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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Material to categorize
  1. The Modality of Being.Robert C. Beissel - 1992 - The Thomist 56:49-69.
  2. The Metaphysics of Modality.Phillip Bricker & Graeme Forbes - 1988 - Philosophical Review 97 (1):127.
  3. A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility.M. J. Cresswell & D. M. Armstrong - 1992 - Philosophical Review 101 (3):660.
  4. II—John Divers: Coincidence and Form.John Divers - 2008 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 82 (1):119-137.
  5. A Modality.Percival L. Everett - 2005 - Symploke 12 (1):152-154.
  6. Realism, Mathematics and Modality.Hartry Field - 1988 - Philosophical Topics 16 (1):57-107.
  7. Two New Interpretations of Modality.J. Garson - 1972 - Logique Et Analyse 15:443-459.
  8. On The Metaphysics Of Negation, Generality And Modality.Herbert Hochberg - 2000 - Metaphysica 1 (1).
  9. 4. Analyzing Modality.Michael Jubien - 2007 - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 3:99.
  10. 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 (...)
  11. Memory for Modality: Within-Modality Discrimination is Not Automatic.Leah L. Light & Dale E. Berger - 1974 - Journal of Experimental Psychology 103 (5):854.
  12. Modality and Tautology.Peter Long - 1959 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 60:27 - 36.
  13. Modality.Joseph Melia - 2003 - Routledge.
    This introduction to modality places the emphasis on the metaphysics of modality rather than on the formal semetics of quantified modal logic. The text begins by introducing students to the "de re/de dicto" distinction, conventionalist and conceptualist theories of modality and some of the key problems in modality, particularly Quine's criticisms. It then moves on to explain how possible worlds provide a solution to many of the problems in modality and how possible worlds themselves have been used to analyse notions (...)
  14. Critical Review of Cover and Hawthorne on Leibnizian Modality.Michael J. Murray - 2000 - The Leibniz Review 10:73-86.
  15. Modality for Metaphysicians and Applications.Mark Nowacki & Ilya Farber - unknown
  16. Modality.P. H. Partridge - 1935 - Australasian Journal of Psychology and Philosophy 13 (3):188 – 200.
  17. The Principle-Based Conception of Modality: Sullivan's Question Addressed.Christopher Peacocke - 1998 - Mind 107 (428):847-849.
  18. The Psychological Representation of Modality.Jonathan Phillips & Joshua Knobe - forthcoming - Mind & Language.
    A series of recent studies have explored the impact of people’s judgments regarding physical law, morality, and probability. Surprisingly, such studies indicate that these three apparently unrelated types of judgments often have precisely the same impact. We argue that these findings provide evidence for a more general hypothesis about the kind of cognition people use to think about possibilities. Specifically, we suggest that this aspect of people’s cognition is best understood using an idea developed within work in the formal semantics (...)
  19. 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 (...)
  20. Logical Atoms and Combinatorial Possibility.Brian Skyrms - 1993 - Journal of Philosophy 60 (5):219-232.
  21. An Immaculate Conception of Modality or How to Confuse Use and Mention.Brian Skyrms - 1978 - Journal of Philosophy 75 (7):368-387.
  22. 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.
  23. On the Possibility of a Better World.H. B. Townsend - 1936 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 10:132.
  24. On the Possibility of a Better World.H. G. Townsend - 1937 - Philosophical Review 46 (2):132-146.
  25. 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.
Modal Combinatorialism
  1. A Theory of Possibility. [REVIEW]J. R. A. - 1977 - Review of Metaphysics 31 (2):329-330.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. The Nature of Possibility.D. M. Armstrong - 1986 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 16 (4):575 - 594.
  5. Combinatorialism Revisited.David Armstrong - 2004 - In .
    The object of this paper is to argue once again for the combinatorial account of possibility defended in earlier work. But there I failed fully to realise the dialectical advantages that accrue once one begins by assuming the hypothesis of logical atomism, the hypothesis that postulates simple particulars and simple universals at the bottom of the world. Logical atomism is, I incline to think, no better than ‘speculative cosmology’ as opposed to ‘analytic ontology’, to use Donald Williams’ terminology. It is, (...)
