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A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility

Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press (1989)

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  1. Possible Patterns.Jeffrey Sanford Russell & John Hawthorne - 2018 - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 11.
    “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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  • Relativized Metaphysical Modality.Adam Murray & Jessica M. Wilson - 2012 - In Karen Bennett & Dean Zimmerman (eds.), Oxford Studies in Metaphysics. Oxford University Press. pp. 189.
    It is commonly supposed that metaphysical modal claims are to be evaluated with respect to a single domain of possible worlds: a claim is metaphysically necessary just in case it is true in every possible world, and metaphysically possible just in case it is true in some possible world. We argue that the standard understanding is incorrect; rather, whether a given claim is metaphysically necessary or possible is relative to which world is indicatively actual. We motivate our view by attention (...)
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  • Monism: The Islands of Plurality.Sam Baron & Jonathan Tallant - 2016 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 93 (3):583-606.
    Priority monism (hereafter, ‘monism’) is the view that there exists one fundamental entity—the world—and that all other objects that exist (a set of objects typically taken to include tables, chairs, and the whole menagerie of everyday items) are merely derivative. Jonathan Schaffer has defended monism in its current guise, across a range of papers. Each paper looks to add something to the monistic picture of the world. In this paper we argue that monism—as Schaffer describes it—is false. To do so (...)
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  • Reductive Theories of Modality.Theodore Sider - 2003 - In Michael J. Loux & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics. Oxford University Press. pp. 180-208.
    Logic begins but does not end with the study of truth and falsity. Within truth there are the modes of truth, ways of being true: necessary truth and contingent truth. When a proposition is true, we may ask whether it could have been false. If so, then it is contingently true. If not, then it is necessarily true; it must be true; it could not have been false. Falsity has modes as well: a false proposition that could not have been (...)
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  • The Dual Nature of Properties: The Powerful Qualities View Reconsidered.Joaquim Giannotti - 2019 - Dissertation, University of Glasgow
    Metaphysical orthodoxy holds that a privileged minority of properties carve reality at its joints. These are the so-called fundamental properties. This thesis concerns the contemporary philosophical debate about the nature of fundamental properties. In particular, it aims to answer two questions: What is the most adequate conception of fundamental properties? What is the “big picture” world-view that emerges by adopting such a conception? I argue that a satisfactory answer to both questions requires us to embrace a novel conception of powerful (...)
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  • Corrupting the Youth: A History of Philosophy in Australia.James Franklin - 2003 - Sydney, Australia: Macleay Press.
    A polemical account of Australian philosophy up to 2003, emphasising its unique aspects (such as commitment to realism) and the connections between philosophers' views and their lives. Topics include early idealism, the dominance of John Anderson in Sydney, the Orr case, Catholic scholasticism, Melbourne Wittgensteinianism, philosophy of science, the Sydney disturbances of the 1970s, Francofeminism, environmental philosophy, the philosophy of law and Mabo, ethics and Peter Singer. Realist theories especially praised are David Armstrong's on universals, David Stove's on logical probability (...)
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  • No Work For a Theory of Universals.M. Eddon & Christopher J. G. Meacham - 2015 - In Jonathan Schaffer & Barry Loewer (eds.), A Companion to David Lewis. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 116-137.
    Several variants of Lewis's Best System Account of Lawhood have been proposed that avoid its commitment to perfectly natural properties. There has been little discussion of the relative merits of these proposals, and little discussion of how one might extend this strategy to provide natural property-free variants of Lewis's other accounts, such as his accounts of duplication, intrinsicality, causation, counterfactuals, and reference. We undertake these projects in this paper. We begin by providing a framework for classifying and assessing the variants (...)
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  • All Worlds in One: Reassessing the Forest-Armstrong Argument.Phillip Bricker - 2020 - In Modal Matters: Essays in Metaphysics. Oxford: pp. 278-314.
    The Forrest-Armstrong argument, as reconfigured by David Lewis, is a reductio against an unrestricted principle of recombination. There is a gap in the argument which Lewis thought could be bridged by an appeal to recombination. After presenting the argument, I show that no plausible principle of recombination can bridge the gap. But other plausible principles of plenitude can bridge the gap, both principles of plenitude for world contents and principles of plenitude for world structures. I conclude that the Forrest-Armstrong argument, (...)
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  • Fundamentality And Modal Freedom.Jennifer Wang - 2016 - Philosophical Perspectives 30 (1):397-418.
