About this topic
Summary Necessitism is the view that necessarily, everything is necessarily something, where quantifiers are meant to be read unrestrictedly and modal operators are meant to be read as expressing metaphysical modality. More briefly, necessitism can be stated as the view that it is necessary what there is. Contingentism is the negation of necessitism. To illustrate the dispute between necessitists and contingentists, assume that Ludwig Wittgenstein, who was in fact childless, could have had a child. It follows with necessitism that there is actually something which could have been a child of Wittgenstein. Necessitists will typically hold that although this individual could have been a child, it is actually neither a child nor human; it is, as one may put it, a merely possible human. Contingentists typically hold that since Wittgenstein actually had no children, there is actually nothing which could have been a child of Wittgenstein. According to them, this case thus constitutes a counterexample to necessitism, witnessing that there could be something which actually is nothing, in the sense that actually, nothing is identical to it.
Key works The distinction between necessitism and contingentism was introduced in Williamson 2010, in order to replace the distinction between actualism and possibilism, which Williamson argues to be obscure. Williamson has argued for necessitism in several publications, starting with Williamson 1990. Williamson 2013 is a book-length defense of necessitism. Discussions of it by different authors can be found in Yli-Vakkuri & McCullagh 2017, along with replies by Williamson.
Introductions Williamson 2014
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  1. Second-Order Necessitism.José Tomás Alvarado Marambio - 2017 - Eidos: Revista de Filosofía de la Universidad Del Norte 26:268-301.
    Resumen En una serie de escritos Timothy Williamson ha argumentado a favor del necesitismo, esto es, la tesis de que es necesario que todo exista necesariamente. Este trabajo discute el necesitismo de segundo orden, esto es, la tesis de que es necesario que toda propiedad exista necesariamente, considerando líneas de argumentación semejantes a las desplegadas en primer orden. Se examinan tres de estos argumentos: el carácter necesario de ser una propiedad, la aparición de las propiedades en proposiciones, y los compromisos (...)
  2. Quantificational Logic and Empty Names.Andrew Bacon - 2013 - Philosophers' Imprint 13.
    The result of combining classical quantificational logic with modal logic proves necessitism – the claim that necessarily everything is necessarily identical to something. This problem is reflected in the purely quantificational theory by theorems such as ∃x t=x; it is a theorem, for example, that something is identical to Timothy Williamson. The standard way to avoid these consequences is to weaken the theory of quantification to a certain kind of free logic. However, it has often been noted that in order (...)
  3. The Methodology of Modal Logic as Metaphysics.Phillip Bricker - 2014 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (3):717-725.
  4. On Characterizing the Presentism/Eternalism and Actualism/Possibilism Debates.Ross P. Cameron - 2016 - Analytic Philosophy 57 (2):110-140.
  5. Necessity, Necessitism, and Numbers.Roy T. Cook - 2016 - Philosophical Forum 47 (3-4):385-414.
    Timothy Williamson’s Modal Logic as Metaphysics is a book-length defense of necessitism about objects—roughly put, the view that, necessarily, any object that exists, exists necessarily. In more formal terms, Williamson argues for the validity of necessitism for objects (NO: ◻︎∀x◻︎∃y(x=y)). NO entails both the (first-order) Barcan formula (BF: ◇∃xΦ → ∃x◇Φ, for any formula Φ) and the (first-order) converse Barcan formula (CBF: ∃x◇Φ → ◇∃xΦ, for any formula Φ). The purpose of this essay is not to assess Williamson’s arguments either (...)
  6. Modal Logic as Metaphysics.M. J. Cresswell - 2014 - Philosophical Quarterly 64 (255):332-338.
  7. Characterising Theories of Time and Modality.Daniel Deasy - forthcoming - Analytic Philosophy.
    Recently, some authors – call them Reformists – have argued that the traditional Presentism-Eternalism and Actualism-Possibilism debates in the metaphysics of time and modality respectively are unclear or insubstantial, and should therefore give way to the newer Temporaryism-Permanentism and Contingentism- Necessitism debates. In ‘On characterising the presentism/eternalism and actualism/possibilism debates’ (2016, Analytic Philosophy 57: 110-140), Ross Cameron defends the Conservative position that the traditional debates are both substantial and distinct from the Temporaryism-Permanentism and Contingentism- Necessitism debates. In this paper I (...)
  8. Modal Logic and Contingentism: A Comment on Timothy Williamsons Modal Logic as Metaphysics.Louis deRosset - 2016 - Analysis 76 (2):155-172.
