_Possible Worlds_ presents the first up-to-date and comprehensive examination of one of the most important topics in metaphysics. John Divers considers the prevalent philosophical positions, including realism, antirealism and the work of important writers on possible worlds such as David Lewis, evaluating them in detail.
I compare a Lewisian defence of monism with Kit Fine's defence of pluralism. I argue that the Lewisian defence is, at present, the clearer in its explanatory intent and ontological commitments. I challenge Fine to explain more fully the nature of the entities that he postulates and the relationship between continuous material objects and the parts of those rigid embodiments in terms of which he proposes to explain crucial, modal and sortal, features of those objects.
The principle of modal ubiquity - that every truth is necessary or contingent - and the validity of possibility introduction, are principles that any modal theory suffers for failing to accommodate. Advanced modal claims are modal claims about entities other than spatiotemporally unified individuals (perhaps, then, spatiotemporally disunified individuals, sets, numbers, properties, propositions and events). I show that genuine modal realism, as it has thus far been explicitly developed, and in so far as it deals with advanced modal claims, cannot (...) accommodate the principles in question. On behalf of the genuine modal realist I motivate and propose a redundancy interpretation of advanced possibility claims and extend that interpretation to the cognate cases of necessity, impossibility and contingency. I then show that the problematic principles as they apply to advanced modal claims can be derived from these interpretations. I show further how the proposed interpretation enables the genuine modal realist to deal with a number of objections that centre on the alleged inadequacy of the genuine modal realist's expressive resources. I conclude that genuine modal realism emerges the stronger for having been shown capable of dealing with advanced modal claims on the basis of no conceptual and ontological resources beyond those it requires to deal with ordinary modal claims. (shrink)
According to the Genuine Modal Realist, there is a plurality of possible worlds, each world nothing more than a maximally inter-related spatiotemporal sum. One advantage claimed for this position is that it offers us the resources to analyse, in a noncircular manner, the modal operators. In this paper, we argue that the prospects for such an analysis are poor. For the analysis of necessity as truth in all worlds to succeed it is not enough that no modal concepts be used (...) in the realist's account of a possible world (a fact we grant); rather, such an analysis will succeed only if the set of worlds that is postulated is complete. By appealing to plausible truths about the number of possible alien natural properties, we show that there are serious difficulties in guaranteeing that such a set exists without taking some modal concept as primitive. Accordingly, at least in its current form, Genuine Modal Realism must curtail its analytic ambitions. (shrink)
McFetridge (in Logical necessity and other essays . London: Blackwell, 1990 ) suggests that to treat a proposition as logically necessary—to believe a proposition logically necessary, and to manifest that belief—is a matter of preparedness to deploy that proposition as a premise in reasoning from any supposition. We consider whether a suggestion in that spirit can be generalized to cover all cases of absolute necessity, both logical and non-logical, and we conclude that it can. In Sect. 2, we explain the (...) significance that such an account of manifestation of belief in absolute necessity has for the prospects of a non-realist theory of modality. In Sect. 3, we offer a sympathetic articulation of the detail that underlies the McFetridge conception of belief in logical necessity. In Sects. 4 and 5, we show that the conception so articulated will not generalize to encompass all cases of belief in absolute necessity and proceed to offer a remedy. Our proposal is based upon a distinction between two kinds of suppositional act: A-supposing and C-supposing (Sect. 6). In Sect. 7, we then explain and defend our central thesis: (roughly) that (manifestation of) belief in absolute necessity is a matter of preparedness to deploy as a premise in reasoning under any C-supposition. Finally, we indicate that there is some promise in the parallel thesis that manifestation of the treatment of a proposition as a priori is a matter of preparedness to deploy as a premise in reasoning under any A-supposition (Sect. 8). (shrink)
I argue that a pragmatic scepticism about metaphysical modality is a perfectly reasonable position to maintain. I then illustrate the difficulties and limitations associated with some strategies for defeating such scepticism. These strategies appeal to associations between metaphysical modality and the following: objective probability, counterfactuals and distinctive explanatory value.
The modal antirealist, as presented here, aims to secure at least some of the benefits associated with talking in genuine modal realist terms while avoiding commitment to a plurality of Lewisian (or ersatz) worlds. The antirealist stance of agnosticism about other worlds combines acceptance of Lewis's account of what world-talk means with refusal to assert, or believe in, the existence of other worlds. Agnosticism about other worlds does not entail a comprehensive agnosticism about modality, but where such agnosticism about modality (...) is enforced, the aim of the agnostic programme is to show that it is not detrimental to our modal practices. The agnostic programme consists in an attempt to demonstrate the rational dispensability of that disputed class of modal beliefs which the agnostic eschews, but which are held by the realist and the folk. Here I attempt to motivate, describe, and illustrate such an agnostic antirealist programme in modal philosophy. (shrink)
In section 1 I motivate and execute the presentation of a well-defined Lewisian conception of analysis and of what it would be to analyse modality successfully. That conception is then put to two applications. In section 2 various inadequacies are exposed in a (recently popular) separatist approach to the understanding and/or evaluation of Lewis's analysis of modality. Section 3 provides a defence against a resilient argument for the claim that Lewis's analysis of modality cannot be fully reductive while also dealing (...) adequately with alien possibility. (shrink)
There is a de re modal truth that proves inconvenient for the canonical Lewisian theory of modality. For this truth requires on that theory, the existence of things (counterparts) that exist in distinct worlds but are also spatiotemporally related.
