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Summary What is modality? The question is hard to make more precise in a theory-neutral way. The different approaches to modality encompassed within this section disagree radically over the sorts of resources that should be invoked when explaining the workings of our modal thought and talk. One widespread approach takes for granted the philosophical perspicuity of possible-worlds semantics, and then seeks to provide a metaphysical interpretation of the semantics. What kind of thing is a possible world? Are worlds linguistic entities, complex properties, fictions, concrete material objects resembling the actual world, or sui generis abstract entities? But other approaches to modality reject the possible-worlds framework, treating modal discourse as descriptive of the essential or dispositional properties of objects, or as expressive of our own inferential dispositions.
Key works A large proportion of the recent literature on the nature of modality responds to  Lewis 1986, which is both a presentation of Lewis' radical thesis of modal realism and a sustained methodological reflection on what is required of a theory of modality. At the other end of the spectrum from Lewis, Sider 2011 defends a conventionalism about modality which treats the distinction between contingent and non-contingent propositions as entirely of our own making. Rosen 1990 piggybacks on modal realism to propose an influential early version of modal fictionalism. Armstrong 1989 defends an alternative style of fictionalism. Relatedly, Blackburn 1993 overlays a non-cognitivist ('quasi-realist') metasemantics on the Lewisian picture.  Thomasson 2007 sets out 'modal normativism', an alternative form of non-cognitivism. Fine 1994 argues that essence cannot be reduced to modality and sketches the program of understanding modality in terms of essence. Vetter 2010 proposes to reduce modality to dispositional properties.
Introductions Sider 2003
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  1. Essence and Explanation.Albert Casullo - 2020 - Metaphysics 2 (1):88-96.
    In Necessary Beings, Bob Hale addresses two questions: What is the source of necessity? What is the source of our knowledge of it? He offers novel responses to them in terms of the metaphysical notion of nature or, more familiarly, essence. In this paper, I address Hale’s response to the first question. My assessment is negative. I argue that his essentialist explanation of the source of necessity suffers from three significant shortcomings. First, Hale’s leading example of an essentialist explanation merely (...)
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  2. Quine's Monism and Modal Eliminativism in the Realm of Superveniences.Atilla Akalın - 2019 - International Journal of Social Humanities Sciences Research (JSHRS) 6 (34):795-800.
    This study asserts that W.V.O. Quine’s eliminative philosophical gaze into mereological composition affects inevitably his interpretations of composition theories of ontology. To investigate Quine’s property monism from the account of modal eliminativism, I applied to his solution for the paradoxes of de re modalities’ . Because of its vital role to figure out how dispositions are encountered by Quine, it was significantly noted that the realm of de re modalities doesn’t include contingent and impossible inferences about things. Therefore, for him, (...)
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  3. 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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  4. New Directions in the Epistemology of Modality: Introduction.Antonella Mallozzi - 2019 - Synthese:1-19.
    The fourteen papers in this collection offer a variety of original contributions to the epistemology of modality. In seeking to explain how we might account for our knowledge of possibility and necessity, they raise some novel questions, develop some unfamiliar theoretical perspectives, and make some intriguing proposals. Collectively, they advance our understanding of the field. In Part I of this Introduction, I give some general background about the contemporary literature in the area, by sketching a timeline of the main tendencies (...)
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  5. Clauses as Semantic Predicates: Difficulties for Possible-Worlds Semantics.Friederike Moltmann - 2018 - Festschrift for Angelika Kratzer.
    The standard view of clauses embedded under attitude verbs or modal predicates is that they act as terms standing for propositions, a view that faces a range of philosophical and linguistic difficulties. Recently an alternative has been explored according to which embedded clauses act semantically as predicates of content-bearing objects. This paper argues that this approach faces serious problems when it is based on possible worlds-semantics. It outlines a development of the approach in terms of truthmaker theory instead.
