About this topic
Summary This category includes discussions of theories of possible worlds that either: a) hold that possible worlds are abstract entities or b) hold that, while there are no possible worlds, there are surrogates of possible worlds, or perhaps surrogates of the pluriverse of possible worlds, that can do much of the theoretical work possible worlds, or the pluriverse of possible worlds, are meant to do.
Key works Prominent accounts that hold that possible worlds are abstract objects include Plantinga 1974, and Stalnaker 1976. Prominent accounts that hold that there are surrogates of possible worlds include Melia 2001, and Sider 2002.
Introductions Two papers that provide a good introduction to ersatz theories of possible worlds are Menzel 2008 and Sider 2003. Two excellent book length introductions are Melia 2003 and Divers 2002.
Related categories

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  1. Theories of Actuality.Robert Merrihew Adams - 1979 - In Michael J. Loux (ed.), The Possible and the Actual: Readings in the Metaphysics of Modality. Cornell University Press. pp. 190.
  2. Theories of Actuality.Robert Merrihew Adams - 1974 - Noûs 8 (3):211-231.
  3. Book Review. Possible Worlds. John Divers. [REVIEW]Karen Bennett - 2005 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (2):282-85.
  4. Alethic Modalities, Temporal Modalities, and Representation.Jiri Benovsky - 2015 - Kriterion - Journal of Philosophy 29 (1):19-36.
    In this article, I am interested in four versions of what is often referred to as "the Humphrey objection". This objection was initially raised by Kripke against Lewis's modal counterpart theory, so this is where I will start the discussion. As we will see, there is a perfectly good answer to the objection. I will then examine other places where a similar objection can be raised: it can arise in the case of temporal counterpart theory (in fact, it can arise (...)
  5. Impossible Worlds and Propositions: Against the Parity Thesis.Francesco Berto - 2010 - Philosophical Quarterly 60 (240):471-486.
    Accounts of propositions as sets of possible worlds have been criticized for conflating distinct impossible propositions. In response to this problem, some have proposed to introduce impossible worlds to represent distinct impossibilities, endorsing the thesis that impossible worlds must be of the same kind; this has been called the parity thesis. I show that this thesis faces problems, and propose a hybrid account which rejects it: possible worlds are taken as concrete Lewisian worlds, and impossibilities are represented as set-theoretic constructions (...)
  6. Reducing Possible Worlds to Language.Phillip Bricker - 1987 - Philosophical Studies 52 (3):331 - 355.
    The most commonly heard proposals for reducing possible worlds to language succumb to a simple cardinality argument: it can be shown that there are more possible worlds than there are linguistic entities provided by the proposal. In this paper, I show how the standard proposals can be generalized in a natural way so as to make better use of the resources available to them, and thereby circumvent the cardinality argument. Once it is seen just what the limitations are on these (...)
  7. Are There Set Theoretic Possible Worlds?Selmer Bringsjord - 1985 - Analysis 45 (1):64 -.
  8. Two Modal–Isms: Fictionalism and Ersatzism.Berit Brogaard - 2006 - Philosophical Perspectives 20 (1):77–94.
    It is sometimes said that no living philosopher is a genuine modal realist. This is no doubt an exaggeration. But at least this much is true: while we all partake of possible world talk when philosophizing, most of us regard this talk as incurring no commitment to a plurality of concrete worlds.
  9. Troubles with Plantinga's Actualism.Donald Brownstein - 1985 - Theoria 51 (3):174-189.
  10. Actual Minds, Possible Worlds.Jerome S. Bruner - 1986
  11. Worlds and Propositions Set Free.Otávio Bueno, Christopher Menzel & Edward N. Zalta - 2013 - Erkenntnis (4):1-24.
    The authors provide an object-theoretic analysis of two paradoxes in the theory of possible worlds and propositions stemming from Russell and Kaplan. After laying out the paradoxes, the authors provide a brief overview of object theory and point out how syntactic restrictions that prevent object-theoretic versions of the classical paradoxes are justified philosophically. The authors then trace the origins of the Russell paradox to a problematic application of set theory in the definition of worlds. Next the authors show that an (...)
