The Possible And The Actual Readings In The Metaphysics Of Modality Pdf

the possible and the actual readings in the metaphysics of modality pdf

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It was written by the following authors: Michael Loux. Other books on similar topics can be found in sections: Beliefs , Spirituality.

The Resurgence of Metaphysics in Late Analytic Philosophy: A Constructive Critique

To browse Academia. Skip to main content. By using our site, you agree to our collection of information through the use of cookies. To learn more, view our Privacy Policy. Log In Sign Up. Download Free PDF. Dionysis Christias. Download PDF. A short summary of this paper. The resurgence of metaphysics in late analytic philosophy: A constructive critique Dionysis Christias Abstract: The purpose of the irst part of this paper is to examine the major turning point events that transformed the attitude of analytic philosophers towards metaphysical discourse.

We will focus on one such turning point, the modal revolution, based on the resources of possible world semantics, developed by Kripke who devised suitable models for modal logic and by philosophers such as Lewis and Plantinga who offered inluential metaphysical interpretations of those models.

We shall see how the modal revolution, by bringing an unprecedented change in the way in which modal notions were understood by analytic philosophers, was central to the revival of metaphysics in contemporary philoso- phy. Yet, analytic philosophers encountered serious obstacles in their attempt to under- stand the ontological and epistemological foundations and implications of one of the most basic notions of the modal revolution, that of a possible world.

Thus, it will be suggested that the implications of this Sellars-inspired position are such that make it an unexpectedly relevant and novel contribution to contemporary debates in analytic metaphysics. Keywords: modal revolution; possible worlds metaphysics; Kant-Sellars thesis about modality; nominalism. The modal revolution, based on the resources of possible world semantics irst developed by Kripke ; , who devised suitable models for modal logic, and Lewis , who offered a philinq VI, , pp.

Finally, based on a version of Sellarsian nominalism about abstract entities, I will explore the possibility of providing an account of possible world meta- physical talk, which though ultimately nominalistic, acknowledges the reality of modal phenomena and attempts to legitimate rather than eliminate them i.

The modal revolution in analytic philosophy It is interesting to be reminded of the fact that, as a result of the modal revolution in analytic philosophy, virtually all analytic philosophers nowadays not only do not have any reservations about the intelligibility of modal no- tions but, even more radically, they make free use of them — i.

For up until the late s, most analytic philosophers were highly suspicious of modal notions. A whole tradi- tion of 20th-century analytic philosophy, from Russell, through Carnap and the other logical positivists to Quine himself an ardent critic of logical positivism , expressed serious reservations about the very intelligibility of modal concepts.

This extreme suspicion of the legitimacy of modal talk was a consequence of the fact that most of early and middle analytic philosophers were part of a broadly empiricist philosophical tradition1.

Early analytic philosophers — from Russell, through Carnap and the other logical positivists, to Quine —, were all heirs of this Hume-inspired broadly empiricist tradition. Hence, their viewing modal notions with suspicion was only to be expected. Moreover, these reser- vations were reinforced for 20th-century versions of empiricism because the lat- ter were strengthened and made more precise by the invention of extensional, irst-order quantiicational languages, which could express regularities and generalizations in a new, far more powerful and precise manner.

And the fact that lawlikeness or counterfactually supporting necessity distinctive of some such generalizations those that amount to natural laws extended beyond what can be captured by the expressive resources of extensional, irst-order quanti- icational logic, made modal vocabulary look even more problematic and led empiricist-minded analytic philosophers including Quine to the view that modal notions could be legitimized only if they could be explained in reso- lutely non-modal terms.

If this could not be done, modal notions should be eliminated, explained away; we should just learn to live without them. However, developments in formal logic, and especially in the ield of modal logic the logic of necessity and possibility , in the s, primarily induced by Saul Kripke, led to a most remarkable development in the recent history of an- alytic philosophy: the resurgence of metaphysics — of a traditional speculative form — as a legitimate area of research for analytic philosophers.

