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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.
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  1. Dualism About Possible Worlds.Michael Tze-Sung Longenecker - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-17.
    Dualism about possible worlds says that merely possible worlds aren’t concrete objects, but the actual world is concrete. This view seems to be the natural one for ersatzers about merely possible worlds to take; yet one is hard-pressed to find any defenders of it in contemporary modal metaphysics. The main reason is that Dualism struggles with the issue of how merely possible worlds could have been actual. I explain that there are two different Dualist strategies that can be taken to (...)
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  2. Correction to: On Lewis against magic: a study of method in metaphysics.A. R. J. Fisher - 2020 - Synthese 197 (11):4743-4743.
    Please note that this article belongs to the Special Issue on the Legacy of David Lewis but was included in issue 195:5 by mistake. It should be regarded as part of this selection of articles.
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  3. It’s a kind of magic: Lewis, magic and properties.Daniel Nolan - 2020 - Synthese 197 (11):4717-4741.
    David Lewis’s arguments against magical ersatzism are notoriously puzzling. Untangling different strands in those arguments is useful for bringing out what he thought was wrong with not just one style of theory about possible worlds, but with much of the contemporary metaphysics of abstract objects. After setting out what I take Lewis’s arguments to be and how best to resist them, I consider the application of those arguments to general theories of properties and relations. The constraints Lewis motivates turn out (...)
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  4. 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 (...)
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  5. The Flexibility of Reality: An Essay on Modality, Representation, and Powers.David Limbaugh - 2018 - Dissertation, State University of New York at Buffalo
    This dissertation is about flexibility as a dimension of reality, an objective—independent of mind and language—phenomenon typically referred to as ‘metaphysical modality’. It develops a novel modal account of why reality could be different: that is, why claims like “Possibly, there are talking donkeys,” or “Humphrey could have won the election” are true or false. I contend that primitive dispositional properties called ‘powers’ explain such claims, and do so better than possible-world accounts of modality. The problem with possible-world accounts is (...)
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  6. A Critical Introduction to the Metaphysics of Modality, by Andrea Borghini: London: Bloomsbury Academic Press, 2016, Pp. Vii + 224, £22.99. [REVIEW]T. Parent - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 96 (1):204-204.
  7. On Quantitative and Qualitative Parsimony.Maciej Sendłak - 2018 - Metaphilosophy 49 (1-2):153-166.
    The distinction between quantitative and qualitative parsimony is supposed to allow David Lewis to dismiss one of the charges against his modal realism: that is, the charge of bloated ontology. The aim of this paper is to undermine Lewis's response to this objection. In order to do this, a distinction between multipliable and nonmultipliable objects is introduced. Based on this it is argued that the acceptance of Lewis's response requires one to believe in modal realism in the first place—that is, (...)
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  8. World-Stories and Maximality.Vittorio Morato - 2017 - Argumenta 2 (2).
    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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  9. Modal Truthmakers, Truth Conditions, and Analyses: Or, How to Avoid the Humphrey Objection.Chad Vance - 2017 - Acta Analytica 32 (2):145-159.
    Truthmakers, truth conditions, and analyses are closely related, but distinct in rather important ways. A failure to properly appreciate their differences has led to some confusion regarding the role that possible worlds ought to play with respect to modality. Those philosophers who initially proposed the existence of possible worlds were understood as providing an analysis of modality. More recently, many have interpreted them as providing modal truthmakers. But, possible worlds are only suited to serve as truth conditions for modal truths. (...)
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  10. A Presentist Approach to (Ersatz) Possible Worlds.Takeshi Sakon - 2016 - Acta Analytica 31 (2):169-177.
    It is sometimes argued that there is an analogy between time and modality: What is true of time, mutatis mutandis, should be true of modality, and vice versa. However, I think that the importance of this analogy has not been truly appreciated in the literature. In this paper, I try to offer a plausible account of the relationship between time and modality based on what is known as presentist ersatzism. If the attempt succeeds, it will be shown that ersatzists about (...)
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  11. Worlds, Times and Selves Revisited.Tero Tulenheimo - 2016 - Synthese 193 (11):3713-3725.
    In Prior’s tense-logical analysis, we can avoid mentioning instants in our language by construing them as propositions of a special kind. Instead of qualifying instants by predicates, we may qualify propositions by modalities. Prior shows that by changing the informal interpretation of our modal-like language, we can similarly attempt to avoid ontological commitments to worlds and even to selves and other bona fide individuals. As he notes, the paraphrasing strategy works too generally to be of direct metaphysical use. I wish (...)
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  12. 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 (...)
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  13. Actualist Counterpart Theory.Jennifer Wang - 2015 - Journal of Philosophy 112 (8):417-441.
    Actualist counterpart theory replaces David Lewis’s concrete possible worlds and individuals with ersatz worlds and individuals, but retains counterpart theory about de re modality. While intuitively attractive, this view has been rejected for two main reasons: the problem of indiscernibles and the Humphrey objection. I argue that in insisting that ersatz individuals play the same role as Lewisian individuals, actualists commit the particularist fallacy. The actualist should not require stand-ins for every Lewisian individual. Ersatz individuals should instead be construed as (...)
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  14. Worlds and Propositions Set Free.Otávio Bueno, Christopher Menzel & Edward N. Zalta - 2014 - Erkenntnis 79 (4):797–820.
