About this topic
Summary Modal conventionalism is the thesis that modal truths depend, wholly or in part, on conventions of talk or thought. This basic idea can be cashed out in a wide variety of ways: traditional conventionalism leans heavily on the notion of analyticity, while some modern versions are explicitly non-linguistic theses.
Key works Ayer 1936 presents a clear version of traditional modal conventionalism. The most prominent contemporary conventionalist proposal is defended by Sider 2011Sidelle 1989 provides a thorough discussion and defense of conventionalism about de re modality.
Introductions Sider 2003
Related categories

41 found
  1. A Theory of Possibility. [REVIEW]J. R. A. - 1977 - Review of Metaphysics 31 (2):329-330.
  2. Modality: Metaphysics, Logic, and Epistemology, Bob Hale and Aviv Hoffmann (Eds).A. Ahmed - 2012 - Mind 121 (483):817-822.
  3. Truthmaking for Modal Skeptics.Jamin Asay - 2013 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 2 (4):303-312.
    Standard truthmaker theory has generally assumed a realist account of de re modality and essences. But there are reasons to be skeptical about such a view, and for considering antirealist alternatives. Can truthmaker theory survive in the face of such skepticism? I argue that it can, but that only certain antirealist perspectives on de re modality are acceptable for truthmaker theory. In particular, either a quasi-realist or conventionalist account of de re modality is needed to provide the best account of (...)
  4. Truth by Convention: A Symposium by A. J. Ayer, C. H. Whiteley, M. Black.A. J. Ayer, C. H. Whiteley & M. Black - 1936 - Analysis 4 (2/3):17 - 32.
  5. Truth and Convention.Jody Azzouni - 1990 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 71 (2):81-102.
  6. The Inaugural Address: Kantian Modality: Tom Baldwin.Tom Baldwin - 2002 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 76 (1):1–24.
    Kant's claim that modality is a 'category' provides an approach to modality to be contrasted with Lewis's reductive analysis. Lewis's position is unsatisfactory, since it depends on an inherently modal conception of a world. This suggests that modality is 'primitive'; and the Kantian position is a prima facie plausible position of this kind, which is filled out by considering the relationship between modality and inference. This provides a context for comparing the Kantian position with Wright's non-cognitivist 'conventionalism'. Wright's position is (...)
  7. The Interpretation of Necessity and the Necessity of Interpretation.Roberta Ballarin - 2004 - Journal of Philosophy 101 (12):609-638.
  8. The Analysis of a Simple Necessary Statement.Max Black - 1943 - Journal of Philosophy 40 (2):39-46.
  9. The Grounds of Necessity.Ross P. Cameron - 2010 - Philosophy Compass 5 (4):348-358.
    Some truths are necessary, others could have been false. Why? What is the source of the distinction between the necessary and the contingent? What's so special about the necessary truths that account for their necessity? In this article, we look at some of the most promising accounts of the grounds of necessity: David Lewis' reduction of necessity to truth at all possible worlds; Kit Fine's reduction of necessity to essence; and accounts of necessity that take the distinction between the necessary (...)
  10. The Truth and Falsity of Modal Propositions in Renaissance Nominalism.Jeffrey Scott Coombs - 1990 - Dissertation, The University of Texas at Austin
    During a short-lived renaissance of medieval Nominalism lasting from approximately 1480 to 1530, many Renaissance Nominalist logicians devoted a great deal of attention to the task of developing an account of the truth and falsity of modal propositions. A modal proposition is any proposition containing one or more occurrences of the four modal terms: possible, necessary, impossible, and contingent. The Nominalist account follows the general procedure outlined in William of Ockham's Summa totius logicae, the goal of which is to translate (...)
  11. Necessity, a Priority and Analyticity: A Wittgensteinian Perspective.Hans-Johann Glock - 2010 - In Daniel Whiting (ed.), The Later Wittgenstein on Language. Palgrave-Macmillan.
  12. The Linguistic Doctrine Revisited.Hans-Johann Glock - 2003 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 66 (1):143-170.
    At present, there is an almost universal consensus that the linguistic doctrine of logical necessity is grotesque. This paper explores avenues for rehabilitating a limited version of the doctrine, according to which the special status of analytic statements like 'All vixens are female' is to be explained by reference to language. Far from being grotesque, this appeal to language has a respectable philosophical pedigree and chimes with common sense, as Quine came to realize. The problem lies in developing it in (...)
  13. Caution and Necessity.José Edgar González Varela - 2013 - Manuscrito 36 (2):229-261.
  14. Modality: Metaphysics, Logic, and Epistemology.Bob Hale & Aviv Hoffmann (eds.) - 2009 - Oxford University Press.
    The philosophy of modality investigates necessity and possibility, and related notions--are they objective features of mind-independent reality? If so, are they irreducible, or can modal facts be explained in other terms? This volume presents new work on modality by established leaders in the field and by up-and-coming philosophers. Between them, the papers address fundamental questions concerning realism and anti-realism about modality, the nature and basis of facts about what is possible and what is necessary, the nature of modal knowledge, modal (...)
