Why modal fictionalism is not self-defeating

Philosophical Studies 139 (2):273 - 288 (2008)
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Abstract

Gideon Rosen’s [1990 Modal fictionalism. Mind, 99, 327–354] Modal Fictionalist aims to secure the benefits of realism about possible-worlds, whilst avoiding commitment to the existence of any world other than our own. Rosen [1993 A problem for fictionalism about possible worlds. Analysis, 53, 71–81] and Stuart Brock [1993 Modal fictionalism: A response to Rosen. Mind, 102, 147–150] both argue that fictionalism is self-defeating since the fictionalist is tacitly committed to the existence of a plurality of worlds. In this paper, I develop a new strategy for the fictionalist to pursue in response to the Brock–Rosen objection. I begin by arguing that modal fictionalism is best understood as a paraphrase strategy that concerns the propositions that are expressed, in a given context, by modal sentences. I go on to argue that what is interesting about paraphrastic fictionalism is that it allows the fictionalist to accept that the sentence ‘there is a plurality of worlds’ is true without thereby committing her to the existence of a plurality of worlds. I then argue that the paraphrastic fictionalist can appeal to a form of semantic contextualism in order to communicate her status as an anti-realist. Finally, I generalise my conception of fictionalism and argue that Daniel Nolan and John O’Leary-Hawthorne [1996 Reflexive fictionalisms. Analysis, 56, 26–32] are wrong to suggest that the Brock-Rosen objection reveals a structural flaw with all species of fictionalism.

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Richard Woodward
Humboldt University, Berlin

Citations of this work

Fictionalism.Matti Eklund - 2010 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Modal fictionalism.Daniel Nolan - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Nihilism without Self-Contradiction.David Liggins - 2008 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 62:177-196.
Fictionalist Strategies in Metaphysics.Lukas Skiba & Richard Woodward - 2020 - In Ricki Bliss & James Miller (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Metametaphysics. New York, NY: Routledge.

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References found in this work

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Ontological relativity and other essays.Willard Van Orman Quine (ed.) - 1969 - New York: Columbia University Press.
On the Plurality of Worlds.David Lewis - 1986 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 178 (3):388-390.
Realism, Mathematics & Modality.Hartry H. Field - 1989 - New York, NY, USA: Blackwell.
Truth in fiction.David K. Lewis - 1978 - American Philosophical Quarterly 15 (1):37–46.

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