We propose a novel interpretation of Lewis on the analysis of modality that is constructed from primary sources, comprehensive and unprecedented. Our guiding precepts are to distinguish semantics from metaphysics, while respecting the inter-relations between them, and to discern whatever may be special, semantically or metaphysically, about the modal case. Following detailed presentation, we amplify and advocate our interpretation by providing a conforming genealogy of Lewis’s theory of modality and applying it to construct a detailed and newly illuminating version of (...) the Lewisian theory of modality de re. (shrink)
We outline a theory of the cognitive role of belief in absolute necessity that is normative and intended to be metaphysically neutral. We take this theory to be unique in scope since it addresses simultaneously the questions of how such belief is (properly) acquired and of how it is (properly) manifest. The acquisition and manifestation conditions for belief in absolute necessity are given univocally, in terms of complex higher-order attitudes involving two distinct kinds of supposition (A-supposing and C-supposing). It is (...) subsequently argued that the proposed acquisition and manifestation conditions are rationally interdependent, and that such harmony affords explanations of connections between different facets of belief in necessity that otherwise remain mysterious. (shrink)
The modal antirealist, as presented here, aims to secure at least some of the benefits associated with talking in genuine modal realist terms while avoiding commitment to a plurality of Lewisian (or ersatz) worlds. The antirealist stance of agnosticism about other worlds combines acceptance of Lewis's account of what world‐talk means with refusal to assert, or believe in, the existence of other worlds. Agnosticism about other worlds does not entail a comprehensive agnosticism about modality, but where such agnosticism about modality (...) is enforced, the aim of the agnostic programme is to show that it is not detrimental to our modal practices. The agnostic programme consists in an attempt to demonstrate the rational dispensability of that disputed class of modal beliefs which the agnostic eschews, but which are held by the realist and the folk. Here I attempt to motivate, describe, and illustrate such an agnostic antirealist programme in modal philosophy. (shrink)
In this reply, we defend our argument for the incompleteness of Genuine Modal Realism against Paseau's criticisms. Paseau claims that isomorphic set of worlds represent the same possibilities, but not only is this implausible, it is inimical to the target of our paper: Lewis's theory of possible worlds. We argue that neither Paseau's model-theoretic results nor his comparison to arithmetic carry over to GMR. We end by distinguishing two notions of incompleteness and urge that, for all that Paseau has said, (...) GMR remains incomplete in the relevant sense. (shrink)
This chapter has three principal aims. Firstly, to promote interest in the question of the function, or utility, of judgements of modality. Secondly, to endorse an alternative to orthodox contemporary methodology, advocating that we prioritize the question of function in modal philosophy. Thirdly, to consider among our modal judgements exactly which are the proper and exact source of various different kinds of substantial philosophical commitments in ontology, epistemology, and elsewhere. An illustration is offered, in the de dicto case, of how (...) minimal a philosophical theory of modality might be if constructed properly, and carefully, according to functional methodology. (shrink)
If a possible-worlds semantic theory for modal logics is pure, then the assertion of the theory, taken at face-value, can bring no commitment to the existence of a plurality of possible worlds (genuine or ersatz). But if we consider an applied theory (an application of the pure theory) in which the elements of the models are required to be possible worlds, then assertion of such a theory, taken at face-value, does appear to bring commitment to the existence of a plurality (...) of possible worlds. Or at least that is so if the applied theory is adequate. For an applied possible-worlds semantic theory that is constrained to contain only one-world models is bound to deliver results on validity, soundness and completeness that are apt to seem disastrous. I attempt to steer a course between commitment to the existence of a plurality of possible worlds and commitment to such a disastrous applied possible-worlds semantics by noting, and developing, the position of one who asserts such a theory at face-value but who remains agnostic about the existence of other (non-actualized) possible worlds. Thus, a novel interpretation of applied possible-worlds semantics is offered on which we may lay claim to whatever benefits such a theory offers while avoiding realism about (other) possible worlds. Thereby, the contention that applied possible-worlds semantics gives us reason to be realists about possible worlds is (further) undermined. (shrink)
Lewis’ analysis of modality faces a problem in that it appears to confer unintended truth values to certain modal claims about the pluriverse: e.g. ‘It is possible that there are many worlds’ is false when we expect truth. This is the problem of advanced modalizing. Divers presents a principled solution to this problem by treating modal modifiers as semantically redundant in some such cases. However, this semantic move does not deal adequately with advanced de re modal claims. Here, we motivate (...) and detail a comprehensive semantics for advanced modalizing de dicto and de re. The generalized semantic feature of the initial solution is not redundancy but absence from counterpart-theoretic translations of world-constrictions. (shrink)
Kant states that necessity and strict universality are criteria of a priori knowledge. Interpreting this dictum standardly and straightforwardly in respect of necessity, it is inconsistent with there being necessary a posteriori truths or contingent a priori truths (cf Kripke). This straightforward interpretation may convict Kant of understandable error (at worst) in the case of necessity, but it is so uncharitable in the case of strict universality that we ought to seek an alternative. I offer a charitable interpretation of the (...) doctrine that necessity and strict universality are sufficient conditions of a priority, commenting briefly on comparable necessary conditions. (shrink)
Colin McGinn proposes that acceptance of the supervenience of the modal on the actual is the natural form of expression of a non-objectual realism about modality. Here, some of the difficulties that arise in applying theses of supervenience to the modal-actual case are discussed. It is then argued: 1)that the truth of many such theses is determined on uncontroversial modal logical and conceptual grounds, and 2) that this and other independent considerations render it highly implausible that the affirmation of modal-actual (...) supervenience amounts to a modal realism. (shrink)