  15. A Dilemma About Necessity.Peter W. Hanks - 2008 - Erkenntnis 68 (1):129 - 148.
    The problem of the source of necessity is the problem of explaining what makes necessary truths necessarily true. Simon Blackburn has presented a dilemma intended to show that any reductive, realist account of the source of necessity is bound to fail. Although Blackburn's dilemma faces serious problems, reflection on the form of explanations of necessities reveals that a revised dilemma succeeds in defeating any reductive account of the source of necessity. The lesson is that necessity is metaphysically primitive and irreducible.
  16. The Donkey Problem.Mark Heller - 2008 - Philosophical Studies 140 (1):83-101.
    The Donkey Problem (as I am calling it) concerns the relationship between more and less fundamental ontologies. I will claim that the moral to draw from the Donkey Problem is that the less fundamental objects are merely conventional. This conventionalism has consequences for the 3D/4D debate. Four-dimensionalism is motivated by a desire to avoid coinciding objects, but once we accept that the non-fundamental ontology is conventional there is no longer any reason to reject coincidence. I therefore encourage 4Dists to become (...)
  17. Necessity and Language: The Gap is Still Very Real.Javier Kalhat - 2008 - Philosophical Investigations 31 (3):227–236.
    In my previous paper "Has the later Wittgenstein accounted for necessity?" I argued against the conventionalist account of necessity proposed by Wittgenstein and his followers. Glock has addressed some of my objections in his paper "Necessity and Language: In Defence of Conventionalism". This brief rejoinder considers Glock's replies to three of those objections. In the course of doing so, I revisit Wittgenstein's explanation of the special status of necessary propositions, the supposedly arbitrary nature of colour-grammatical propositions, and the relation between (...)
  18. The Contingency Problem for Neo-Conventionalism.Jonathan Livingstone-Banks - 2017 - Erkenntnis 82 (3):653-671.
    Traditional conventionalism about modality claims that a proposition is necessarily true iff it is true by convention. In the wake of the widespread repudiation of truth-byconvention, traditional conventionalism has fallen out of favour. However, a family of theories of modality have arisen that, whilst abandoning truth-by-convention, retain the spirit of traditional conventionalism. These ‘neo-conventionalist’ theories surpass their forebears and don’t fall victim to the criticisms inherited through truth-by-convention. However, not all criticisms levelled at traditional conventionalism target truth-by-convention. Any conventional theory (...)
  19. Dispensing with Possibilia.Ruth Barcan Marcus - 1975 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 49:39 - 51.
  20. Explaining Necessity.Richard V. Mason - 1990 - Metaphilosophy 21 (4):382-390.
  21. Escaping Regress: Conventionalism and Hale.Sean McIntosh - unknown
    Conventionalism about logical necessity has, since Quine, been criticised for falling into a vicious regress. The conventionalist model involves a base class of directly stipulated necessary truths, and all other logical necessities are taken to follow from this base. The essentialist model described by Hale is constructed in a broadly similar fashion: there is a class of those necessities which hold directly in virtue of the natures of things, and other necessities are from this class derivative. Hale expresses a concern (...)
  22. Modality and Anti-Metaphysics.Stephen K. McLeod - 2001 - 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 (...)
  23. Modality Without Metaphysics: A Metalinguistic Approach to Possibility.Toby Meadows - unknown
    An account of modality is produced which takes as its foundation the idea that modal concepts are parasitic upon our background theoretical commitments. This position is distinguished from the majority of philosophies of modality, which are either primitivist or reductionist. It is in this sense that our account is less burdened by metaphysics. The primary purpose of the document is to demonstrate that our approach is a coherent one. It supports this claim in three stages. First, we identify the historical (...)
  24. Necessity.G. E. Moore - 1900 - Mind 9 (35):289-304.
  25. Reference and Modality.W. V. Quine - 1953 - In Willard Orman Quinvane (ed.), Journal of Symbolic Logic. Harvard University Press. pp. 137-138.
  26. Natural Necessity.Alex D. Reid - 1975 - Philosophy 50 (192):221 - 229.
  27. The Conception of Necessity as Applied to Nature and to Man.D. G. Ritchie - 1893 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 2 (3):19 - 35.
  28. Necessity and Realism: Milton Fisk's Nature and Necessity.Richard Rorty - 1976 - Noûs 10 (3):345-353.
  29. Criteria and Necessity.Richard Rorty - 1973 - Noûs 7 (4):313-327.
  30. A New Problem for the Linguistic Doctrine of Necessary Truth.Gillian Russell - 2010 - In Cory D. Wright & Nikolaj J. L. L. Pedersen (eds.), New Waves in Truth. Palgrave-Macmillan. pp. 267--281.