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  6. Necessity and Propositions.Tristan Haze - 2017 - Dissertation, University of Sydney
    Some​ ​propositions​ ​are​ ​not​ ​only​ ​true,​ ​but​ ​could​ ​not​ ​have​ ​been​ ​otherwise. This​ ​thesis​ ​is​ ​about​ ​modality​ ​and​ ​the​ ​philosophy​ ​of​ ​language.​ ​Its​ ​centrepiece​ ​is​ ​a​ ​new​ ​account​ ​of the​ ​conditions​ ​under​ ​which​ ​a​ ​proposition​ ​is​ ​necessarily​ ​true​ ​in​ ​the​ ​above​ ​sense.
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  7. Access Granted to Zombies.Duško Prelević - 2017 - Theoria: Beograd 60 (1):58-68.
    In his "Access Denied to Zombies", Gualtiero Piccinini argues that the possibility of zombies does not entail the falsity of physicalism, since the accessibility relation can be understood so that even in S5 system for modal logic worlds inaccessible from our world are allowed (in the case in which the accessibility relation is understood as an equivalence rather than as universal accessibility). According to Piccinini, whether the zombie world is accessible from our world depends on whether physicalism is true in (...)
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  8. Modal Objectivity.Clarke-Doane Justin - forthcoming - Noûs.
    It is widely agreed that the intelligibility of modal metaphysics has been vindicated. Quine's arguments to the contrary supposedly confused analyticity with metaphysical necessity, and rigid with non-rigid designators.2 But even if modal metaphysics is intelligible, it could be misconceived. It could be that metaphysical necessity is not absolute necessity – the strictest real notion of necessity – and that no proposition of traditional metaphysical interest is necessary in every real sense. If there were nothing otherwise “uniquely metaphysically significant” about (...)
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  9. Modality.P. H. Partridge - 1935 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 13 (3):188-200.
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  10. A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility.M. J. Cresswell - 1992 - Philosophical Review 101 (3):660.
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  11. The Metaphysics of Modality.Phillip Bricker - 1988 - Philosophical Review 97 (1):127.
  12. Logical Atoms and Combinatorial Possibility.Brian Skyrms - 1993 - Journal of Philosophy 90 (5):219-232.
  13. II—John Divers: Coincidence and Form.John Divers - 2008 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 82 (1):119-137.
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  14. Critical Review of Cover and Hawthorne on Leibnizian Modality.Michael J. Murray - 2000 - The Leibniz Review 10:73-86.
    In the introduction to Substance and Individuation in Leibniz, Jan Cover and John Hawthorne inform us that the aim of the book is to “grasp more clearly the metaphysical problems of individuation by taking seriously how these are played out in the hands of one influential philosopher standing as the important mediary between scholastic and modern philosophers.” Were the book to succeed in this modest aim it would be a significant achievement. In fact, it achieves this aim and a good (...)
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  15. On the Possibility of a Better World.H. B. Townsend - 1936 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 10:132.
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  16. On The Metaphysics Of Negation, Generality And Modality.Herbert Hochberg - 2000 - Metaphysica 1 (1).
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  17. Modality for Metaphysicians and Applications.Mark Nowacki & Ilya Farber - unknown
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  18. Possibility and Respectus-Notes for the Reconstruction of the Precritical Kantian Doctrine of Modality.M. Stampa - 1995 - Rivista di Storia Della Filosofia 50 (2):355-367.
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  19. 4. Analyzing Modality.Michael Jubien - 2007 - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 3:99.
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  20. Two New Interpretations of Modality.J. Garson - 1972 - Logique Et Analyse 15:443-459.
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  21. The Ghost of Modality.Herman Weyl - 1940 - In Marvin Farber & Edmund Husserl (eds.), Philosophical Essays in Memory of Edmund Husserl. Cambridge: Mass., Published for the University of Buffalo by the Harvard University Press. pp. 278--303.
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  22. The Modality of Being.Robert C. Beissel - 1992 - The Thomist 56:49-69.
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  23. A Modality.Percival L. Everett - 2004 - Symploke 12 (1):152-154.
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  24. Memory for Modality: Within-Modality Discrimination is Not Automatic.Leah L. Light & Dale E. Berger - 1974 - Journal of Experimental Psychology 103 (5):854.
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  25. Modality and Tautology.Peter Long - 1959 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 60:27 - 36.
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  26. Realism, Mathematics and Modality.Hartry Field - 1988 - Philosophical Topics 16 (1):57-107.
