What in the world are the ways things might have been? [Book Review]

Philosophical Studies 133 (3):443 - 453 (2007)
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Abstract

Robert Stalnaker is an actualist who holds that merely possible worlds are uninstantiated properties that might have been instantiated. Stalnaker also holds that there are no metaphysically impossible worlds: uninstantiated properties that couldn't have been instantiated. These views motivate Stalnaker's "two dimensional" account of the necessary a posteriori on which there is no single proposition that is both necessary and a posteriori. For a (metaphysically) necessary proposition is true in all (metaphysically) possible worlds. If there were necessary a posteriori propositions, that would mean that there were propositions true in all possible worlds but which could only be known to be true by acquiring empirical evidence. Consider such a purported proposition P. The role of empirical evidence for establishing P's truth would have to be to rule out worlds in which P is false. If there were no such worlds to be ruled out, we would not require evidence for P. But by hypothesis, P is necessary and so true in all metaphysically possible worlds. And on Stalnaker's view, the metaphysically possible worlds are all the worlds there are. So there can be no proposition that is true in all possible worlds, but that we require evidence to know. In this way, the motivation for Stalnaker's two dimensional account of the necessary a posteriori rests on his denying that there are metaphysically impossible Worlds. I argue that given his view of what possible worlds are, Stalnaker has no principled reason for denying that there are metaphysically impossible worlds. If I am right, this undercuts Stalnaker's motivation for his two dimensional account of the necessary a posteriori.

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Jeffrey C. King
Rutgers University - New Brunswick

Citations of this work

Counterpossibles.Barak Krakauer - 2012 - Dissertation, University of Massachusetts
What are impossible worlds?Barak Krakauer - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 165 (3):989-1007.
“Assertion” and intentionality.Jason Stanley - 2010 - Philosophical Studies 151 (1):87-113.

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References found in this work

On the Plurality of Worlds.David K. Lewis - 1986 - Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell.
On the Plurality of Worlds.David Lewis - 1986 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 178 (3):388-390.
Inquiry.Robert C. Stalnaker - 1984 - Cambridge University Press.
Universals and scientific realism.David Malet Armstrong - 1978 - New York: Cambridge University Press.

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