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. added 2020-05-06
    Ground and Modality.Alessandro Torza - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    The grounding relation is routinely characterized by means of logical postulates. The aim of this paper is twofold. First, I show that a subset of those postulates is incompatible with a minimal characterization of metaphysical modality. Then I consider a number of ways for reconciling ground with modality. The simplest and most elegant solution consists in adopting serious actualism, which is best captured within a first-order modal language with predicate abstraction governed by negative free logic. I also explore a number (...)
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  2. added 2020-03-10
    Bolzano on Necessary Existence.Stefan Roski & Paul Rusnock - 2014 - Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 96 (3):320-359.
    This paper is devoted to an examination of Bolzano’s notion of necessary existence, which has so far received relatively little attention in the literature. We situate Bolzano’s ideas in their historical context and show how he proposed to correct various flaws of his predecessors’ definitions. Further, we relate Bolzano’s conception to his metaphysical and theological assumptions, arguing that some consequences of his definition which have been deemed counterintuitive by some of his interpreters turn out to be more reasonable given the (...)
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  3. added 2020-02-10
    Williamson on Modality.Juhani Yli-Vakkuri & Mark McCullagh (eds.) - 2017 - Routledge.
    Timothy Williamson is one of the most influential living philosophers working in the areas of logic and metaphysics. His work in these areas has been particularly influential in shaping debates about metaphysical modality, which is the topic of his recent provocative and closely-argued book *Modal Logic as Metaphysics* (2013). The present book comprises ten essays by metaphysicians and logicians responding to Williamson’s work on metaphysical modality. The authors include some of the most distinguished philosophers of modality in the world, as (...)
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  4. added 2019-06-03
    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 (...)
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  5. added 2019-05-25
    Contingentism in Metaphysics.Kristie Miller - forthcoming - In Rikki Bliss & James Miller (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Metametaphysics. Routledge.
    Let us distinguish two kinds of contingentism: entity contingentism and metaphysical contingentism. Here, I use ‘entity’ very broadly to include anything over which we can quantify—objects (abstract and concrete), properties, and relations. Then entity contingentism about some entity, E, is the view that E exists contingently: that is, that E exists in some possible worlds and not in others. By contrast, entity necessitarianism about E is the view that E exists of necessity: that is, that E exists in all possible (...)
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  6. added 2018-12-24
    In Defense of the Possibilism–Actualism Distinction.Christopher Menzel - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (7):1971-1997.
    In Modal Logic as Metaphysics, Timothy Williamson claims that the possibilism-actualism (P-A) distinction is badly muddled. In its place, he introduces a necessitism-contingentism (N-C) distinction that he claims is free of the confusions that purportedly plague the P-A distinction. In this paper I argue first that the P-A distinction, properly understood, is historically well-grounded and entirely coherent. I then look at the two arguments Williamson levels at the P-A distinction and find them wanting and show, moreover, that, when the N-C (...)
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  7. added 2018-07-30
    Serious Actualism and Higher-Order Predication.Bruno Jacinto - 2019 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 48 (3):471-499.
    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 (...)
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  8. added 2018-06-25
    Characterising Theories of Time and Modality.Daniel Deasy - 2019 - Analytic Philosophy 60 (3):283-305.
    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 (...)
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  9. added 2018-01-31
    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 (...)
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  10. added 2018-01-31
    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 (...)
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  11. added 2017-12-25
    Contingentism About Individuals and Higher-Order Necessitism.Manuel Pérez Otero - 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 (...)
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  12. added 2017-11-13
    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.
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  13. added 2017-10-09
    An Objection to Naturalism and Atheism From Logic.Christopher Gregory Weaver - 2019 - In Graham Oppy (ed.), Blackwell Companion to Atheism and Philosophy. Malden: Blackwell Publishers. pp. 451-475.
    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.
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  14. added 2017-07-24
    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 (...)
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  15. added 2017-07-03
    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 (...)
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  16. added 2017-06-24
    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 (...)
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  17. added 2017-06-19
    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 (...)
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  18. added 2017-05-22
    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 (...)
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  19. added 2017-03-20
    An Argument For Necessitism.Jeremy Goodman - 2016 - 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 (...)
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  20. added 2017-02-27
    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.
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  21. added 2017-02-27
    Ontology of Sentential Moods.Berislav Žarnić - 2016 - In Myśli o języku, nauce i wartościach. Seria druga. Profesorowi Jackowi Juliuszowi Jadackiemu w siedemdziesiątą rocznicę urodzin. pp. 323-339.
    In this paper ontological implications of the Barcan formula and its converse will be discussed at the conceptual and technical level. The thesis that will be defended is that sentential moods are not ontologically neutral since the rejection of ontological implications of Barcan formula and its converse is a condition of a possibility of the imperative mood. The paper is divided into four sections. In the first section a systematization of semantical systems of quantified modal logic is introduced for the (...)
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  22. added 2017-02-13
    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 (...)
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  23. added 2017-01-18
    Contingent Existence and the Reduction of Modality to Essence.Trevor Teitel - 2019 - Mind 128 (509):39-68.
