Hale's dilemma

Authors
Daniel Nolan
University of Notre Dame
Abstract
Bob Hale in Hale 1995b posed a dilemma for modal fictionalism (more specifically, Rosen's version of modal fictionalism). A modal fictionalist who maintains the version outlined in Rosen 1990 believes that the fiction of possible worlds (PW, to use Rosen and Hale's abbreviation) is not literally true. The question arises, however, about its modal status. Is it necessarily false, or contingently false? In either case, Hale argues, the modal fictionalist is in trouble. Should the modal fictionalist claim that the story of possible worlds is necessarily false, then the modal fictionalist cannot gloss their "according to the fiction of possible worlds ... ." prefix as "were the fiction of possible worlds true, then ... would be true". This is because, according to Hale, conditional claims with antecedents which are necessarily false are automatically true, so it follows that if the fiction of possible worlds is taken to be necessarily false, all conditionals of the form "were the fiction of possible worlds true then ..." are true, and not merely the ones that the modal fictionalist wishes to endorse. If the modal fiction is to be useful, not everything should be true according to it: examples of claims that had better not be true according to it include the claim that 2+2=7, or the claim that there are no possible worlds. On the other hand, if the fiction of possible worlds (PW) is only contingently false, Hale claims this also lands the Rosen's fictionalism in unacceptable trouble, though it is not so clear why (see below). Let me discuss these horns in turn.
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