    My target in this paper is a view that has sometimes been called the ‘ Linguistic Doctrine of Necessary Truth ’ and sometimes ‘Conventionalism about Necessity’. It is the view that necessity is grounded in the meanings of our expressions—meanings which are sometimes identified with the conventions governing those expressions—and that our knowledge of that necessity is based on our knowledge of those meanings or conventions. In its simplest form the view states that a truth, if it is necessary, is (...)
  31. Necessary Truth as Analyticity, and the Eliminability of Monadic de Re Formulas.Thomas Schwartz - 1979 - Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 20 (2):336-340.
  32. Modality and Objects.Alan Sidelle - 2010 - Philosophical Quarterly 60 (238):109-125.
    A not-unpopular position in the metaphysics of material objects (Ted Sider's, for instance) combines realism about what objects there are and the conditions of objecthood with conventionalism about de re modality. I argue that this is not a coherent combination of views: one must go fully conventionalist, or fully realist. The central argument displays the difficulty for the modal conventionalist/object realist in specifying the object that satisfies de re modal predicates. I argue that if this is a mind-independent object, contradictions (...)
  33. Conventionalism and the Contingency of Conventions.Alan Sidelle - 2009 - Noûs 43 (2):224-241.
    One common objection to Conventionalism about modality is that since it is contingent what our conventions are, the modal facts themselves will thereby be contingent. A standard reply is that Conventionalists can accept this, if they reject the S4 axiom, that what is possibly possible is possible. I first argue that this reply is inadequate, but then continue to argue that it is not needed, because the Conventionalist need not concede that the contingency of our conventions has any bearing on (...)
  34. Necessity, Essence, and Individuation: A Defense of Conventionalism.Alan Sidelle - 1989 - Cornell University Press.
  35. Reductive Theories of Modality.Theodore Sider - 2003 - In Michael J. Loux & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics. Oxford University Press. pp. 180-208.
    Logic begins but does not end with the study of truth and falsity. Within truth there are the modes of truth, ways of being true: necessary truth and contingent truth. When a proposition is true, we may ask whether it could have been false. If so, then it is contingently true. If not, then it is necessarily true; it must be true; it could not have been false. Falsity has modes as well: a false proposition that could not have been (...)
  36. The Worlds of Possibility. [REVIEW]Theodore Sider - 2001 - Philosophical Review 110 (1):88-91.
    Possible worlds present a formidable challenge for the lover of desert landscapes. One cannot ignore their usefulness; they provide, as David Lewis puts it, “a philosophers’ paradise”.1 But to enter paradise possibilia must be fit into a believable ontology. Some follow Lewis and accept worlds at face value, but most prefer some other choice from the current menu. Part of Chihara’s book is a critical discussion of some of these menu options: Lewis’s modal realism, Alvin Plantinga’s abstract modal realism, Graeme (...)
  37. Modal Humeanism and Arguments From Possibility.Margot Strohminger - 2013 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 113 (3pt3):391-401.
    Sider (2011, 2013) proposes a reductive analysis of metaphysical modality—‘(modal) Humeanism’—and goes on to argue that it has interesting epistemological and methodological implications. In particular, Humeanism is supposed to undermine a class of ‘arguments from possibility’, which includes Sider's (1993) own argument against mereological nihilism and Chalmers's (1996) argument against physicalism. I argue that Sider's arguments do not go through, and moreover that we should instead expect Humeanism to be compatible with the practice of arguing from possibility in philosophy.
  38. Soames's Deflationism About Modality.Tuomas E. Tahko - 2013 - Erkenntnis 78 (6):1367-1379.
    One type of deflationism about metaphysical modality suggests that it can be analysed strictly in terms of linguistic or conceptual content and that there is nothing particularly metaphysical about modality. Scott Soames is explicitly opposed to this trend. However, a detailed study of Soames’s own account of modality reveals that it has striking similarities with the deflationary account. In this paper I will compare Soames’s account of a posteriori necessities concerning natural kinds with the deflationary one, specifically Alan Sidelle’s account, (...)
  39. Non-Descriptivism About Modality. A Brief History And Revival.Amie Thomasson - 2009 - The Baltic International Yearbook of Cognition, Logic and Communication 4 (1):8.
    Despite the otherwise-dominant trends towards physicalism and naturalism in philosophy, it has become increasingly common for metaphysicians to accept the existence either of modal facts and properties, or of Lewisian possible worlds. This paper raises the historical question: why did these heavyweight realist views come into prominence? The answer is that they have arisen in response to the demand to find truthmakers for our modal statements. But this demand presupposes that modal statements are descriptive claims in need of truthmakers. This (...)
  40. Logical Compulsion and Necessity.Robert Wachbroit - 1987 - Erkenntnis 26 (1):45 - 56.
  41. Reply to Sider.Timothy Williamson - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (4-5):699-708.