    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 (...)
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  24. added 2016-12-28
    Barcan Formulas in Second-Order Modal Logic.Timothy Williamson - 2015 - In Michael Frauchiger (ed.), Themes From Barcan Marcus. Ontos Verlag. pp. 51-74.
    Second-order logic and modal logic are both, separately, major topics of philosophical discussion. Although both have been criticized by Quine and others, increasingly many philosophers find their strictures uncompelling, and regard both branches of logic as valuable resources for the articulation and investigation of significant issues in logical metaphysics and elsewhere. One might therefore expect some combination of the two sorts of logic to constitute a natural and more comprehensive background logic for metaphysics. So it is somewhat surprising to find (...)
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  25. added 2016-12-24
    Timothy Williamson on the Contingently Concrete and Non-Concrete.Jeffrey C. King - 2016 - Analysis 76 (2):190-201.
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  26. added 2016-12-24
    Model Theory and Contingent Existence.Boris Kment - 2016 - Analysis 76 (2):172-190.
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  27. added 2016-12-24
    Replies to King, deRosset and Kment.Timothy Williamson - 2016 - Analysis 76 (2):201-222.
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  28. added 2016-12-24
    On Characterizing the Presentism/Eternalism and Actualism/Possibilism Debates.Ross P. Cameron - 2016 - Analytic Philosophy 57 (2):110-140.
  29. added 2016-12-24
    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 (...)
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  30. added 2016-12-24
    Replies to Bricker, Divers, and Sullivan.Timothy Williamson - 2014 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (3):744-764.
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  31. added 2016-12-24
    The Methodology of Modal Logic as Metaphysics.Phillip Bricker - 2014 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (3):717-725.
  32. added 2016-12-24
    Modal Logic as Metaphysics.M. J. Cresswell - 2014 - Philosophical Quarterly 64 (255):332-338.
  33. added 2016-12-24
    Modal Reality and (Modal) Logical Space.John Divers - 2014 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (3):726-733.
  34. added 2016-12-24
    Modal Logic as Methodology.Meghan Sullivan - 2014 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (3):734-743.
  35. added 2016-12-24
    Unnecessary Existents.Joshua Spencer - 2013 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 43 (5-6):766-775.
    Timothy Williamson has argued for the radical conclusion that everything necessarily exists. In this paper, I assume that the conclusion of Williamson’s argument is more incredible than the denial of his premises. Under the assumption that Williamson is mistaken, I argue for the claim that there are some structured propositions which have constituents that might not have existed. If those constituents had not existed, then the propositions would have had an unfilled role; they would have been gappy. This gappy propositions (...)
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  36. added 2016-12-24
    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 (...)
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  37. added 2016-12-24
    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 (...)
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  38. added 2016-12-24
    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.
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  39. added 2016-12-24
    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 (...)
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  40. added 2016-12-24
    Necessary Existents.Timothy Williamson - 2002 - In A. O'Hear (ed.), Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement. Cambridge University Press. pp. 269-87.
    It seems obvious that I could have failed to exist. My parents could easily never have met, in which case I should never have been conceived and born. The like applies to everyone. More generally, it seems plausible that whatever exists in space and time could have failed to exist. Events could have taken an utterly different course. Our existence, like most other aspects of our lives, appears frighteningly contingent. It is therefore surprising that there is a proof of my (...)
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  41. added 2016-12-24
    Existence and Contingency.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 100 (1):117–139.
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  42. added 2016-12-24
    The Necessary Framework of Objects.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Topoi 19 (2):201-208.
    The full-text of this article is not currently available in ORA, but the original publication is available at springerlink.com . Citation: Williamson, T. . 'The necessary framework of objects', Topoi 19, 201-208. N.B. Tim Williamson is now based at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford.
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  43. added 2016-12-24
    On Almost Bare Possibilia. Reply to Timothy Williamson.Winfried Löffler - 1998 - Erkenntnis 48 (2-3):275 - 279.
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  44. added 2016-12-24
    Bare Possibilia.Timothy Williamson - 1998 - Erkenntnis 48 (2-3):257--73.
    The theorems of the simplest and strongest sensible quantified modal logic include the Barcan Formula and its converse. Both formulas face strong intuitive objections. This paper develops a theory of possibilia to meet those objections.
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  45. added 2016-12-24
    Necessary Identity and Necessary Existence.Timothy Williamson - 1990 - In Rudolf Haller & Johannes Brandl (eds.), Wittgenstein - Towards a Re-Evaluation: Proceedings of the 14th International Wittgenstein-Symposium, Vol. I. Holder-Pichler-Tempsky.
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  46. added 2016-12-23
    Reply to Sider.Timothy Williamson - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (4-5):699-708.
  47. added 2016-12-23
    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 (...)
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  48. added 2016-12-23
    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 (...)
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  49. added 2016-12-23
    Reply to Goodman.Timothy Williamson - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (4-5):640-653.
  50. added 2016-12-23
    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 (...)
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