    A fundamental entity is an entity that is ‘ontologically independent’; it does not depend on anything else for its existence or essence. It seems to follow that a fundamental entity is ‘modally free’ in some sense. This assumption, that fundamentality entails modal freedom (or ‘FEMF’ as I shall label the thesis), is used in the service of other arguments in metaphysics. But as I will argue, the road from fundamentality to modal freedom is not so straightforward. The defender of FEMF (...)
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  • Duas teorias realistas para a interpretação da semântica dos mundos possíveis.Renato Mendes Rocha - 2010 - Inquietude 1 (1):72-79.
    O discurso a respeito dos Mundos Possíveis pode ser uma ferramenta bastante útil para a filosofia. Pode ser útil, por exemplo, para a compreensão das modalidades, da necessidade e da possibilidade. No entanto, para utilizar o discurso dos Mundos Possíveis devemos ter uma explicação satisfatória do caráter ontológico da Semântica dos Mundos Possíveis. Para isso, precisamos responder a questões do tipo: O que é um Mundo Possível? De que forma eles existem? Em quantos Mundos Possíveis podemos falar? Há diversas formas (...)
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  • 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 (...)
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  • The Bare Past.Vincent Grandjean - forthcoming - Philosophia:1-28.
    In this paper, I first introduce one of the most prominent objections against the Growing Block Theory of time, the so-called ‘epistemic objection’, according to which GBT provides no way of knowing that our time is the objective present and, therefore, leads at best to absolute skepticism about our temporal location, at worst to the quasi-certainty that we are located in the objective past. Secondly, I express my dissatisfaction regarding the various traditional attempts to address this objection, especially Merricks, Forrest (...)
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  • From Metaphysics to Ethics: A Defence of Conceptual Analysis.Frank Jackson - 1998 - Oxford University Press.
    Frank Jackson champions the cause of conceptual analysis as central to philosophical inquiry. In recent years conceptual analysis has been undervalued and widely misunderstood, suggests Jackson. He argues that such analysis is mistakenly clouded in mystery, preventing a whole range of important questions from being productively addressed. He anchors his argument in discussions of specific philosophical issues, starting with the metaphysical doctrine of physicalism and moving on, via free will, meaning, personal identity, motion, and change, to ethics and the philosophy (...)
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  • (Un)Easily Possible Synthetic Biology.Tarja Knuuttila & Andrea Loettgers - 2022 - Philosophy of Science:1-14.
    Synthetic biology has a strong modal dimension that is part and parcel of its engineering agenda. In turning hypothetical biological designs into actual synthetic constructs, synthetic biologists reach towards potential biology instead of concentrating on naturally evolved organisms. We analyze synthetic biology’s goal of making biology easier to engineer through the combinatorial theory of possibility, which reduces possibility to combinations of individuals and their attributes in the actual world. While the last decades of synthetic biology explorations have shown biology to (...)
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  • Negative Properties—Negative Objects?David Hommen - 2018 - Acta Analytica 33 (4):395-412.
    This paper starts with the presentation of an Aristotelian theory of negative properties. Against this backdrop, it then asks whether there could be objects that have solely negative properties, i.e., completely negative objects. This possibility is entertained by Wittgenstein in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. The notion of a completely negative object is compared to the concepts of a nonexistent object, a nonconcrete object, and a nonactual object. Ultimately, it is argued that there can be no completely negative objects, because all negative (...)
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  • Generating Possibilities.David Denby - 2008 - Philosophical Studies 141 (2):191-207.
    Our knowledge of the most basic alternative possibilities can be thought of as generated recursively from what we know about the actual world. But what are the generating principles? According to one view, they are recombinational: roughly, alternative possibilities are generated by “patching together” parts of distinct worlds or “blotting out” parts of worlds to yield new worlds. I argue that this view is inadequate. It is difficult to state in a way that is true and non-trivial, and anyway fails (...)
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  • Dinge Und Eigenschaften Versuch Zur Ontologie.Daniel von Wachter - 2000 - Verlag J.H. Röll.
    Discusses Armstrong's and Roman Ingarden's ontology, criticises substance ontology, and defends tropes and a field ontology.
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  • Die kausale Struktur der Welt: Eine philosophische Untersuchung über Verursachung, Naturgesetze, freie Handlungen, Möglichkeit und Gottes kausale Rolle in der Welt.Daniel von Wachter - 2009 - Alber.
  • 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, (...)
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  • Modality and Anti-Metaphysics.Stephen K. McLeod - 2001 - Ashgate.