  27. The Principle-Based Conception of Modality: Sullivan's Question Addressed.Christopher Peacocke - 1998 - Mind 107 (428):847-849.
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  28. An Immaculate Conception of Modality or How to Confuse Use and Mention.Brian Skyrms - 1978 - Journal of Philosophy 75 (7):368-387.
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  29. On the Possibility of a Better World.H. G. Townsend - 1937 - Philosophical Review 46 (2):132-146.
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Modal Combinatorialism
  1. On the Probability of Plenitude.Jeffrey Sanford Russell - forthcoming - Journal of Philosophy.
    I examine what the mathematical theory of random structures can teach us about the probability of Plenitude, a thesis closely related to David Lewis's modal realism. Given some natural assumptions, Plenitude is reasonably probable a priori, but in principle it can be (and plausibly it has been) empirically disconfirmed—not by any general qualitative evidence, but rather by our de re evidence.
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  2. Logical Combinatorialism.Andrew Bacon - forthcoming - Philosophical Review.
    In explaining the notion of a fundamental property or relation, metaphysicians will often draw an analogy with languages. The fundamental properties and relations stand to reality as the primitive predicates and relations stand to a language: the smallest set of vocabulary God would need in order to write the `book of the world'. In this paper I attempt to make good on this metaphor. In order to do this I introduce a modality that, put informally, stands to propositions as logical (...)
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  3. Weak Location.Antony Eagle - 2019 - Dialectica 73 (1-2):149-181.
    Recently, many philosophers have been interested in using locative relations to clarify and pursue debates in the metaphysics of material objects. Most begin with the relation of exact location. But what if we begin instead with the relation known as weak location – the relation an object x bears to any region not completely bereft of x? I explore some of the consequences of pursuing this route for issues including coincidence, extended simples, and endurance, with an eye to evaluating the (...)
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  4. Problems for Modal Reductionism: Concrete Possible Worlds as a Test Case.Jonathan Nassim - 2015 - Dissertation, Birkbeck College
    This thesis is an argument for the view that there are problems for Modal Reductionism, the thesis that modality can satisfactorily be defined in non-modal terms. -/- I proceed via a case study of David Lewis’s theory of concrete possible worlds. This theory is commonly regarded as the best and most influential candidate reductive theory of modality. Based on a detailed examination of its ontology, analysis and justification, I conclude that it does badly with respect to the following four minimal (...)
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  5. The Facts in Logical Space. [REVIEW]Alessandro Torza - 2018 - Philosophical Review 127 (2):273-277.
  6. Possible Patterns.Jeffrey Sanford Russell & John Hawthorne - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics.
    “There are no gaps in logical space,” David Lewis writes, giving voice to sentiment shared by many philosophers. But different natural ways of trying to make this sentiment precise turn out to conflict with one another. One is a *pattern* idea: “Any pattern of instantiation is metaphysically possible.” Another is a *cut and paste* idea: “For any objects in any worlds, there exists a world that contains any number of duplicates of all of those objects.” We use resources from model (...)
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  7. Is There a Humean Account of Quantities?Phillip Bricker - 2017 - Philosophical Issues 27 (1):26-51.
    Humeans have a problem with quantities. A core principle of any Humean account of modality is that fundamental entities can freely recombine. But determinate quantities, if fundamental, seem to violate this core principle: determinate quantities belonging to the same determinable necessarily exclude one another. Call this the problem of exclusion. Prominent Humeans have responded in various ways. Wittgenstein, when he resurfaced to philosophy, gave the problem of exclusion as a reason to abandon the logical atomism of the Tractatus with its (...)
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  8. Possible Worlds and Annstrong’s Combinatorialism.Jaegwon Kim - 1986 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 16 (4):595-612.
    At the outset of his instructive and thought-provoking paper, ‘The Nature of Possibility,’ Professor David Armstrong gives a succinct description, in itself almost complete, of his ‘combinatorial theory’ of possibility. He says: ‘Such a view traces the very idea of possibility to the idea of the combinations - allthe combinations which respect certain simple form- of given, actual elements’. We can perhaps start a bit further back than this. In explaining the idea of a ‘possible world,’ some philosophers begin with (...)