  6. Real Possibilities.John C. Bigelow - 1988 - Philosophical Studies 53 (1):37 - 64.
  7. Possibility and Combinatorialism: Wittgenstein Versus Armstrong.Raymond Bradley - 1989 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 19 (1):15 - 41.
  8. 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 (...)
  9. 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.
  10. Recombination and Intrinsicality.Ross P. Cameron - 2008 - Ratio 21 (1):1–12.
    In this paper I argue that warrant for Lewis ' principle of recombination presupposes warrant for a combinatorial analysis of intrinsicality, which in turn presupposes warrant for the principle of recombination. This, I claim, leads to a vicious circularity: warrant for neither doctrine can get off the ground.
  11. David Malet Armstrong (8 July 1926 – 13 May 2014).Keith Campbell - 2014 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 92 (3):617-618.
  12. A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility.Gerard Casey - 1988 - Philosophical Studies 32:274-283.
  13. 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. (...)
  14. A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility.M. J. Cresswell & D. M. Armstrong - 1992 - Philosophical Review 101 (3):660.
  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.
  16. Combinatorialism and the Possibility of Nothing.David Efird & Tom Stoneham - 2006 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 84 (2):269 – 280.
    We argue that Armstrong's Combinatorialism allows for the possibility of nothing by giving a Combinatorial account of the empty world and show that such an account is consistent with the ontological and conceptual aims of the theory. We then suggest that the Combinatorialist should allow for this possibility given some methodological considerations. Consequently, rather than being 'spoils for the victor', as Armstrong maintains, deciding whether there might have been nothing helps to determine which metaphysics of modality is to be preferred.
  17. A Combinatorial Theory of Modality.Janne Hiipakka, Markku Keinänen & Anssi Korhonen - 1999 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 77 (4):483 – 497.
    This paper explores the prospects of a combinatorial account of modality. We argue against David M. Armstrong’s version of combinatorialism, which seeks to do without modal primitives, on the grounds, among other things, that Armstrong’s basic ontological categories are themselves subject to non-contingent constraints on recombination. We outline an alternative version, which acknowledges the necessity of modal primitives, at the level of ontology, and not just of our concepts.
  18. Is There A Quasi-Mereological Account of Property Incompatibility?Javier Kalhat - 2011 - Acta Analytica 26 (2):115-133.
    Armstrong’s combinatorial theory of possibility faces the obvious difficulty that not all universals are compatible. In this paper I develop three objections against Armstrong’s attempt to account for property incompatibilities. First, Armstrong’s account cannot handle incompatibilities holding among properties that are either simple, or that are complex but stand to one another in the relation of overlap rather than in the part/ whole relation. Secondly, at the heart of Armstrong’s account lies a notion of structural universals which, building on an (...)
  19. Possible Worlds and Armstrong's Combinatorialism.Jaegwon Kim - 1986 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 16 (4):595 - 612.
  20. 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?
  21. Armstrong on the Metaphysics of Modality: Two Dilemmas.Anssi Korhonen - 2008 - Acta Philosophica Fennica 84:153.
  22. Armstrong on Combinatorial Possibility.David K. Lewis - 1992 - In Papers in Metaphysics and Epistemology. Cambridge University Press. pp. 196-214.
  23. 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 (...)
  24. Two Theories of Modality A Reply to von Wachter.Fraser MacBride - 2004 - Metaphysica 6:111-128.
  25. Could Armstrong Have Been a Universal?Fraser MacBride - 1999 - Mind 108 (431):471-501.
    There cannot be a reductive theory of modality constructed from the concepts of sparse particular and sparse universal. These concepts are suffused with modal notions. I seek to establish this conclusion by tracing out the pattern of modal entanglements in which these concepts are involved. In order to appreciate the structure of these entanglements a distinction must be drawn between the lower-order necessary connections in which particulars and universals apparently figure, and higher-order necesary connections. The former type of connection relates (...)
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