    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 (...)
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  15. 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 (...)
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  16. 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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  17. 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.
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  18. 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 (...)
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  19. 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 (...)
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  20. 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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  21. 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 (...)
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  22. 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 (...)
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  23. Modal Metaphysics.T. Parent - 2012 - In J. Feiser & B. Dowden (eds.), Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    This summarizes of some prominent views about the metaphysics of possible worlds.
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  24. 2. Merely Possible Possible Worlds.Robert Stalnaker - 2012 - In Mere Possibilities: Metaphysical Foundations of Modal Semantics. Princeton University Press. pp. 22-51.
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  25. Mere Possibilities: Metaphysical Foundations of Modal Semantics.Robert Stalnaker - 2012 - Princeton University Press.
    The book also sheds new light on the nature of metaphysical theorizing by exploring the interaction of semantic and metaphysical issues, the connections between different metaphysical issues, and the nature of ontological commitment.
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  26. Counterpart Theory V. The Multiverse: Reply to Watson.Jim Stone - 2011 - Analysis 71 (1):96-100.
    Suppose that reality consists of parallel universes of every variety imaginable. No path through space and time leads from one to another, and each universe is causally isolated from the rest. Some physicists believe a ‘multiverse’ hypothesis not terribly distant from this one simplifies quantum mechanics and provides an elegant explanation of why our universe has its particular laws. Suppose as science advances we come to accept the multiverse hypothesis, so construed.
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  27. 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 (...)
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  28. 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.
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  29. Ersatz Possible Worlds.Joseph Melia - 2008 - In Theodore Sider, John Hawthorne & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics. Blackwell. pp. 135--51.
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  30. 3. Worlds, Pluriverses, and Minds.Mark Heller - 2007 - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 3:77.
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  31. Ways a World Might Be.Robert Stalnaker - 2007 - Philosophical Studies 133 (3):439 - 441.
    Robert Stalnaker is an actualist who holds that merely possible worlds are uninstantiated properties that might have been instantiated. Stalnaker also holds that there are no metaphysically impossible worlds: uninstantiated properties that couldn't have been instantiated. These views motivate Stalnaker's "two dimensional" account of the necessary a posteriori on which there is no single proposition that is both necessary and a posteriori. For a necessary proposition is true in all possible worlds. If there were necessary a posteriori propositions, that would (...)
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  32. Bring Back the Magic.By Kevin Zaragoza - 2007 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 88 (3):391–402.
    Magical ersatzism is the view that possible worlds are primitive abstract entities. In On the Plurality of Worlds, David Lewis presented what appeared to many to be a devastating argument against magical ersatzism. In this paper, I show that Lewis’ central argument does not succeed. Magical ersatzism remains a viable theory of possible worlds.
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  33. 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.
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  34. 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 (...)
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  35. Ridurre i mondi possibili al linguaggio.Vittorio Morato - 2006 - Annali Del Dipartimento di Filosofia 12:195-213.
    Aim of this paper is to present and evaluate linguistic ersatzism, an actualist metaphysics of modality according to which possible worlds are maximal and consistent sets of sentences. In the first section, I make some general considerations about reductive theories of modality and the relation between modality and possible worlds, in the second I present a specific version of linguistic ersatzism and in the last section I present what I take to be the major problem for this kind of theories, (...)
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  36. Alvin Plantinga.Michael C. Rea - 2006 - In D. Borchert (ed.), Encyclopedia of Philosophy. MacMillan Reference. pp. 579-581.
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  37. Book Review. Possible Worlds. John Divers. [REVIEW]Karen Bennett - 2005 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (2):282-85.
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  38. Possible Worlds.Peter Forrest - 2004 - Mind 113 (449):171-174.
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  39. 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 (...)
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  40. World And Object: Metaphysical Nihilism And Three Accounts Of Worlds.Geraldine Coggins - 2003 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 103 (3):353-360.
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  41. 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 (...)
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  42. 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 (...)
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  43. John Divers, Possible Worlds. [REVIEW]G. Fitch - 2003 - Philosophy in Review 23:332-333.
  44. 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 (...)
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  45. 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.
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  46. Transworld Identity for the Ersatzist.Mark Heller - 2002 - Philosophical Topics 30 (1):77-101.
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  47. The Metaphysics of Possibilia.William G. Lycan - 2002 - In Richard M. Gale (ed.), The Blackwell Guide to Metaphysics. Blackwell. pp. 303.
  48. Topics in the Philosophy of Possible Worlds.Daniel Nolan - 2002 - Routledge.
    This book discusses a range of important issues in current philosophical work on the nature of possible worlds. Areas investigated include the theories of the nature of possible worlds, general questions about metaphysical analysis and questions about the direction of dependence between what is necessary or possible and what could be.
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  49. The Ersatz Pluriverse.Theodore Sider - 2002 - Journal of Philosophy 99 (6):279-315.
    While many are impressed with the utility of possible worlds in linguistics and philosophy, few can accept the modal realism of David Lewis, who regards possible worlds as sui generis entities of a kind with the concrete world we inhabit.1 Not all uses of possible worlds require exotic ontology. Consider, for instance, the use of Kripke models to establish formal results in modal logic. These models contain sets often regarded for heuristic reasons as sets of “possible worlds”. But the “worlds” (...)
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  50. 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.
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