About this topic
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. 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 (...)
  2. New Directions in the Epistemology of Modality, Special Issue of Synthese.Antonella Mallozzi (ed.) - forthcoming - Springer.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 (...)
  5. 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 (...)
  6. A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility.M. J. Cresswell & D. M. Armstrong - 1992 - Philosophical Review 101 (3):660.
  7. The Metaphysics of Modality.Phillip Bricker & Graeme Forbes - 1988 - Philosophical Review 97 (1):127.
  8. II—John Divers: Coincidence and Form.John Divers - 2008 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 82 (1):119-137.
  9. Critical Review of Cover and Hawthorne on Leibnizian Modality.Michael J. Murray - 2000 - The Leibniz Review 10:73-86.
  10. On the Possibility of a Better World.H. B. Townsend - 1936 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 10:132.
  11. On The Metaphysics Of Negation, Generality And Modality.Herbert Hochberg - 2000 - Metaphysica 1 (1).
  12. Modality for Metaphysicians and Applications.Mark Nowacki & Ilya Farber - unknown
  13. 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.
  14. 4. Analyzing Modality.Michael Jubien - 2007 - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 3:99.
  15. Two New Interpretations of Modality.J. Garson - 1972 - Logique Et Analyse 15:443-459.
  16. 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.
  17. The Modality of Being.Robert C. Beissel - 1992 - The Thomist 56:49-69.
  18. A Modality.Percival L. Everett - 2004 - Symploke 12 (1):152-154.
  19. Memory for Modality: Within-Modality Discrimination is Not Automatic.Leah L. Light & Dale E. Berger - 1974 - Journal of Experimental Psychology 103 (5):854.
  20. Modality and Tautology.Peter Long - 1959 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 60:27 - 36.
  21. Realism, Mathematics and Modality.Hartry Field - 1988 - Philosophical Topics 16 (1):57-107.
  22. Modality.P. H. Partridge - 1935 - Australasian Journal of Psychology and Philosophy 13 (3):188 – 200.
  23. The Principle-Based Conception of Modality: Sullivan's Question Addressed.Christopher Peacocke - 1998 - Mind 107 (428):847-849.
  24. An Immaculate Conception of Modality or How to Confuse Use and Mention.Brian Skyrms - 1978 - Journal of Philosophy 75 (7):368-387.
  25. Logical Atoms and Combinatorial Possibility.Brian Skyrms - 1993 - Journal of Philosophy 60 (5):219-232.
  26. On the Possibility of a Better World.H. G. Townsend - 1937 - Philosophical Review 46 (2):132-146.
Modal Combinatorialism
  1. The Facts in Logical Space. [REVIEW]Alessandro Torza - 2018 - Philosophical Review 127 (2):273-277.
  2. 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 (...)
  3. 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 (...)
  4. A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility.M. J. Cresswell & D. M. Armstrong - 1992 - Philosophical Review 101 (3):660.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 (...)
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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 (...)
  11. 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 (...)
  12. A Theory of Possibility. [REVIEW]J. R. A. - 1977 - Review of Metaphysics 31 (2):329-330.
  13. David Malet Armstrong (8 July 1926 – 13 May 2014).Keith Campbell - 2014 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 92 (3):617-618.
  14. 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.
  15. Some Problems with the Combinatorial Theory of Possibility.Howard Robinson - 1998 - Acta Analytica 21:147-161.
  16. Two Theories of Modality A Reply to von Wachter.Fraser MacBride - 2004 - Metaphysica 6:111-128.
  17. Le combinatorialisme et le réalisme nomologique sont-ils compatibles?Max Kistler - 2004 - In Jean-Maurice Monnoyer (ed.), La Structure du Monde. Vrin, Paris. pp. 199--221.
    English title: Are combinatorialism and nomological realism compatible?
  18. 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).
  19. A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility.Cynthia Macdonald - 1991 - Philosophical Books 32 (3):163-164.
  20. Armstrong on the Metaphysics of Modality: Two Dilemmas.Anssi Korhonen - 2008 - Acta Philosophica Fennica 84:153.
  21. A Puzzle About Restricted Recombination in Modal Realism.Nicola Ciprotti - 2006 - In Paolo Valore (ed.), Topics on General and Formal Ontology. Polimetrica. pp. 281.
    This paper addresses a specific issue inherent to David Lewis’s conception of possible worlds, namely whether or not they are liable to being limited in size. The paper purports to show that, if a certain argument against unlimited worlds’ size is valid, then the way of countering it by means of positing an upper limit to size (as Lewis himself and John Divers have suggested) leads to a troublesome distortion of some modal phenomena, such as de re ascriptions of properties. (...)
  22. Armstrong on Combinatorial Possibility.David K. Lewis - 1992 - In Papers in Metaphysics and Epistemology. Cambridge University Press. pp. 196-214.
  23. Hume's Dictum and Metaphysical Modality: Lewis's Combinatorialism.Jessica M. Wilson - 2015 - In Barry Loewer & Jonathan Schaffer (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to David Lewis. Blackwell. pp. 138-158.
    Many contemporary philosophers accept Hume's Dictum, according to which there are no metaphysically necessary connections between distinct, intrinsically typed entities. Tacit in Lewis 's work is a potential motivation for HD, according to which one should accept HD as presupposed by the best account of the range of metaphysical possibilities---namely, a combinatorial account, applied to spatiotemporal fundamentalia. Here I elucidate and assess this Ludovician motivation for HD. After refining HD and surveying its key, recurrent role in Lewis ’s work, I (...)
  24. A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility.David Weissman - 1991 - Review of Metaphysics 44 (3):614-617.
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