    Modality and Anti-Metaphysics critically examines the most prominent approaches to modality among analytic philosophers in the twentieth century, including essentialism. Defending both the project of metaphysics and the essentialist position that metaphysical modality is conceptually and ontologically primitive, Stephen McLeod argues that the logical positivists did not succeed in banishing metaphysical modality from their own theoretical apparatus and he offers an original defence of metaphysics against their advocacy of its elimination. -/- Seeking to assuage the sceptical worries which underlie modal (...)
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  • Worlds Enough for Junk.David Sanson - 2016 - Res Philosophica 93 (1):1-18.
    The possibility of Junk is the possibility that something exists and everything is a proper part. Just as we might imagine that there are no simples—that everything has a proper part, all the way down—we might imagine that there are no caps—that everything is a proper part, all the way up. It is not obvious that this apparent possibility can be accommodated within a Lewisian modal framework. For Lewis, every possibility involves the existence of a possible world, and a possible (...)
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  • Platonism, Alienation, and Negativity.David Ingram - 2016 - Erkenntnis 81 (6):1273-1285.
    A platonic theory of possibility states that truths about what’s possible are determined by facts about properties not being instantiated. Recently, Matthew Tugby has argued in favour of this sort of theory, arguing that adopting a platonic theory of possibility allows us to solve a paradox concerning alien properties: properties that might have been instantiated, but aren’t actually. In this paper, I raise a worry for Tugby’s proposal—that it commits us to negative facts playing an important truth-making role—and offer a (...)
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  • 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.
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  • Presentism and Truthmaking.Ben Caplan & David Sanson - 2011 - Philosophy Compass 6 (3):196-208.
    Three plausible views—Presentism, Truthmaking, and Independence—form an inconsistent triad. By Presentism, all being is present being. By Truthmaking, all truth supervenes on, and is explained in terms of, being. By Independence, some past truths do not supervene on, or are not explained in terms of, present being. We survey and assess some responses to this.
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  • The Location of Properties.Nikk Effingham - 2015 - Noûs 49 (4):846-866.
    This paper argues that, assuming properties exist and must be located in spacetime, the prevailing view that they are exactly located where their instances are is false. Instead a property is singularly located at just one region, namely the union of its instance's locations. This bears not just on issues in the metaphysics of properties, but also on the debate over whether multi-location is conceivable and/or possible.
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  • Impossible Worlds.Franz Berto & Mark Jago - 2013 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    We need to understand the impossible. Francesco Berto and Mark Jago start by considering what the concepts of meaning, information, knowledge, belief, fiction, conditionality, and counterfactual supposition have in common. They are all concepts which divide the world up more finely than logic does. Logically equivalent sentences may carry different meanings and information and may differ in how they're believed. Fictions can be inconsistent yet meaningful. We can suppose impossible things without collapsing into total incoherence. Yet for the leading philosophical (...)
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  • Recombining Non-Qualitative Reality.Sam Cowling - 2021 - Synthese 198 (3):2273-2295.
    Haecceitism and Hume’s Dictum are each controversial theses about necessity and possibility. According to haecceitism, there are qualitatively indiscernible possible worlds that differ only with respect to which individuals occupy which qualitative roles. According to Hume’s Dictum, there are no necessary connections between distinct entities or, as Humeans sometimes put it, reality admits of “free recombination” so any entities can co-exist or fail to co-exist. This paper introduces a puzzle that results from the combination of haecceitism and Hume’s Dictum. This (...)
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  • What is the Principle of Recombination?David Efird & Tom Stoneham - 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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  • The Way Things Were.Ben Caplan & David Sanson - 2010 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 81 (1):24-39.
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  • Fictionalism in Metaphysics.Frederick Kroon - 2011 - Philosophy Compass 6 (11):786-803.
    This is a survey of contemporary work on ‘fictionalism in metaphysics’, a term that is taken to signify both the place of fictionalism as a distinctive anti‐realist metaphysics in which usefulness rather than truth is the norm of acceptance, and the fact that philosophers have given fictionalist treatments of a range of specifically metaphysical notions.
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  • The Subtraction Argument(S).Alexander Paseau - 2006 - Dialectica 60 (2):145–156.
    The subtraction argument aims to show that there is an empty world, in the sense of a possible world with no concrete objects. The argument has been endorsed by several philosophers. I show that there are currently two versions of the argument around, and that only one of them is valid. I then sketch the main problem for the valid version of the argument.
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  • Is the Partial Identity Account of Property Resemblance Logically Incoherent?Sophie Gibb - 2007 - Dialectica 61 (4):539-558.