That is, those facts did not by themselves settle which of the things that actually happened were necessary i. Possibilities and necessities are not observable states of affairs nor can they be deduced from the latter Brandom What explains this radical transformation of recent analytic philosophy? Both 2 A classic problem of the pre-Kripkean modal logic was that, unlike irst-order quantiicational languages such as the Principia Mathematica, it could not be formalized, one of the reasons for this being that it was intensional, i.

This is the case whenever p e. It may be true that it is possible that snow is blue even though the claim that snow is blue is false. Now, for the logical positivists, Quine and Kripke alike, the paradigm of a philosophically unproblematic body of discourse is one that is extensional, because only in extensional contexts do we have an absolutely irm grasp of what we are committed to in making particular claims. Yet, until the Kripkean modal revolution nobody had shown how modal discourse could be understood extensionally.

The basic idea was that just as propositions can be true or false in the actual world, they can have truth values in other possible worlds.

Thus, on this view, to say that a proposi- tion is actually true is to say that it is true in that possible world that is the actual world; to say that a proposition is necessary necessarily true is to say that it is true in every possible world and to say that a proposition is possible possibly true is to say that it is true in some possible world or other.

In this way, the notions of necessity and possibility are understood in terms of quantification over possible worlds. Furthermore, the framework of possible worlds proved to be illuminating in the case not only of ascriptions of de dicto modality but also of de re modality.

Just as propositions are true or false in possible worlds, objects exist or fail to exist in possible worlds. Thus, in the possible world frame- work, to say that an object has a property necessarily or essentially is to say that it has this property in every possible world in which this object exists including the actual world.

And, to say that an object has a property contingently or accidentally is to say that while it has this property in the actual world, there is at least one possible world where it exist and fails to exemplify that property. Fundamental physics makes essential use of the language of natu- ral laws, and virtually all special sciences distinguish between true and false counterfactual claims.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that contemporary analytic metaphysics owes its very existence to the above cluster of Kripkean views. The metaphysical interpretation of possible worlds: modal realism, modal actualism and their problems Now, while the abovementioned novel conceptual framework of possible worlds delivered understanding and insight in a wide range of philosophical topics besides those of de re and de dicto possibilities, it illuminated topics such as the function of proper names Kripke , the nature of counterfac- tuals Lewis , time and temporal relations, causal determinism, etc.

None of the identifying descriptions of a proper name or a natural kind term i. But if proper names and natural kind terms are rigid designators, then identities in which both terms are proper names or natural kind terms are necessarily true and not contingent, as many philosophers before Kripke believed. Necessity and possibility are metaphysical notions, while a prioricity and conceivability are epistemological. Hence it turns out that metaphysical modal notions and epistemic modal notions are different, and not necessarily coextensional.

Lewis Now, providing answers to those basic questions, besides being of intrinsic interest, seems necessary for getting clearer about the precise meaning and sig- niicance of the other two pillars of the modal revolution: the theory of direct reference and the distinction between metaphysical and epistemic modalities7.

Here we will not attempt to provide an account of the complex interrelations between those three major pillars of contemporary analytic metaphysics8. But what exactly is that?

Do individuals in other possible worlds really exist or is this just a manner of speaking? Modal realism is the view that other possible worlds are just as real and concrete as the actual world. Individuals in those worlds are just as real and exist just as fully and concretely as actual individuals. Our world is but one world among many. Yet, other possible worlds are spatiotem- porally and causally isolated from the actual world and from each other. Our world — the actual world — does not have an ontologically privileged status.

Kripke ; Fitch That is, he seems to believe that our ordinary intuitions about counterfactual situations sufice to semantically ix the notion of possible world and rigid designator for philosophi- cal purposes.

But philosophers disagree as to whether this is correct. Lewis agrees, and actually embraces this counterintuitive consequence. Individuals from different possible worlds cannot be related by strict numerical identity there is no transworld identity. However, there is a weaker relation that ties individuals from one world to individuals from an- other, and he considers this relation strong enough to support our prephilo- sophical intuitions about modality.