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  9. A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility.M. J. Cresswell - 1992 - Philosophical Review 101 (3):660.
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  10. Plenitude of Possible Structures.Phillip Bricker - 1991 - Journal of Philosophy 88 (11):607-619.
    Which mathematical structures are possible, that is, instantiated by the concrete inhabitants of some possible world? Are there worlds with four-dimensional space? With infinite-dimensional space? Whence comes our knowledge of the possibility of structures? In this paper, I develop and defend a principle of plenitude according to which any mathematically natural generalization of possible structure is itself possible. I motivate the principle pragmatically by way of the role that logical possibility plays in our inquiry into the world.
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  11. Logical Atoms and Combinatorial Possibility.Brian Skyrms - 1993 - Journal of Philosophy 90 (5):219-232.
  12. Grounds, Roots and Abysses.Roberto Loss - 2015 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 4 (4):41-52.
    The aim of this study is to address the “Grounding Grounding Problem,” that is, the question as to what, if anything, grounds facts about grounding. I aim to show that, if a seemingly plausible principle of modal recombination between fundamental facts and the principle customarily called “Entailment” are assumed, it is possible to prove not only that grounding facts featuring fundamental, contingent grounds are derivative but also that either they are partially grounded in the grounds they feature or they are (...)
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  13. Distance and Discrete Space.K. Mcdaniel - 2007 - Synthese 155 (1):157-162.
    Given Lewis’s views about recombination and spatial relations, there are possible worlds in which space is discrete and yet the Pythagorean theorem is true – contrary to the so-called Weyl-Tile argument that concluded that the Pythagorean theorem must fail if space is discrete.
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  14. A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility.D. M. Armstrong - 1989 - Cambridge University Press.
    David Armstrong's book is a contribution to the philosophical discussion about possible worlds. Taking Wittgenstein's Tractatus as his point of departure, Professor Armstrong argues that nonactual possibilities and possible worlds are recombinations of actually existing elements, and as such are useful fictions. There is an extended criticism of the alternative-possible-worlds approach championed by the American philosopher David Lewis. This major work will be read with interest by a wide range of philosophers.
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  15. What is the Principle of Recombination?Tom Stoneham David Efird - 2008 - Dialectica 62 (4):483-494.
    In this paper, we give a precise characterization of the principle of recombination and argue that it need not be subject to any restrictions.
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  16. Two Thoughts on "A Tale of Two Parts".Joshua Spencer - 2014 - Res Philosophica 91 (3):485-490.
    In “A Tale of Two Simples,” I presented an argument against the possibility of extended heterogeneous simples that relied on the possibility of extended atomic regions of space. Andrew Jaeger has presented a parody of one part of my argument for a clearly absurd conclusion. In this short paper, I defend my argument by showing that there is a significant disanalogy between my support for a key premise in my argument and Jaeger’s support for the corresponding premise in his parody (...)
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  17. Representation and Reality in Wittgenstein's Tractatus.José L. Zalabardo - 2015 - Oxford University Press UK.
    José L. Zalabardo puts forward a new interpretation of central ideas in Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus concerning the structure of reality and our representations of it in thought and language. He presents the picture theory of propositional representation as Wittgenstein's solution to the problems that he had found in Bertrand Russell's theories of judgment. Zalabardo then attributes to Wittgenstein the view that facts and propositions are ultimate indivisible units, not the result of combining their constituents. This is Wittgenstein's solution to the (...)
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  18. A Theory of Possibility. [REVIEW]J. R. A. - 1977 - Review of Metaphysics 31 (2):329-330.
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  19. David Malet Armstrong (8 July 1926 – 13 May 2014).Keith Campbell - 2014 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 92 (3):617-618.
  20. Selection From A Combinational Theory of Possibility.D. M. Armstrong - 2004 - In Tim Crane & Katalin Farkas (eds.), Metaphysics: A Guide and Anthology. Oxford University Press.
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  21. Some Problems with the Combinatorial Theory of Possibility.Howard Robinson - 1998 - Acta Analytica 21:147-161.
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