Modality as a Subject for Science

Res Philosophica 94 (3):415-436 (2017)
Authors
Timothy Williamson
Oxford University
Abstract
Section 1 introduces the category of objective modality, closely related to linguists’ category of circumstantial or dynamic modals, and explains metaphysical modality as its maximal element. Section 2 discusses various kinds of skepticism about modality, as in Hume and recent authors, and argues that it is illmotivated to apply such skepticism to metaphysical modality but not to more restricted objective modalities, including nomic modality. Section 3 suggests that the role of counterfactual conditionals in applications of scientific theories involves an objective modal dimension. Section 4 briefly discusses the role of objective probabilities in scientific theories as exemplifying the scientific study of objective modality. Section 5 summarizes a case study of dynamical systems theory, widely used in natural science, as a mathematical theory whose intended applications are objectively modal, as perspicuously articulated in a language with modal and temporal operators and propositional quantification. State spaces in natural science characterize objective possibilities. Section 6 argues that, although those possibilities are usually more restricted than metaphysical possibility, their scientific study is a partial study of metaphysical possibility too.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  History of Philosophy
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ISBN(s) 2168-9105
DOI 10.11612/resphil.1563
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References found in this work BETA

Essence and Modality.Kit Fine - 1994 - Philosophical Perspectives 8:1-16.
On the Plurality of Worlds.David Lewis - 1986 - Journal of Philosophy 85 (1):42-47.
Modal Science.Timothy Williamson - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (4-5):453-492.
The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception.James J. Gibson - 1980 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 39 (2):203-206.
The Explanatory Power of Phase Spaces.Aidan Lyon & Mark Colyvan - 2008 - Philosophia Mathematica 16 (2):227-243.

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