About this topic
Summary This category covers a variety of approaches to modality, characterized by their including a principle of recombination whereby there is a possibility for each way of combining some elements.
Key works Skyrms 1981 develops a combinatorialism inspired by Wittgenstein's Tractatus. A principle of recombination is at the heart of Lewisian modal realism (Lewis 1986). Armstrong 1989 sets out a fictionalist combinatorialism with distinctive commitments, among them that there are no alien universals (i.e. universals not instantiated at the actual world).
Introductions Wilson 2015
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58 found
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  1. Non-Spatial Matters: On the Possibility of Non-Spatial Material Objects.Cruz Davis - forthcoming - Synthese.
    While there is considerable disagreement on the precise nature of material objecthood, it is standardly assumed that material objects must be spatial. In this paper, I provide two arguments against this assumption. The first argument is made from largely a priori considerations about modal plenitude. The possibility of non-spatial material objects follows from commitment to certain plausible principles governing material objecthood and plausible principles regarding modal plenitude. The second argument draws from current philosophical discussions regarding theories of quantum gravity and (...)
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  2. The Empty World as the Null Conjunction of States of Affairs.Rafael De Clercq - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:0-17.
    If possible worlds are conjunctions of states of affairs, as in David Armstrong’s combinatorial theory, then is the empty world to be thought of as the null conjunction of states of affairs? The proposal seems plausible, and has received support from David Efird, Tom Stoneham, and Armstrong himself. However, in this paper, it is argued that the proposal faces a trilemma: either it leads to the absurd conclusion that the actual world is empty; or it reduces to a familiar representation (...)
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  3. Resurrecting the Hume's Dictum argument against metaethical non-naturalism.Noah Gordon - 2023 - Synthese 201 (6):1-23.
    I argue for the viability of one neglected way of developing supervenience-based objections to metaethical non-naturalism. This way goes through a principle known as ‘Hume’s Dictum’, according to which there are no necessary connections between distinct existences. I challenge several objections to the Hume’s Dictum-based argument. In the course of doing so, I formulate and motivate modest and precise versions of Hume’s Dictum, illustrate how arguments employing these principles might proceed, and argue that the Hume’s Dictum argument enjoys some advantages (...)
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  4. Theism and Secular Modality.Noah Gordon - 2023 - Dissertation, University of Southern California
    I examine issues in the philosophy of religion at the intersection of what possibilities there are and what a God, as classically conceived in the theistic philosophical tradition, would be able to do. The discussion is centered around arguing for an incompatibility between theism and two principles about possibility and ability, and exploring what theists should say about these incompatibilities. -/- I argue that theism entails that certain kinds and amounts of evil are impossible. This puts theism in conflict with (...)
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  5. Lawful Persistence.David Builes & Trevor Teitel - 2022 - Philosophical Perspectives 36 (1):5-30.
    The central aim of this paper is to use a particular view about how the laws of nature govern the evolution of our universe in order to develop and evaluate the two main competing options in the metaphysics of persistence, namely endurantism and perdurantism. We begin by motivating the view that our laws of nature dictate not only qualitative facts about the future, but also which objects will instantiate which qualitative properties. We then show that both traditional doctrines in the (...)
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  6. Logical Combinatorialism.Andrew Bacon - 2020 - Philosophical Review 129 (4):537-589.
    In explaining the notion of a fundamental property or relation, metaphysicians will often draw an analogy with languages. The fundamental properties and relations stand to reality as the primitive predicates and relations stand to a language: the smallest set of vocabulary God would need in order to write the “book of the world.” This paper attempts to make good on this metaphor. To that end, a modality is introduced that, put informally, stands to propositions as logical truth stands to sentences. (...)
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  7. On the Probability of Plenitude.Jeffrey Sanford Russell - 2020 - Journal of Philosophy 117 (5):267-292.
    I examine what the mathematical theory of random structures can teach us about the probability of Plenitude, a thesis closely related to David Lewis's modal realism. Given some natural assumptions, Plenitude is reasonably probable a priori, but in principle it can be (and plausibly it has been) empirically disconfirmed—not by any general qualitative evidence, but rather by our de re evidence.
