Counting Incompossibles

Mind 126 (504):1063–1108 (2017)

Peter Fritz
Australian Catholic University
Jeremy Goodman
University of Southern California
We often speak as if there are merely possible people—for example, when we make such claims as that most possible people are never going to be born. Yet most metaphysicians deny that anything is both possibly a person and never born. Since our unreflective talk of merely possible people serves to draw non-trivial distinctions, these metaphysicians owe us some paraphrase by which we can draw those distinctions without committing ourselves to there being merely possible people. We show that such paraphrases are unavailable if we limit ourselves to the expressive resources of even highly infinitary first-order modal languages. We then argue that such paraphrases are available in higher-order modal languages only given certain strong assumptions concerning the metaphysics of properties. We then consider alternative paraphrase strategies, and argue that none of them are tenable. If talk of merely possible people cannot be paraphrased, then it must be taken at face value, in which case it is necessary what individuals there are. Therefore, if it is contingent what individuals there are, then the demands of paraphrase place tight constraints on the metaphysics of properties: either (i) it is necessary what properties there are, or (ii) necessarily equivalent properties are identical, and having properties does not entail even possibly being anything at all.
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DOI 10.1093/mind/fzw026
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References found in this work BETA

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Citations of this work BETA

Higher-Order Contingentism, Part 1: Closure and Generation.Peter Fritz & Jeremy Goodman - 2016 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 45 (6):645-695.
Williamson on Fine on Prior on the Reduction of Possibilist Discourse.Kit Fine - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (4-5):548-570.
Possible Patterns.Jeffrey Sanford Russell & John Hawthorne - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics.
Higher-Order Contingentism, Part 3: Expressive Limitations.Peter Fritz - 2018 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 47 (4):649-671.
A Purely Recombinatorial Puzzle.Fritz Peter - 2017 - Noûs 51 (3):547-564.

View all 12 citations / Add more citations

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