fact that the essence of a kind is what causes (...)
  31. added 2018-03-27
    Linking Necessity to Apriority.Tristan Haze - forthcoming - Acta Analytica:1-7.
    There is an important and fairly straightforward link between necessity and apriority which can shed light on our knowledge of the former, but initially plausible attempts to spell out what it is fall victim to counterexamples. Casullo (2003) discusses one such proposal, argues - following Anderson (1993) - that it fails, and suggests an alternative. In this paper, I argue that Casullo’s alternative also fails, before making a suggestion for which I can find no counterexamples and which, notably, handles some (...)
  32. added 2018-03-08
    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 (...)
  33. added 2018-02-20
    Der Begriff der Notwendigkeit in der Antike Und in der Gegenwart.Uwe Meixner - 2002 - Kriterion - Journal of Philosophy 16 (1):19-38.
    This paper has two parts. The first part is historical, presenting a brief history of the concept of necessity from the time of antiquity to the present. It is shown that the conceptions of necessity in antiquity had four main sources: matter-necessity, form-necessity, efficiencynecessity, and purpose-necessity. Special attention is accorded to the syncretistic concept of the necessity of fate, and its transformations from the beginning of antiquity to its end. Moreover, it is pointed out that already in antiquity we find (...)
  34. added 2018-02-17
    Ellis on the Limitations of Dispositionalism.Joel Katzav - 2005 - Analysis 65 (1):92-94.
    FIRST PARAGRAPH I have argued that dispositionalism is incompatible with the Principle of Least Action (PLA) (Katzav 2004). In ‘Katzav on the Limitations of Dispositionalism,’ Brian Ellis responds, arguing that while naïve dispositionalism is incompatible with the PLA, sophisticated dispositionalism is not. Naive dispositionalism, according to Ellis, is the view that the world is ultimately something like a conglomerate of objects and their dispositions, and that, therefore, dispositions are the ultimate ontological units that explain events. Sophisticated dispositionalism, according to Ellis, (...)
  35. added 2018-02-17
    Two Kinds of Possibility.Dorothy Edgington - 2004 - Supplement to the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 78 (1):1-22.
    I defend a version of Kripke's claim that the metaphysically necessary and the knowable a priori are independent. On my version, there are two independent families of modal notions, metaphysical and epistemic, neither stronger than the other. Metaphysical possibility is constrained by the laws of nature. Logical validity, I suggest, is best understood in terms of epistemic necessity.
  36. added 2018-02-07
    Against the Reduction of Modality to Essence.Nathan Wildman - forthcoming - Synthese:1-17.
    It is a truth universally acknowledged that a claim of metaphysical modality, in possession of good alethic standing, must be in want of an essentialist foundation. Or at least so say the advocates of the reductive-essence-first view, according to which all modality is to be reductively defined in terms of essence. Here, I contest this bit of current wisdom. In particular, I offer two puzzles—one concerning the essences of non-compossible, complementary entities, and a second involving entities whose essences are modally (...)
  37. added 2018-02-07
    Two Notions of Metaphysical Modality.Antonella Mallozzi - 2018 - Synthese:1-22.
    The paper explores the project of an ambitious modal epistemology that attempts to combine the a priori methods of Chalmers’ 2D semantics with Kripke’s modal metaphysics. I argue that such a project is not viable. The ambitious modal epistemology involves an inconsistent triad composed of (1) Modal Monism, (2) Two-Dimensionalism, and what I call (3) “Metaphysical Kripkeanism”. I present the three theses and show how only two of those can be true at a time. There is a fundamental incompatibility between (...)
  38. added 2018-02-07
    The Eightfold Way: Why Analyticity, Apriority and Necessity Are Independent.Douglas Ian Campbell - 2017 - Philosophers' Imprint 17:1-17.
    This paper concerns the three great modal dichotomies: (i) the necessary/contingent dichotomy; (ii) the a priori/empirical dichotomy; and (iii) the analytic/synthetic dichotomy. These can be combined to produce a tri-dichotomy of eight modal categories. The question as to which of the eight categories house statements and which do not is a pivotal battleground in the history of analytic philosophy, with key protagonists including Descartes, Hume, Kant, Kripke, Putnam and Kaplan. All parties to the debate have accepted that some categories are (...)
  39. added 2018-02-07
    Sophisticated Modal Primitivism.Tobias Wilsch - 2017 - Philosophical Issues 27 (1):428-448.
    Summary: The paper provides an argument for modal primitivism, the view that necessity is not defined and is therefore part of the structure of reality. It then raises the explanation-challenge for primitivists: how can modal truths be explained by hyper-intensional truths, if necessity is not defined in terms of hyper-intensional phenomena? To address the challenge, the paper introduces 'sophisticated modal primitivism' which gives a substantive analysis of the notion of a 'source of necessity'. The final part of the paper offers (...)
  40. added 2018-02-07
    Essence Without Fundamentality.Agustín Rayo - 2015 - Theoria : An International Journal for Theory, History and Fundations of Science 30 (3):349-363.
    I argue for a conception of essence that does not rely on distinctions of metaphysical fundamentality.