    According to the partial identity account of resemblance, exact resemblance is complete identity and inexact resemblance is partial identity. In this paper, I examine Arda Denkel's (1998) argument that this account of resemblance is logically incoherent as it results in a vicious regress. I claim that although Denkel's argument does not succeed, a modified version of it leads to the conclusion that the partial identity account is plausible only if the constituents of every determinate property are ultimately quantitative in nature.
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  • Supervenience-Based Formulations of Physicalism.Jessica Wilson - 2005 - Noûs 39 (3):426-459.
    The physicalist thesis that all entities are nothing over and above physical entities is often interpreted as appealing to a supervenience-based account of "nothing over and aboveness”, where, schematically, the A-entities are nothing over and above the B-entities if the A-entities supervene on the B-entities. The main approaches to filling in this schema correspond to different ways of characterizing the modal strength, the supervenience base, or the supervenience connection at issue. I consider each approach in turn, and argue that the (...)
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  • Quinean Scepticism About de Re Modality After David Lewis.John Divers - 2007 - European Journal of Philosophy 15 (1):40–62.
  • A Dispositional Theory of Possibility.Andrea Borghini & Neil E. Williams - 2008 - Dialectica 62 (1):21–41.
    – The paper defends a naturalistic version of modal actualism according to which what is metaphysically possible is determined by dispositions found in the actual world. We argue that there is just one world—this one—and that all genuine possibilities are anchored by the dispositions exemplified in this world. This is the case regardless of whether or not those dispositions are manifested. As long as the possibility is one that would obtain were the relevant disposition manifested, it is a genuine possibility. (...)
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  • There Might Be Nothing.Thomas Baldwin - 1996 - Analysis 56 (4):231–238.
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  • Are All Primitives Created Equal?J. T. M. Miller - 2018 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 56 (2):273-292.
    Primitives are both important and unavoidable, and which set of primitives we endorse will greatly shape our theories and how those theories provide solutions to the problems that we take to be important. After introducing the notion of a primitive posit, I discuss the different kinds of primitives that we might posit. Following Cowling (2013), I distinguish between ontological and ideological primitives, and, following Benovsky (2013) between functional and content views of primitives. I then propose that these two distinctions cut (...)
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  • Is Modal Fictionalism Artificial?Richard Woodward - 2011 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 92 (4):535-550.
    This article examines a popular complaint against the fictionalist account of possible objects bruited by Gideon Rosen. This is the complaint that modal fictionalism is, in some sense or other, hopelessly artificial. I shall separate two different strands to this worry and examine each in turn. As we shall see, neither strand to the objection is intractable.
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  • Essence and the Inference Problem.Ashley Coates - 2019 - Synthese 198 (2):915-931.
    Discussions about the nature of essence and about the inference problem for non-Humean theories of nomic modality have largely proceeded independently of each other. In this article I argue that the right conclusions to draw about the inference problem actually depend significantly on how best to understand the nature of essence. In particular, I argue that this conclusion holds for the version of the inference problem developed and defended by Alexander Bird. I argue that Bird’s own argument that this problem (...)
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  • Parthood.Theodore Sider - 2007 - Philosophical Review 116 (1):51-91.
    There will be a few themes. One to get us going: expansion versus contraction. About an object, o, and the region, R, of space(time) in which o is exactly located,1 we may ask: i) must there exist expansions of o: objects in filled superregions2 of R? ii) must there exist contractions of o: objects in filled subregions of..
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  • Non-Reductive Physicalism and the Mind Problem.Susan Schneider - 2013 - Noûs 47 (1):135-153.
    Most answers to the mind-body problem are claims about the nature of mental properties and substances. But advocates of non-reductive physicalism have generally neglected the topic of the nature of substance, quickly nodding to the view that all substances are physical, while focusing their intellectual energy on understanding how mental properties relate to physical ones. Let us call the view that all substances are physical or are exhaustively composed of physical substances substance physicalism (SP). Herein, I argue that non-reductive physicalism (...)
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  • The Ultimate Argument Against Armstrong’s Contingent Necessitation View of Laws.Alexander Bird - 2005 - Analysis 65 (2):147-55.
    I show that Armstrong’s view of laws as second-order contingent relations of ‘necessitation’ among categorical properties faces a dilemma. The necessitation relation confers a relation of extensional inclusion (‘constant conjunction’) on its relata. It does so either necessarily or contingently. If necessarily, it is not a categorical relation (in the relevant sense). If contingently, then an explanation is required of how it confers extensional inclusion. That explanation will need to appeal to a third-order relation between necessitation and extensional inclusion. The (...)