    Necessitists hold that, necessarily, everything is such that, necessarily, something is identical to it. Timothy Williamson has posed a number of challenges to contingentism, the negation of necessitism. One such challenge is an argument that necessitists can more wholeheartedly embrace possible worlds semantics than can contingentists. If this charge is correct, then necessitists, but not contingentists, can unproblematically exploit the technical successes of possible worlds semantics. I will argue, however, that the charge is incorrect: contingentists can embrace possible worlds semantics (...)
  9. Modal Reality and (Modal) Logical Space.John Divers - 2014 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (3):726-733.
  10. Contingent Existence and Iterated Modality.Cian Dorr - 2017 - Analysis 77 (1):155-165.
    A discussion of a view, defended by Robert Adams and Boris Kment, according to which contingent existence requires rejecting many standard principles of propositional modal logic involving iterated modal operators.
  11. Is Timothy Williamson a Necessary Existent?David Efird - 2010 - In Bob Hale & Aviv Hoffmann (eds.), Modality: Metaphysics, Logic, and Epistemology. Oxford University Press.
    Timothy Williamson (2002) has offered an argument for the claim that, necessarily, he exists, that is, that he is a necessary existent.1 Though this argument has attracted a great deal of attention (e.g., Rumfitt 2003 and Wiggins 2003), I present a new argument for the same conclusion which reveals a new way of denying the soundness of Williamson’s argument, one which denies not only that it is necessary that he exists but also that there are any true necessities about Williamson (...)
  12. Williamson on Fine on Prior on the Reduction of Possibilist Discourse.Kit Fine - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (4-5):548-570.
    I attempt to meet some criticisms that Williamson makes of my attempt to carry out Prior's project of reducing possibility discourse to actualist discourse.
  13. Higher-Order Contingentism, Part 2: Patterns of Indistinguishability.Peter Fritz - 2018 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 47 (3):407-418.
    The models of contingency in what propositions, properties and relations there are developed in Part 1 are related to models of contingency in what propositions there are due to Robert Stalnaker. It is shown that some but not all of the classes of models of Part 1 agree with Stalnaker’s models concerning the patterns of contingency in what propositions there are they admit. Further structural connections between the two kinds of models are explored.
  14. Higher-Order Contingentism, Part 3: Expressive Limitations.Peter Fritz - 2018 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 47 (4):649-671.
    Two expressive limitations of an infinitary higher-order modal language interpreted on models for higher-order contingentism – the thesis that it is contingent what propositions, properties and relations there are – are established: First, the inexpressibility of certain relations, which leads to the fact that certain model-theoretic existence conditions for relations cannot equivalently be reformulated in terms of being expressible in such a language. Second, the inexpressibility of certain modalized cardinality claims, which shows that in such a language, higher-order contingentists cannot (...)
  15. Logics for Propositional Contingentism.Peter Fritz - 2017 - Review of Symbolic Logic 10 (2):203-236.
    Robert Stalnaker has recently advocated propositional contingentism, the claim that it is contingent what propositions there are. He has proposed a philosophical theory of contingency in what propositions there are and sketched a possible worlds model theory for it. In this paper, such models are used to interpret two propositional modal languages: one containing an existential propositional quantifier, and one containing an existential propositional operator. It is shown that the resulting logic containing an existential quantifier is not recursively axiomatizable, as (...)
  16. Propositional Contingentism.Peter Fritz - 2016 - Review of Symbolic Logic 9 (1):123-142.
    According to propositional contingentism, it is contingent what propositions there are. This paper presents two ways of modeling contingency in what propositions there are using two classes of possible worlds models. The two classes of models are shown to be equivalent as models of contingency in what propositions there are, although they differ as to which other aspects of reality they represent. These constructions are based on recent work by Robert Stalnaker; the aim of this paper is to explain, expand, (...)
  17. First-Order Modal Logic in the Necessary Framework of Objects.Peter Fritz - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (4-5):584-609.
    I consider the first-order modal logic which counts as valid those sentences which are true on every interpretation of the non-logical constants. Based on the assumptions that it is necessary what individuals there are and that it is necessary which propositions are necessary, Timothy Williamson has tentatively suggested an argument for the claim that this logic is determined by a possible world structure consisting of an infinite set of individuals and an infinite set of worlds. He notes that only the (...)
  18. Intensional Type Theory for Higher-Order Contingentism.Peter Fritz - 2015 - Dissertation, University of Oxford
    Things could have been different, but could it also have been different what things there are? It is natural to think so, since I could have failed to be born, and it is natural to think that I would then not have been anything. But what about entities like propositions, properties and relations? Had I not been anything, would there have been the property of being me? In this thesis, I formally develop and assess views according to which it is (...)