  41. added 2018-02-02
    Michael Jubien, Possibility Reviewed By.Sam Cowling - 2010 - Philosophy in Review 30 (1):47-49.
  42. added 2018-01-25
    On How (Not) to Define Modality in Terms of Essence.Robert Michels - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies:1-19.
    In his influential article ‘Essence and Modality’, Fine proposes a definition of necessity in terms of the primitive essentialist notion ‘true in virtue of the nature of’. Fine’s proposal is suggestive, but it admits of different interpretations, leaving it unsettled what the precise formulation of an Essentialist definition of necessity should be. In this paper, four different versions of the definition are discussed: a singular, a plural reading, and an existential variant of Fine’s original suggestion and an alternative version proposed (...)
  43. added 2017-12-31
    The Limits of Non-Standard Contingency.Robert Michels - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (2):533-558.
    Gideon Rosen has recently sketched an argument which aims to establish that the notion of metaphysical modality is systematically ambiguous. His argument contains a crucial sub-argument which has been used to argue for Metaphysical Contingentism, the view that some claims of fundamental metaphysics are metaphysically contingent rather than necessary. In this paper, Rosen’s argument is explicated in detail and it is argued that the most straight-forward reconstruction fails to support its intended conclusion. Two possible ways to save the argument are (...)
  44. added 2017-12-30
    Essence, Necessity, and Definition.Justin Zylstra - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (2):339-350.
    What is it for something to be essential to an item? For some time, it was standard to think that the concept of necessity alone can provide an answer: for something to be essential to an item is for it to be strictly implied by the existence of that item. We now tend to think that this view fails because its analysans is insufficient for its analysandum. In response, some argue that we can supplement the analysis in terms of necessity (...)
  45. added 2017-12-25
    The Necessity of Mathematics.Juhani Yli‐Vakkuri & John Hawthorne - 2018 - Noûs 52.
    Some have argued for a division of epistemic labor in which mathematicians supply truths and philosophers supply their necessity. We argue that this is wrong: mathematics is committed to its own necessity. Counterfactuals play a starring role.
  46. added 2017-11-14
    Plantinga's Ontological Argument.Leslie Allan - manuscript
    The ontological argument for the existence of God has enjoyed a recent renaissance among philosophers of religion. Alvin Plantinga's modal version is perhaps the most notable example. This essay critically examines Plantinga's rendition, uncovering both its strengths and weaknesses. The author concludes that while the argument is probably formally valid, it is ultimately unsound. Nonetheless, Plantinga's version has generated much interest and discussion. The author spends some time uncovering the reasons for the argument's powerful intuitive appeal. He concludes his essay (...)
  47. added 2017-11-06
    Modal Objectivity.Clarke-Doane Justin - forthcoming - Noûs.
    It is widely agreed that the intelligibility of modal metaphysics has been vindicated. Quine's arguments to the contrary supposedly confused analyticity with metaphysical necessity, and rigid with non-rigid designators.2 But even if modal metaphysics is intelligible, it could be misconceived. It could be that metaphysical necessity is not absolute necessity – the strictest real notion of necessity – and that no proposition of traditional metaphysical interest is necessary in every real sense. If there were nothing otherwise “uniquely metaphysically significant” about (...)
  48. added 2017-11-06
    Necessity and Propositions.Tristan Haze - 2017 - Dissertation, University of Sydney
    Some​ ​propositions​ ​are​ ​not​ ​only​ ​true,​ ​but​ ​could​ ​not​ ​have​ ​been​ ​otherwise. This​ ​thesis​ ​is​ ​about​ ​modality​ ​and​ ​the​ ​philosophy​ ​of​ ​language.​ ​Its​ ​centrepiece​ ​is​ ​a​ ​new​ ​account​ ​of the​ ​conditions​ ​under​ ​which​ ​a​ ​proposition​ ​is​ ​necessarily​ ​true​ ​in​ ​the​ ​above​ ​sense.
  49. added 2017-11-06
    Modal Objectivity1.Justin Clarke‐Doane - 2017 - Noûs.
    It is widely agreed that the intelligibility of modal metaphysics has been vindicated. Quine's arguments to the contrary supposedly confused analyticity with metaphysical necessity, and rigid with non-rigid designators.2 But even if modal metaphysics is intelligible, it could be misconceived. It could be that metaphysical necessity is not absolute necessity – the strictest real notion of necessity – and that no proposition of traditional metaphysical interest is necessary in every real sense. If there were nothing otherwise “uniquely metaphysically significant” about (...)
  50. added 2017-11-06
    A Causal Theory of Modality.José Tomás Alvarado - 2009 - Ideas Y Valores 58 (140):173-196.
    This work presents a causal conception of metaphysical modality in which a state of affairs is metaphysically possible if and only if it can be caused by current entities. The conception is contrasted with what is called the “combinatorial” conception of modality, in which everything can co-exist with anything else. This work explains how the notion of ‘causality’ should be construed in the causal theory, what difference exists between modalities thus defined from nomological modality, how accessibility relations between possible worlds (...)
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