Lewis's Principle of Recombination: Reply to Efird and Stoneham

Dialectica 64 (3):435-445 (2010)
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According to Lewis's modal realism, all ways the world could be are represented by possible worlds, and all possible worlds represent some way the world could be. That there are just the right possible worlds to represent all and only the ways the world could be is to be guaranteed by the principle of recombination. Lewis sketches the principle (put roughly: anything can co-exist with anything else), but does not spell out a precise version that generates just the right possibilities. David Efird and Tom Stoneham have offered a principle that aims to do just that.In this paper, we argue that Efird's and Stoneham's principle of recombination is not successful – it fails to generate the right possibilities – but we also suggest ways that their account might be improved to solve the problem we raise. We also argue against Efird's and Stoneham's claim that the correct principle of recombination demonstrates the possibility of nothing concrete – it is true that their principle of recombination has models consistent with the existence of an empty world, but we only get the possibility of nothing if mereologically null individuals are possible. The Lewisian should only think mereologically null individuals are possible if he or she has some independent reason for believing in the possibility of an empty world, so the principle of recombination provides no new evidence for that possibility. We draw some morals from this for the correct way to formulate the principle of recombination



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George Darby
University of Kent

Citations of this work

Possible Worlds.Christopher Menzel - 2013 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Theism and Secular Modality.Noah Gordon - 2023 - Dissertation, University of Southern California
A Defense of Hume's Dictum.Cameron Gibbs - 2019 - Dissertation, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Defending David Lewis’s modal reduction.Barry Maguire - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 166 (1):129-147.

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References found in this work

Void and Object.David K. Lewis - 2004 - In John Collins, Ned Hall & L. A. Paul (eds.), Causation and Counterfactuals. MIT Press. pp. 277-290.
Simples and gunk.Hud Hudson - 2007 - Philosophy Compass 2 (2):291–302.

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