  19. Modal Ontology and Generalized Quantifiers.Peter Fritz - 2013 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 42 (4):643-678.
    Timothy Williamson has argued that in the debate on modal ontology, the familiar distinction between actualism and possibilism should be replaced by a distinction between positions he calls contingentism and necessitism. He has also argued in favor of necessitism, using results on quantified modal logic with plurally interpreted second-order quantifiers showing that necessitists can draw distinctions contingentists cannot draw. Some of these results are similar to well-known results on the relative expressivity of quantified modal logics with so-called inner and outer (...)
  20. Counterfactuals and Propositional Contingentism.Peter Fritz & Jeremy Goodman - 2017 - Review of Symbolic Logic 10 (3):509-529.
    This article explores the connection between two theses: the principle of conditional excluded middle for the counterfactual conditional, and the claim that it is a contingent matter which (coarse grained) propositions there are. Both theses enjoy wide support, and have been defended at length by Robert Stalnaker. We will argue that, given plausible background assumptions, these two principles are incompatible, provided that conditional excluded middle is understood in a certain modalized way. We then show that some (although not all) arguments (...)
  21. Counting Incompossibles.Peter Fritz & Jeremy Goodman - 2017 - Mind 126 (504):1063–1108.
    We often speak as if there are merely possible people—for example, when we make such claims as that most possible people are never going to be born. Yet most metaphysicians deny that anything is both possibly a person and never born. Since our unreflective talk of merely possible people serves to draw non-trivial distinctions, these metaphysicians owe us some paraphrase by which we can draw those distinctions without committing ourselves to there being merely possible people. We show that such paraphrases (...)
  22. Higher-Order Contingentism, Part 1: Closure and Generation.Peter Fritz & Jeremy Goodman - 2016 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 45 (6):645-695.
    This paper is a study of higher-order contingentism – the view, roughly, that it is contingent what properties and propositions there are. We explore the motivations for this view and various ways in which it might be developed, synthesizing and expanding on work by Kit Fine, Robert Stalnaker, and Timothy Williamson. Special attention is paid to the question of whether the view makes sense by its own lights, or whether articulating the view requires drawing distinctions among possibilities that, according to (...)
  23. An Argument For Necessitism.Jeremy Goodman - 2017 - Philosophical Perspectives 30 (1):160-182.
    This paper presents a new argument for necessitism, the claim that necessarily everything is necessarily something. The argument appeals to principles about the metaphysics of quantification and predication which are best seen as constraints on reality’s fineness of grain. I give this argument in section 4; the impatient reader may skip directly there. Sections 1-3 set the stage by surveying three other arguments for necessitism. I argue that none of them are persuasive, but I think it is illuminating to consider (...)
  24. Williamson on Necessitism.Jeremy Goodman - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (4-5):613-639.
    I critically discuss some of the main arguments of Modal Logic as Metaphysics, present a different way of thinking about the issues raised by those arguments, and briefly discuss some broader issues about the role of higher-order logic in metaphysics.
  25. How Many Angels Can Dance on the Point of a Needle? Transcendental Theology Meets Modal Metaphysics.J. Hawthorne & G. Uzquiano - 2011 - Mind 120 (477):53-81.
    We argue that certain modal questions raise serious problems for a modal metaphysics on which we are permitted to quantify unrestrictedly over all possibilia. In particular, we argue that, on reasonable assumptions, both David Lewis's modal realism and Timothy Williamson's necessitism are saddled with the remarkable conclusion that there is some cardinal number of the form ℵα such that there could not be more than ℵα-many angels in existence. In the last section, we make use of similar ideas to draw (...)
  26. Serious Actualism and Higher-Order Predication.Bruno Jacinto - forthcoming - Journal of Philosophical Logic:1-29.
    Serious actualism is the prima facie plausible thesis that things couldn’t have been related while being nothing. The thesis plays an important role in a number of arguments in metaphysics, e.g., in Plantinga’s argument for the claim that propositions do not ontologically depend on the things that they are about and in Williamson’s argument for the claim that he, Williamson, is necessarily something. Salmon has put forward that which is, arguably, the most pressing challenge to serious actualists. Salmon’s objection is (...)