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  8. Weak Location.Antony Eagle - 2019 - Dialectica 73 (1-2):149-181.
    Recently, many philosophers have been interested in using locative relations to clarify and pursue debates in the metaphysics of material objects. Most begin with the relation of exact location. But what if we begin instead with the relation known as weak location – the relation an object x bears to any region not completely bereft of x? I explore some of the consequences of pursuing this route for issues including coincidence, extended simples, and endurance, with an eye to evaluating the (...)
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  9. A Defense of Hume's Dictum.Cameron Gibbs - 2019 - Dissertation, University of Massachusetts Amherst
    Is the world internally connected by a web of necessary connections or is everything loose and independent? Followers of David Hume accept the latter by upholding Hume’s Dictum, according to which there are no necessary connections between distinct existences. Roughly put, anything can coexist with anything else, and anything can fail to coexist with anything else. Hume put it like this: “There is no object which implies the existence of any other if we consider these objects in themselves.” Since Hume’s (...)
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  10. Possible Patterns.Jeffrey Sanford Russell & John Hawthorne - 2018 - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 11.
    “There are no gaps in logical space,” David Lewis writes, giving voice to sentiment shared by many philosophers. But different natural ways of trying to make this sentiment precise turn out to conflict with one another. One is a *pattern* idea: “Any pattern of instantiation is metaphysically possible.” Another is a *cut and paste* idea: “For any objects in any worlds, there exists a world that contains any number of duplicates of all of those objects.” We use resources from model (...)
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  11. The Facts in Logical Space. [REVIEW]Alessandro Torza - 2018 - Philosophical Review 127 (2):273-277.
  12. Is There a Humean Account of Quantities?Phillip Bricker - 2017 - Philosophical Issues 27 (1):26-51.
    Humeans have a problem with quantities. A core principle of any Humean account of modality is that fundamental entities can freely recombine. But determinate quantities, if fundamental, seem to violate this core principle: determinate quantities belonging to the same determinable necessarily exclude one another. Call this the problem of exclusion. Prominent Humeans have responded in various ways. Wittgenstein, when he resurfaced to philosophy, gave the problem of exclusion as a reason to abandon the logical atomism of the Tractatus with its (...)
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  13. Grounds, Roots and Abysses.Roberto Loss - 2016 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 5 (1):41-52.
    The aim of this study is to address the “Grounding Grounding Problem,” that is, the question as to what, if anything, grounds facts about grounding. I aim to show that, if a seemingly plausible principle of modal recombination between fundamental facts and the principle customarily called “Entailment” are assumed, it is possible to prove not only that grounding facts featuring fundamental, contingent grounds are derivative but also that either they are partially grounded in the grounds they feature or they are (...)
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  14. Problems for Modal Reductionism: Concrete Possible Worlds as a Test Case.Jonathan Nassim - 2015 - Dissertation, Birkbeck College
    This thesis is an argument for the view that there are problems for Modal Reductionism, the thesis that modality can satisfactorily be defined in non-modal terms. -/- I proceed via a case study of David Lewis’s theory of concrete possible worlds. This theory is commonly regarded as the best and most influential candidate reductive theory of modality. Based on a detailed examination of its ontology, analysis and justification, I conclude that it does badly with respect to the following four minimal (...)
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  15. Hume's Dictum and metaphysical modality: Lewis's combinatorialism.Jessica M. Wilson - 2015 - In Barry Loewer & Jonathan Schaffer (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to David Lewis. Blackwell. pp. 138-158.
    Many contemporary philosophers accept Hume's Dictum, according to which there are no metaphysically necessary connections between distinct, intrinsically typed entities. Tacit in Lewis 's work is a potential motivation for HD, according to which one should accept HD as presupposed by the best account of the range of metaphysical possibilities---namely, a combinatorial account, applied to spatiotemporal fundamentalia. Here I elucidate and assess this Ludovician motivation for HD. After refining HD and surveying its key, recurrent role in Lewis ’s work, I (...)
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  16. Representation and Reality in Wittgenstein's Tractatus.José L. Zalabardo - 2015 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press UK.
