Edited by Alastair Wilson (University of Birmingham)
|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.|
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David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
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