  27. Strongly Millian Second-Order Modal Logics.Bruno Jacinto - 2017 - Review of Symbolic Logic (3):1-58.
    The most common first- and second-order modal logics either have as theorems every instance of the Barcan and Converse Barcan formulae and of their second-order analogues, or else fail to capture the actual truth of every theorem of classical first- and second-order logic. In this paper we characterise and motivate sound and complete first- and second-order modal logics that successfully capture the actual truth of every theorem of classical first- and second-order logic and yet do not possess controversial instances of (...)
  28. Necessitism, Contingentism and Theory Equivalence.Bruno Jacinto - unknown
    Two main questions are addressed in this dissertation, namely: 1. What is the correct higher-order modal theory; 2. What does it take for theories to be equivalent. The whole dissertation consists of an extended argument in defence of the joint truth of two higher-order modal theories, namely, Plantingan Moderate Contingentism, a higher-order necessitist theory advocated by Plantinga and committed to the contingent being of some individuals, and Williamsonian Thorough Necessitism, a higher-order necessitist theory advocated by Williamson and committed to the (...)
  29. The Modal Octagon and John Buridan's Modal Ontology.Spencer Johnston - 2017 - In J. Béziau & G. Basti (eds.), The Square of Opposition: A Cornerstone of Thought. Springer. pp. 35-52.
    In this paper we will argue that the ontology implicit in John Buridan’s modal octagon commits him to a form of contingentism. In particular, we will argue that Buridan is committed to denying the validity of the Barcan and converse Barcan formulae.
  30. Timothy Williamson on the Contingently Concrete and Non-Concrete.Jeffrey C. King - 2016 - Analysis 76 (2):190-201.
  31. Model Theory and Contingent Existence.Boris Kment - 2016 - Analysis 76 (2):172-190.
  32. On Almost Bare Possibilia. Reply to Timothy Williamson.Winfried Löffler - 1998 - Erkenntnis 48 (2-3):275 - 279.
  33. Propositions and Necessary Existence.Vittorio Morato - 2006 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 72 (1):211-231.
    Timothy Williamson in his article "Necessary Existents" presents a proof of the claim that everything necessarily exists using just three seemingly uncontroversial principles relating the notions of proposition with those of truth and existence. The argument, however, may be easily blocked once the distinction, introduced by R. M. Adams, between the notions of a proposition being true in a world and of (or at) a world is introduced. In this paper I defend the plausibility of the notion of a proposition's (...)
  34. Contingentism About Individuals and Higher-Order Necessitism.Otero Manuel Pérez - 2013 - Theoria : An International Journal for Theory, History and Fundations of Science 28 (3):393-406.
    Necessitism about individuals claims that necessarily every individual necessarily exists. An analogous necessitist thesis attributes necessary existence to properties and relations. Both theses have been defended by Williamson. Furthermore, Williamson specifically argues against the hybrid conjunction of first-order contingentism and higher-order necessitism; a combination that would bring about additional drawbacks. I work out a defence of the hybrid combination, including some replies to Williamson’s additional objections. Considerations of ontological parsimony and pre-theoretical intuitions favour the hybrid view over necessitism at all (...)
  35. Contingentism About Individuals and Higher-Order Necessitism.Manuel Pérez Otero - 2013 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 28 (3):393-406.
    Según el necesitismo sobre los individuos, necesariamente todo individuo necesariamente existe. Una tesis necesitista análoga atribuye existencia necesaria a propiedades y relaciones. Ambas tesis han sido defendidas por Williamson. Además. Williamson argumenta específicamente contra la conjunción híbrida de contingencismo de primer orden (la negación del necesitismo sobre los individuos) combinado con necesitísmo de orden superior; una combinación que acarrearía problemas adicionales. En este artículo desarrollo una defensa de esa combinación hibrida, incluyendo algunas réplicas a tales objeciones adicionales de Williamson. Consideraciones (...)
  36. Essentialism Vis-À-Vis Possibilia, Modal Logic, and Necessitism.Sonia Roca-Royes - 2011 - Philosophy Compass 6 (1):54-64.
    Pace Necessitism – roughly, the view that existence is not contingent – essential properties provide necessary conditions for the existence of objects. Sufficiency properties, by contrast, provide sufficient conditions, and individual essences provide necessary and sufficient conditions. This paper explains how these kinds of properties can be used to illuminate the ontological status of merely possible objects and to construct a respectable possibilist ontology. The paper also reviews two points of interaction between essentialism and modal logic. First, we will briefly (...)