  12. World and Object: Metaphysical Nihilism and Three Accounts of Worlds.Geraldine Coggins - 2003 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 103 (3):353–360.
    The study of metaphysical possibility involves two central questions: (i) What are possible worlds? (ii) Is there an empty possible world? In looking at the first question we consider the different accounts of possible worlds-Lewisian realism, ersatzism, etc. In looking at the second question we consider the discussions of metaphysical nihilism, the modal ontological arguments, etc. In this paper I am drawing these two questions together in order to show how the position we hold on one of these issues affects (...)
  13. World And Object: Metaphysical Nihilism And Three Accounts Of Worlds.Geraldine Coggins - 2003 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 103 (3):353-360.
  14. World and Object: Metaphysical Nihilism and Three Accounts of Worlds.Geraldine Coggins - 2003 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 103 (1):353-360.
    The study of metaphysical possibility involves two central questions: What are possible worlds? Is there an empty possible world? In looking at the first question we consider the different accounts of possible worlds—Lewisian realism, ersatzism, etc. In looking at the second question we consider the discussions of metaphysical nihilism, the modal ontological arguments, etc. In this paper I am drawing these two questions together in order to show how the position we hold on one of these issues affects the position (...)
  15. Modal Truthmakers and Two Varieties of Actualism.Gabriele Contessa - 2010 - Synthese 174 (3):341 - 353.
    In this paper, I distinguish between two varieties of actualism—hardcore actualism and softcore actualism—and I critically discuss Ross Cameron’s recent arguments for preferring a softcore actualist account of the truthmakers for modal truths over hardcore actualist ones. In the process, I offer some arguments for preferring the hardcore actualist account of modal truthmakers over the softcore actualist one.
  16. In Defence of Magical Ersatzism.David A. Denby - 2006 - In Philosophical Quarterly. pp. 161-74.
    David Lewis' objection to a generic theory of modality which he calls ‘magical ersatzism’ is that its linchpin, a relation he calls ‘selection’, must be either an internal or an external relation, and that this is unintelligible either way. But the problem he points out with classifying selection as internal is really just an instance of the general problem of how we manage to grasp underdetermined predicates, is not peculiar to magical ersatzism, and is amenable to some familiar solutions. He (...)
  17. Possible Worlds for Modal Primitivists.Louis deRosset - 2014 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 43 (1):109-131.
    Among the most remarkable developments in metaphysics since the 1950’s is the explosion of philosophical interest in possible worlds. This paper proposes an explanation of what possible worlds are, and argues that this proposal, the interpreted models conception, should be attractive to anyone who thinks that modal facts are primitive, and so not to be explained in terms of some non-modal notion of “possible world.” I articulate three constraints on any acceptable primitivist explanation of the nature of possible worlds, and (...)
  18. Possible Worlds.John Divers - 2002 - Routledge.
    _Possible Worlds_ presents the first up-to-date and comprehensive examination of one of the most important topics in metaphysics. John Divers considers the prevalent philosophical positions, including realism, antirealism and the work of important writers on possible worlds such as David Lewis, evaluating them in detail.
  19. The Problem of Possibilia.Kit Fine - 2003 - In Michael J. Loux & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics. Oxford University Press. pp. 161-179.
    Are there, in addition to the various actual objects that make up the world, various possible objects? Are there merely possible people, for example, or merely possible electrons, or even merely possible kinds? We certainly talk as if there were such things. Given a particular sperm and egg, I may wonder whether that particular child which would result from their union would have blue eyes. But if the sperm and egg are never in fact brought together, then there is no (...)
