Ontology-free modal semantics

Journal of Philosophical Logic 25 (4):333 - 361 (1996)

Greg Ray
University of Florida
The problem with model-theoretic modal semantics is that it provides only the formal beginnings of an account of the semantics of modal languages. In the case of non-modal language, we bridge the gap between semantics and mere model theory, by claiming that a sentence is true just in case it is true in an intended model. Truth in a model is given by the model theory, and an intended model is a model which has as domain the actual objects of discourse, and which relates these objects in an appropriate manner. However, the same strategy applied to the modal case seems to require an intended modal model whose domain includes mere possibilia. Building on recent work by Christopher Menzel (Synthese 85 (1990)), I give an account of model-theoretic semantics for modal languages which does not require mere possibilia or intensional entities of any kind. Menzel has offered a representational account of model-theoretic modal semantics that accords with actualist scruples, since it does not require possibilia. However, Menzel's view is in the company of other actualists who seek to eliminate possible worlds, but whose accounts tolerate other sorts of abstract, intensional entities, such as possible states of affairs. Menzel's account crucially depends on the existence of properties and relations in intension. I offer a purely extensional, representational account and prove that it does all the work that Menzel's account does. The result of this endeavor is an account of model theoretic semantics for modal languages requiring nothing but pure sets and the actual objects of discourse. Since ontologically beyond what is prima facie presupposed by the model theory itself. Thus, the result is truly an ontology-free model-theoretic semantics for modal languages. That is to say, getting genuine modal semantics out of the model theory is ontologically cost-free. Since my extensional account is demonstrably no less adequate, and yet is at the same time more ontologically frugal, it is certainly to be preferred.
Keywords possible world semantics  actualism
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DOI 10.1007/BF00249664
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The Nature of Necessity.Alvin Plantinga - 1974 - Clarendon Press.
Logic, Semantics, Metamathematics.Alfred Tarski - 1956 - Oxford, Clarendon Press.
The Concept of Logical Consequence.John Etchemendy - 1990 - Harvard University Press.

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