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  • The laws of modality.Matthew Tugby - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies:1-22.
    Nomic realists have traditionally put laws to work within a theory of natural modality, in order to provide a metaphysical source for causal necessitation, counterfactuals, and dispositions. However, laws are well-suited to perform other work as well. Necessitation is a widespread phenomenon and includes cases of categorial, conceptual, grounding, mathematical and normative necessitation. A permissive theory of universals allows us to extend nomic realism into these other domains. With a particular focus on grounding necessitation, it is argued that the sorts (...)
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  • Don't Ask, Look! Linguistic Corpora as a Tool for Conceptual Analysis.Roland Bluhm - 2013 - In Migue Hoeltje, Thomas Spitzley & Wolfgang Spohn (eds.), Was dürfen wir glauben? Was sollen wir tun? Sektionsbeiträge des achten internationalen Kongresses der Gesellschaft für Analytische Philosophie e.V. DuEPublico. pp. 7-15.
    Ordinary Language Philosophy has largely fallen out of favour, and with it the belief in the primary importance of analyses of ordinary language for philosophical purposes. Still, in their various endeavours, philosophers not only from analytic but also from other backgrounds refer to the use and meaning of terms of interest in ordinary parlance. In doing so, they most commonly appeal to their own linguistic intuitions. Often, the appeal to individual intuitions is supplemented by reference to dictionaries. In recent times, (...)
     
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  • Dualism About Possible Worlds.Michael Tze-Sung Longenecker - 2022 - Erkenntnis 87 (1):17-33.
    Dualism about possible worlds says that merely possible worlds aren’t concrete objects, but the actual world is concrete. This view seems to be the natural one for ersatzers about merely possible worlds to take; yet one is hard-pressed to find any defenders of it in contemporary modal metaphysics. The main reason is that Dualism struggles with the issue of how merely possible worlds could have been actual. I explain that there are two different Dualist strategies that can be taken to (...)
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  • Metaphysical Nihilism and Modal Logic.Ethan Brauer - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies:1-13.
    In this paper I argue, that if it is metaphysically possible for it to have been the case that nothing existed, then it follows that the right modal logic cannot extend D, ruling out popular modal logics S4 and S5. I provisionally defend the claim that it is possible for nothing to have existed. I then consider the various ways of resisting the conclusion that the right modal logic is weaker than D.
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  • Leibniz and the Ground of Possibility.Samuel Newlands - 2013 - Philosophical Review 122 (2):155-187.
    Leibniz’s views on modality are among the most discussed by his interpreters. Although most of the discussion has focused on Leibniz’s analyses of modality, this essay explores Leibniz’s grounding of modality. Leibniz holds that possibilities and possibilia are grounded in the intellect of God. Although other early moderns agreed that modal truths are in some way dependent on God, there were sharp disagreements surrounding two distinct questions: (1) On what in God do modal truths and modal truth-makers depend? (2) What (...)
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  • Two Axes of Actualism.Karen Bennett - 2005 - Philosophical Review 114 (3):297-326.
    Actualists routinely characterize their view by means of the slogan, “Everything is actual.” They say that there aren’t any things that exist but do not actually exist—there aren’t any “mere possibilia.” If there are any things that deserve the label ‘possible world’, they are just actually existing entities of some kind—maximally consistent sets of sentences, or maximal uninstantiated properties, or maximal possible states of affairs, or something along those lines. Possibilists, in contrast, do think that there are mere possibilia, that (...)
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  • On Unexplained (Modal) Patterns.Harjit Bhogal - 2022 - Erkenntnis:1-18.
    Some patterns call out for explanation, in the sense that we have a pro tanto reason to reject theories that do not give them an appropriate explanation. I argue that certain modal patterns call out for explanation in this way—and this provides a reason to reject certain theories of modality that fail to explain such patterns. However, I also consider a response to this argument, which claims that the modal patterns do not need explanation. This response might be viable but (...)
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  • Against Truth.Jamin Asay - 2014 - Erkenntnis 79 (1):147-164.
    I argue that there is no metaphysically substantive property of truth. Although many take this thesis to be central to deflationism about truth, it is sometimes left unclear what a metaphysically substantive property of truth is supposed to be. I offer a precise account by relying on the distinction between the property and concept of truth. Metaphysical substantivism is the view that the property of truth is a sparse property, regardless of how one understands the nature of sparse properties. I (...)
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