    José L. Zalabardo puts forward a new interpretation of central ideas in Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus concerning the structure of reality and our representations of it in thought and language. He presents the picture theory of propositional representation as Wittgenstein's solution to the problems that he had found in Bertrand Russell's theories of judgment. Zalabardo then attributes to Wittgenstein the view that facts and propositions are ultimate indivisible units, not the result of combining their constituents. This is Wittgenstein's solution to the (...)
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  17. David Malet Armstrong (8 July 1926 – 13 May 2014).Keith Campbell - 2014 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 92 (3):617-618.
  18. Two Thoughts on "A Tale of Two Parts".Joshua Spencer - 2014 - Res Philosophica 91 (3):485-490.
    In “A Tale of Two Simples,” I presented an argument against the possibility of extended heterogeneous simples that relied on the possibility of extended atomic regions of space. Andrew Jaeger has presented a parody of one part of my argument for a clearly absurd conclusion. In this short paper, I defend my argument by showing that there is a significant disanalogy between my support for a key premise in my argument and Jaeger’s support for the corresponding premise in his parody (...)
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  19. Possible Worlds.Christopher Menzel - 2013 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    This article includes a basic overview of possible world semantics and a relatively comprehensive overview of three central philosophical conceptions of possible worlds: Concretism (represented chiefly by Lewis), Abstractionism (represented chiefly by Plantinga), and Combinatorialism (represented chiefly by Armstrong).
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  20. Is There A Quasi-Mereological Account of Property Incompatibility?Javier Kalhat - 2011 - Acta Analytica 26 (2):115-133.
    Armstrong’s combinatorial theory of possibility faces the obvious difficulty that not all universals are compatible. In this paper I develop three objections against Armstrong’s attempt to account for property incompatibilities. First, Armstrong’s account cannot handle incompatibilities holding among properties that are either simple, or that are complex but stand to one another in the relation of overlap rather than in the part/ whole relation. Secondly, at the heart of Armstrong’s account lies a notion of structural universals which, building on an (...)
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  21. Parthood and Location.Raul Saucedo - 2011 - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 6.
    This chapter argues that from a particularly weak recombination principle and plausible assumptions about the nature of parthood and location, it follows that it is possible that the mereological structure of the material world and that of space-time fail to correspond to one another in very radical ways. The chapter suggests, moreover, that rejecting the possibility of such failures of correspondence leaves us with a choice of no less unappealing alternatives. It also discusses a few ways in which their possibility (...)
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  22. What is Hume's Dictum, and why believe it?Jessica Wilson - 2010 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 80 (3):595 - 637.
    Hume's Dictum (HD) says, roughly and typically, that there are no metaphysically necessary connections between distinct, intrinsically typed, entities. HD plays an influential role in metaphysical debate, both in constructing theories and in assessing them. One should ask of such an influential thesis: why believe it? Proponents do not accept Hume's arguments for his dictum, nor do they provide their own; however, some have suggested either that HD is analytic or that it is synthetic a priori (that is: motivated by (...)
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  23. Williamson's many necessary existents.Theodore Sider - 2009 - Analysis 69 (2):250-258.
    This note is to show that a well-known point about David Lewis’s (1986) modal realism applies to Timothy Williamson’s (1998; 2002) theory of necessary existents as well.1 Each theory, together with certain “recombination” principles, generates individuals too numerous to form a set. The simplest version of the argument comes from Daniel Nolan (1996).2 Assume the following recombination principle: for each cardinal number, ν, it’s possible that there exist ν nonsets. Then given Lewis’s modal realism it follows that there can be (...)
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  24. Recombination and intrinsicality.Ross P. Cameron - 2008 - Ratio 21 (1):1–12.
    In this paper I argue that warrant for Lewis ' principle of recombination presupposes warrant for a combinatorial analysis of intrinsicality, which in turn presupposes warrant for the principle of recombination. This, I claim, leads to a vicious circularity: warrant for neither doctrine can get off the ground.
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  25. What is the Principle of Recombination?Tom Stoneham David Efird - 2008 - Dialectica 62 (4):483-494.
    In this paper, we give a precise characterization of the principle of recombination and argue that it need not be subject to any restrictions.