This is the counterpart relation, a relation of similarity or resemblance between individuals from different worlds Very few philosophers are willing to believe that there exist concrete but non-actual objects. The natural view here is modal actualism, i. Hence, modal actualists, on their part, have the burden of ex- plaining how other possible worlds are to be constructed out of things found in the actual world. Here is how Plantinga attempts to pull this trick off.

For him, possible worlds are maximal states of affairs, i. Note, for example, that the above analysis of transworld identity in terms of counterpart relations turns facts about essences into facts about similarity relations between concrete particulars.

A state of affairs is deined as an individual having a property e. Yet, those non-obtaining states of affairs exist and are part of the actual world.

They are abstract entities that need not be exempliied in the actual world, but nonetheless exist in the actual world as serenely as the most solidly actual states of affairs.

How is this so much as possible? The key to understand this lies in the notion of individual essence. An essence is a property or conjunction of properties that is necessary and suficient for being a particular individual.

Essences exist necessarily but need not be exempliied Hence, according to this line of thought, individual essences necessarily exist as abstract objects in the actual world and in every other possible world which, in turn, exist in the actual world How does modal actualism understand the commonsensical belief that I might have had a younger brother but do not? Modal actualists are committed to interpreting examples such as the above as follows: In some al- ternative possible world an individual essence of a younger brother of mine is exempliied, but it is not exempliied in the actual world.

Some alternative possible world contains the state of affairs of that essence being exempliied. My younger brother exists in that possible world but his essence is not ex- empliied in the actual world. However, this way of understanding ordinary commonsensical modal statements such as the above populates the world with countless individual essences, one for every possible person, for every possible object, and, perhaps, even for impossible objects. For example, we want to say that the round square does not exist in any possible world.

Properties like propositions and possible worlds are necessary beings. If Socrates had not existed, his essence would have been unexempliied, but not nonexistent. In worlds where Socrates exists, Socrateity is his essence; exemplifying Socrateity is essential to him. Hence, the actual world is something different from the physical universe including myself and all my surroundings.

The latter is, for Plantinga, a contingent being, while the actual world, being a state of affairs, is a necessary being. Yet, as all essences, it exists as an abstract entity in the actual world, since everything that exists is actual. Does this not seem just as outlandish as Lewisian concretely existing but non-actual worlds? I think that by now enough has been said to show the controversial — i. Has not early and middle analytic philosophy, with its suspicion of modal and metaphysical discourse, become obsolete since the Kripke-Lewis modal revolution?

I will suggest that, at least in the case of Wil- frid Sellars, this is not the case. In section 2 we mentioned that early and middle analytic philosophers — from Russell, through Carnap and the other logical positivists, to Quine — were all heirs of a Humean broadly empiricist tradition which treated modal notions with extreme suspicion.

Possibilities and necessities were not observ- able states of affairs nor could they be deduced from the latter. Moreover, we saw how these reservations were strengthened by the invention of extensional, irst-order quantiicational logic.

Possible Worlds

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Possible worlds and situations

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Modal logic is a collection of formal systems originally developed and still widely used to represent statements about necessity and possibility. This formula is widely regarded as valid when necessity and possibility are understood with respect to knowledge, as in epistemic modal logic. The first modal axiomatic systems were developed by C.

The Possible and the actual : readings in the metaphysics of modality

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This well-chosen collection of fifteen important essays in the fields of philosophical logic and metaphysics addresses questions relating to the nature and status of possible worlds. Loux, M. Hintikka, J. MoreThis well-chosen collection of fifteen important essays in the fields of philosophical logic and metaphysics addresses questions relating to the nature and status of possible worlds. Chisholm, R. Kaplan, D. Lewis, D.

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The Possible and the Actual: Readings in the Metaphysics of Modality (eBOOK)




A thorough exposition of the philosophical applications of the notion of possible worlds, as well as a critique of the use of the concept by literary theorists, can be found in Ronen



Introduction / Loux, M. J. -- The modes of modality / Hintikka, J. -- Identity through possible worlds / Chisholm, R. M. -- Transworld heir lines.

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The Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics offers an authoritative and compelling guide to this diverse and fertile field of philosophy.