  37. Counting Things That Could Exist.Tobias Rosefeld - 2017 - Philosophical Quarterly 67 (266):127-147.
    The paper deals with cases of counting things that could exist but do not actually exist that resist common strategies for actualist paraphrases and that play an important role in motivating Timothy Williamson's ontology of contingently concrete objects. It is argued that these cases should be understood as cases of quantification not over individual possible objects but rather over kinds of objects, some of which do not actually have instances. This claim is motivated by a comparison with other cases of (...)
  38. Contingent Existents.Ian Rumfitt - 2003 - Philosophy 78 (4):461-481.
    Timothy Williamson has recently put forward a proof that every object exists necessarily. I show where the proof fails. My diagnosis also exposes the fallacy in A. N. Prior's argument in favour of his modal logic, Q.
  39. On Williamson and Simplicity in Modal Logic.Theodore Sider - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (4-5):683-698.
    According to Timothy Williamson, we should accept the simplest and most powerful second-order modal logic, and as a result accept an ontology of "bare possibilia". This general method for extracting ontology from logic is salutary, but its application in this case depends on a questionable assumption: that modality is a fundamental feature of the world.
  40. 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 (...)
  41. Unnecessary Existents.Joshua Spencer - 2013 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 43 (5-6):766-775.
    (2013). Unnecessary existents. Canadian Journal of Philosophy: Vol. 43, Essays on the Nature of Propositions, pp. 766-775.
  42. Boring Ontological Realism.Meghan Sullivan - 2017 - Res Philosophica 94 (3):399-413.
    Boring ontological realists hold that objects exist at times and persist over time without having substantive essences. Boring realism is a consequence of the minimal A-theory of time and the most sensible formulations of necessitism. This kind of realism is at odds with a ubiquitous realist thesis, which I call the persistenceessence link. This essay surveys some examples of the persistence-essence link and argues that it is best understood as a thesis about grounding. If we understand the link in terms (...)
  43. Modal Logic as Methodology.Meghan Sullivan - 2014 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (3):734-743.
  44. Contingent Existence and the Reduction of Modality to Essence.Trevor Teitel - forthcoming - Mind:fzx001.
    This paper first argues that we can bring out a tension between the following three popular doctrines: (i) the canonical reduction of metaphysical modality to essence, due to Fine, (ii) contingentism, which says that possibly something could have failed to be something, and (iii) the doctrine that metaphysical modality obeys the modal logic S5. After presenting two such arguments (one from the theorems of S4 and another from the theorems of B), I turn to exploring various conclusions we might draw (...)
  45. Recombination and Paradox.Gabriel Uzquiano - 2015 - Philosophers' Imprint 15.
    The doctrine that whatever could exist does exist leads to a proliferation of possibly concrete objects given certain principles of recombination. If, for example, there could have been a large infinite number of concrete objects, then there is at least the same number of possibly concrete objects in existence. And further cardinality considerations point to a tension between the preceding doctrine and the Cantorian conception of the absolutely infinite. This paper develops a parallel problem for a variety of possible worlds (...)
  46. An Objection to Naturalism and Atheism From Logic.Christopher Gregory Weaver - forthcoming - In Graham Oppy (ed.), The Blackwell Companion to Atheism and Philosophy. Blackwell Publishers.
    I proffer a success argument for classical logical consequence. I articulate in what sense that notion of consequence should be regarded as the privileged notion for metaphysical inquiry aimed at uncovering the fundamental nature of the world. Classical logic breeds necessitism. I use necessitism to produce problems for both ontological naturalism and atheism.
  47. Existence and Contingency: A Note.David Wiggins - 2003 - Philosophy 78 (4):483-494.
    Timothy Williamson offers a proof of the counterintuitive claim that, if an object exists, then it exists necessarily. David Wiggins argues that this result reveals the philosophical disadvantage of a first level (or ‘ticking over’) view of the very ‘exists’ and the advantage of the second level account offered by Frege and Russell. The author seeks to show how, using an idea of G. Evans but without the use of the resources of ‘free logic’, all occurrences of ‘exist’, including its (...)
  48. Reply to Fine.Timothy Williamson - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (4-5):571-583.
  49. Reply to Fritz.Timothy Williamson - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (4-5):610-612.
  50. Modal Science.Timothy Williamson - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (4-5):453-492.
    This paper explains and defends the idea that metaphysical necessity is the strongest kind of objective necessity. Plausible closure conditions on the family of objective modalities are shown to entail that the logic of metaphysical necessity is S5. Evidence is provided that some objective modalities are studied in the natural sciences. In particular, the modal assumptions implicit in physical applications of dynamical systems theory are made explicit by using such systems to define models of a modal temporal logic. Those assumptions (...)
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