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  26. Armstrong on the Metaphysics of Modality: Two Dilemmas.Anssi Korhonen - 2008 - Acta Philosophica Fennica 84:153.
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  27. Distance and Discrete Space.K. Mcdaniel - 2007 - Synthese 155 (1):157-162.
    Given Lewis’s views about recombination and spatial relations, there are possible worlds in which space is discrete and yet the Pythagorean theorem is true – contrary to the so-called Weyl-Tile argument that concluded that the Pythagorean theorem must fail if space is discrete.
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  28. A Puzzle about Restricted Recombination in Modal Realism.Nicola Ciprotti - 2006 - In Paolo Valore (ed.), Topics on General and Formal Ontology. Polimetrica. pp. 281.
    This paper addresses a specific issue inherent to David Lewis’s conception of possible worlds, namely whether or not they are liable to being limited in size. The paper purports to show that, if a certain argument against unlimited worlds’ size is valid, then the way of countering it by means of positing an upper limit to size (as Lewis himself and John Divers have suggested) leads to a troublesome distortion of some modal phenomena, such as de re ascriptions of properties. (...)
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  29. 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.
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  30. Another look at Armstrong's combinatorialism.Theodore Sider - 2005 - Noûs 39 (4):679–695.
    The core idea of David Armstrong’s combinatorial theory of possibility is attractive. Rearrangement is the key to modality; possible worlds result from scrambling bits and pieces of other possible worlds. Yet I encounter great difficulty when trying to formulate the theory rigorously, and my best attempts are vulnerable to counterexamples. The Leibnizian biconditionals relate possibility and necessity to possible world and true in.
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  31. Selection from A Combinational Theory of Possibility.D. M. Armstrong - 2004 - In Tim Crane & Katalin Farkas (eds.), Metaphysics: a guide and anthology. Oxford University Press UK.
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  32. Combinatorialism revisited.David Armstrong - 2004 - In Armstrong David (ed.).
    The object of this paper is to argue once again for the combinatorial account of possibility defended in earlier work. But there I failed fully to realise the dialectical advantages that accrue once one begins by assuming the hypothesis of logical atomism, the hypothesis that postulates simple particulars and simple universals at the bottom of the world. Logical atomism is, I incline to think, no better than ‘speculative cosmology’ as opposed to ‘analytic ontology’, to use Donald Williams’ terminology. It is, (...)
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  33. Le combinatorialisme et le réalisme nomologique sont-ils compatibles?Max Kistler - 2004 - In Jean-Maurice Monnoyer (ed.), La Structure du Monde. Vrin, Paris. pp. 199--221.
    English title: Are combinatorialism and nomological realism compatible?
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  34. Two Theories of Modality A Reply to von Wachter.Fraser MacBride - 2004 - Metaphysica 6:111-128.
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  35. The Ontological Turn Misunderstood: How to Misunderstand David Armstrong’s Theory of Possibility.Daniel von Wachter - 2004 - Metaphysica 5 (2):105-114.
    This article argues that there is a great divide between semantics and metaphysics. Much of what is called metaphysics today is still stuck in the linguistic turn. This is illustrated by showing how Fraser MacBride misunderstands David Armstrong's theory of modality.
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  36. Modality and Anti-Metaphysics.Stephen K. McLeod - 2001 - Aldershot: Ashgate.
    Modality and Anti-Metaphysics critically examines the most prominent approaches to modality among analytic philosophers in the twentieth century, including essentialism. Defending both the project of metaphysics and the essentialist position that metaphysical modality is conceptually and ontologically primitive, Stephen McLeod argues that the logical positivists did not succeed in banishing metaphysical modality from their own theoretical apparatus and he offers an original defence of metaphysics against their advocacy of its elimination. -/- Seeking to assuage the sceptical worries which underlie modal (...)
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  37. Alien Individuals, Alien Universals, and Armstrong’s Combinatorial Theory of Possibility.Susan Schneider - 2001 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 39 (4):575-593.