  20. On Lewis Against Magic: A Study of Method in Metaphysics.A. R. J. Fisher - 2018 - Synthese 195 (5):2335-2353.
    David Lewis objected to theories that posit necessary connections between distinct entities and to theories that involve a magical grasping of their primitives. In On the Plurality of Worlds, Lewis objected to nondescript ersatzism on these grounds. The literature contains several reconstructions of Lewis’ critique of nondescript ersatzism but none of these interpretations adequately address his main argument because they fail to see that Lewis’ critique is based on broader methodological considerations. I argue that a closer look at his methodology (...)
  21. John Divers, Possible Worlds. [REVIEW]G. Fitch - 2003 - Philosophy in Review 23:332-333.
  22. Possible Worlds.Peter Forrest - 2004 - Mind 113 (449):171-174.
  23. Ways Worlds Could Be.Peter Forrest - 1986 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 64 (1):15 – 24.
  24. FINE, K. And PRIOR, A. N. "Worlds, Times and Selves". [REVIEW]R. Gallie - 1979 - Mind 88:625.
  25. Necessary Beings: An Essay on Ontology, Modality, and the Relations Between Them.Bob Hale - 2013 - Oxford University Press.
    Bob Hale presents a broadly Fregean approach to metaphysics, according to which ontology and modality are mutually dependent upon one another. He argues that facts about what kinds of things exist depend on facts about what is possible. Modal facts are fundamental, and have their basis in the essences of things--not in meanings or concepts.
  26. Actualism Again.A. P. Hazen - 1996 - Philosophical Studies 84 (2-3):155 - 181.
  27. Worlds as Complete Novels.A. P. Hazen - 1996 - Analysis 56 (1):33–38.
  28. 3. Worlds, Pluriverses, and Minds.Mark Heller - 2007 - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 3:77.
  29. Transworld Identity for the Ersatzist.Mark Heller - 2002 - Philosophical Topics 30 (1):77-101.
  30. Property Counterparts in Ersatz Worlds.Mark Heller - 1998 - Journal of Philosophy 95 (6):293-316.
  31. Property Counterparts in Ersatz Worlds.Mark Heller - 1998 - Journal of Philosophy 95 (6):293.
  32. Two Concepts of Possible Worlds.Invvagen Peter Van - 1986 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 11 (1):185-213.
  33. Are Impossible Worlds Trivial?Mark Jago - 2013 - In Vit Puncochar & Petr Svarny (eds.), The Logica Yearbook 2012. College Publications.
    Theories of content are at the centre of philosophical semantics. The most successful general theory of content takes contents to be sets of possible worlds. But such contents are very coarse-grained, for they cannot distinguish between logically equivalent contents. They draw intensional but not hyperintensional distinctions. This is often remedied by including impossible as well as possible worlds in the theory of content. Yet it is often claimed that impossible worlds are metaphysically obscure; and it is sometimes claimed that their (...)
  34. Impossible Worlds.Mark Jago - 2013 - Noûs 47 (3):713-728.
    Impossible worlds are representations of impossible things and impossible happenings. They earn their keep in a semantic or metaphysical theory if they do the right theoretical work for us. As it happens, a worlds-based account provides the best philosophical story about semantic content, knowledge and belief states, cognitive significance and cognitive information, and informative deductive reasoning. A worlds-based story may also provide the best semantics for counterfactuals. But to function well, all these accounts need use of impossible and as well (...)
  35. Constructing Worlds.Mark Jago - 2012 - Synthese 189 (1):59-74.
    You and I can differ in what we say, or believe, even though the things we say, or believe, are logically equivalent. Discussing what is said, or believed, requires notions of content which are finer-grained than sets of (metaphysically or logically) possible worlds. In this paper, I develop the approach to fine-grained content in terms of a space of possible and impossible worlds. I give a method for constructing ersatz worlds based on theory of substantial facts. I show how this (...)
  36. The Metaphysics of Possibilia.William G. Lycan - 2002 - In Richard M. Gale (ed.), The Blackwell Guide to Metaphysics. Blackwell. pp. 303.
  37. Possible Worlds and Possibilia.William G. Lycan - 1998 - In Stephen Laurence & Cynthia Macdonald (eds.), Contemporary Readings in the Foundations of Metaphysics. Blackwell. pp. 83-95.
  38. The Trouble with Possible Worlds.William G. Lycan - 1979 - In Michael J. Loux (ed.), The Possible and the Actual. Cornell University Press.
  39. Actuality and Essence.William G. Lycan & Stewart Shapiro - 1986 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 11 (1):343-377.
  40. A Problem for Actualism About Possible Worlds.Alan McMichael - 1983 - Philosophical Review 92 (1):49-66.
    Actualists who believe in possible worlds typically regard them as "abstract" objects of some special sort. For example, Alvin Plantinga takes worlds to be maximal possible states-of-affairs, all of which "exist", as actualism requires, but only one of which "obtains". Views like Plantinga's run into difficulty in the interpretation of statements of "iterated" modality, statements about what is "possible" for individuals that "could" exist but that do not actually exist. These statements seem to require the existence of "singular" states-Of-affairs that (...)
  41. Reducing Possibilities to Language.J. Melia - 2001 - Analysis 61 (1):19-29.
    Ehring, D. 1997. Causation and Persistence. New York: Oxford University Press. Fair, D. 1979. Causation and the flow of energy. Erkenntnis 14: 219–50. Goldman, A. 1977. Perceptual objects. Synthese 35: 257–84. Lewis, D. 1986a. Causation. In Philosophical Papers Vol. 2, 159–213. New York.
  42. Ersatz Possible Worlds.Joseph Melia - 2008 - In Theodore Sider, John Hawthorne & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics. Blackwell. pp. 135--51.
  43. Modality.Joseph Melia - 2003 - Routledge.
    This introduction to modality places the emphasis on the metaphysics of modality rather than on the formal semetics of quantified modal logic. The text begins by introducing students to the "de re/de dicto" distinction, conventionalist and conceptualist theories of modality and some of the key problems in modality, particularly Quine's criticisms. It then moves on to explain how possible worlds provide a solution to many of the problems in modality and how possible worlds themselves have been used to analyse notions (...)
  44. An Account of Abstract Possible Worlds.C. Menzel - forthcoming - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  45. 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).
  46. Sets and Worlds Again.Christopher Menzel - 2012 - Analysis 72 (2):304-309.
    Bringsjord (1985) argues that the definition W of possible worlds as maximal possible sets of propositions is incoherent. Menzel (1986a) notes that Bringsjord’s argument depends on the Powerset axiom and that the axiom can be reasonably denied. Grim (1986) counters that W can be proved to be incoherent without Powerset. Grim was right. However, the argument he provided is deeply flawed. The purpose of this note is to detail the problems with Grim’s argument and to present a sound alternative argument (...)
  47. On an Unsound Proof of the Existence of Possible Worlds.Christopher Menzel - 1989 - Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 30 (4):598-603.
    In this paper, an argument of Alvin Plantinga's for the existence of abstract possible worlds is shown to be unsound. The argument is based on a principle Plantinga calls "Quasicompactness", due to its structural similarity to the notion of compactness in first-order logic. The principle is shown to be false.
  48. On Set Theoretic Possible Worlds.Christopher Menzel - 1986 - Analysis 46 (2):68 - 72.
  49. There is Nothing Magical About Possible Worlds.Richard B. Miller - 1990 - Mind 99 (395):453-457.
  50. World-Stories and Maximality.Vittorio Morato - unknown
    According to many actualist theories of modality, possible worlds should be identified with maximal and consistent sets of actually existing propositions called "world-stories". A set of propositions is said to be maximal if and only if for every (actually existing) proposition P , either P or its negation belongs to the set. In my talk, I will claim that this conception of maximality is problematic in case what has to be represented by a world-story is the possible non existence of (...)
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