    Armstrong's combinatorialism, in his own words, is the following project: "My central metaphysical hypothesis is that all there is is the world of space and time. It is this world which is to supply the actual elements for the totality of combinations. So what is proposed is a Naturalistic form of a combinatorial theory."2 Armstrong calls his central hypothesis "Naturalism." He intends his well−known theory of universals to satisfy this thesis. He now attempts to give a naturalistic theory of modality.
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  38. A combinatorial theory of modality.Janne Hiipakka, Markku Keinänen & Anssi Korhonen - 1999 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 77 (4):483 – 497.
    This paper explores the prospects of a combinatorial account of modality. We argue against David M. Armstrong’s version of combinatorialism, which seeks to do without modal primitives, on the grounds, among other things, that Armstrong’s basic ontological categories are themselves subject to non-contingent constraints on recombination. We outline an alternative version, which acknowledges the necessity of modal primitives, at the level of ontology, and not just of our concepts.
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  39. Could Armstrong have been a universal?Fraser MacBride - 1999 - Mind 108 (431):471-501.
    There cannot be a reductive theory of modality constructed from the concepts of sparse particular and sparse universal. These concepts are suffused with modal notions. I seek to establish this conclusion by tracing out the pattern of modal entanglements in which these concepts are involved. In order to appreciate the structure of these entanglements a distinction must be drawn between the lower-order necessary connections in which particulars and universals apparently figure, and higher-order necesary connections. The former type of connection relates (...)
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  40. Some Problems with the Combinatorial Theory of Possibility.Howard Robinson - 1998 - Acta Analytica 13:147-161.
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  41. Topological Aspects of Combinatorial Possibility.Thomas Mormann - 1997 - Logic and Logical Philosophy 5:75 - 92.
    The aim of this paper is to show that topology has a bearing on<br><br>combinatorial theories of possibility. The approach developed in this article is “mapping account” considering combinatorial worlds as mappings from individuals to properties. Topological structures are used to define constraints on the mappings thereby characterizing the “really possible” combinations. The mapping approach avoids the well-known incompatibility problems. Moreover, it is compatible with atomistic as well as with non-atomistic ontologies.It helps to elucidate the positions of logical atomism and monism (...)
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  42. Combinatorialism and primitive modality.Holly Gail Thomas - 1996 - Philosophical Studies 83 (3):231 - 252.
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  43. The principle of recombination and the principle of distinctness: A puzzle for Armstrong's theory of modality.Holly Gail Thomas - 1995 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 73 (3):444 – 457.
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  44. Logical Atoms and Combinatorial Possibility.Brian Skyrms - 1993 - Journal of Philosophy 90 (5):219-232.
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  45. A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility.M. J. Cresswell - 1992 - Philosophical Review 101 (3):660.
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  46. Armstrong on combinatorial possibility.David Lewis - 1992 - In David Kellogg Lewis (ed.), Papers in Metaphysics and Epistemology. Cambridge University Press. pp. 196-214.
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  47. Papers in Metaphysics and Epistemology.David Kellogg Lewis (ed.) - 1992 - Cambridge University Press.
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  48. Plenitude of Possible Structures.Phillip Bricker - 1991 - Journal of Philosophy 88 (11):607-619.
    Which mathematical structures are possible, that is, instantiated by the concrete inhabitants of some possible world? Are there worlds with four-dimensional space? With infinite-dimensional space? Whence comes our knowledge of the possibility of structures? In this paper, I develop and defend a principle of plenitude according to which any mathematically natural generalization of possible structure is itself possible. I motivate the principle pragmatically by way of the role that logical possibility plays in our inquiry into the world.
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  49. A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility.Cynthia Macdonald - 1991 - Philosophical Books 32 (3):163-164.
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  50. A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility. [REVIEW]David Weissman - 1991 - Review of Metaphysics 44 (3):614-617.
    "Wherever possible," said Bertrand Russell, "substitute constructions out of known entities for inferences to unknown entities." Metaphysics in this style is the activity of formulating and applying a calculus. We are to supply a list of primitive ideas, with a specification of the rules for combining them, and a sample of complexes created by combining these simples. Every obscure idea is to be reformulated as the complex deriving from these simples. The values impelling us include economy, clarity, decidability, and fruitfulness.
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