About this topic
Summary Necessitism is the view that necessarily, everything is necessarily something, where quantifiers are meant to be read unrestrictedly and modal operators are meant to be read as expressing metaphysical modality. More briefly, necessitism can be stated as the view that it is necessary what there is. Contingentism is the negation of necessitism. To illustrate the dispute between necessitists and contingentists, assume that Ludwig Wittgenstein, who was in fact childless, could have had a child. It follows with necessitism that there is actually something which could have been a child of Wittgenstein. Necessitists will typically hold that although this individual could have been a child, it is actually neither a child nor human; it is, as one may put it, a merely possible human. Contingentists typically hold that since Wittgenstein actually had no children, there is actually nothing which could have been a child of Wittgenstein. According to them, this case thus constitutes a counterexample to necessitism, witnessing that there could be something which actually is nothing, in the sense that actually, nothing is identical to it.
Key works The distinction between necessitism and contingentism was introduced in Williamson 2010, in order to replace the distinction between actualism and possibilism, which Williamson argues to be obscure. Williamson has argued for necessitism in several publications, starting with Williamson 1990. Williamson 2013 is a book-length defense of necessitism. Discussions of it by different authors can be found in Yli-Vakkuri & McCullagh 2017, along with replies by Williamson.
Introductions Williamson 2014
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  1. Generalized Identity, Zero-Ground, and Necessity.Yannic Kappes - manuscript
    This paper offers a modification of Fabrice Correia's and Alexander Skiles' ("Grounding, Essence, and Identity") definition of grounding in terms of generalized identity that extends it to zero-grounding. This definition promises to improve our understanding of zero-grounding by capturing it within the framework of generalized identity and allows an essentialist theory of modality based on Correia's and Skiles' account to resist a recent challenge by Jessica Leech. The latter is achieved by combining the following two ideas: (1) Some necessities are (...)
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  2. Abstracta and Possibilia: Modal Foundations of Mathematical Platonism.Hasen Khudairi - manuscript
    This paper aims to provide modal foundations for mathematical platonism. I examine Hale and Wright's (2009) objections to the merits and need, in the defense of mathematical platonism and its epistemology, of the thesis of Necessitism. In response to Hale and Wright's objections to the role of epistemic and metaphysical modalities in providing justification for both the truth of abstraction principles and the success of mathematical predicate reference, I examine the Necessitist commitments of the abundant conception of properties endorsed by (...)
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  3. Physical Necessitism.Hasen Khudairi - manuscript
    This paper aims to provide two abductive considerations adducing in favor of the thesis of Necessitism in modal ontology. I demonstrate how instances of the Barcan formula can be witnessed, when the modal operators are interpreted 'naturally' -- i.e., as including geometric possibilities -- and the quantifiers in the formula range over a domain of natural, or concrete, entities and their contingently non-concrete analogues. I argue that, because there are considerations within physics and metaphysical inquiry which corroborate modal relationalist claims (...)
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  4. Contingentism in Metaphysics.Kristie Miller - forthcoming - In Rikki Bliss & James Miller (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Metametaphysics. Routledge.
    Let us distinguish two kinds of contingentism: entity contingentism and metaphysical contingentism. Here, I use ‘entity’ very broadly to include anything over which we can quantify—objects (abstract and concrete), properties, and relations. Then entity contingentism about some entity, E, is the view that E exists contingently: that is, that E exists in some possible worlds and not in others. By contrast, entity necessitarianism about E is the view that E exists of necessity: that is, that E exists in all possible (...)
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  5. What Can Our Best Scientific Theories Tell Us About The Modal Status of Mathematical Objects?Joe Morrison - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-18.
    Indispensability arguments are used as a way of working out what there is: our best science tells us what things there are. Some philosophers think that indispensability arguments can be used to show that we should be committed to the existence of mathematical objects. Do indispensability arguments also deliver conclusions about the modal properties of these mathematical entities? Colyvan Mathematical knowledge, OUP, Oxford, 109-122, 2007) and Hartry Field each suggest that a consequence of the empirical methodology of indispensability arguments is (...)
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  6. Why Contingentist Actualists Should Endorse the Barcan Formula.Nicholas Rimell - forthcoming - Acta Analytica:1-27.
    On its usual interpretation, the Barcan Formula—◊∃xB → ∃x◊B—says that, if there could have been something that is such and such a way, then there is something that could have been that way. It is traditionally held that contingentist actualists should—indeed, must—reject the Barcan Formula. I argue that contingentist actualists should—indeed, must—endorse the Barcan Formula, at least assuming a standard, Tarskian conception of truth and truth preservation. I end by proposing a logic for contingentist actualists that validates the Barcan Formula. (...)
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  7. Pluralities as Nothing Over and Above.Sam Roberts - forthcoming - Journal of Philosophy.
    This paper develops an account of pluralities based on the following simple claim: some things are nothing over and above the individual things they comprise. For some, this may seem like a mysterious statement, perhaps even meaningless; for others, like a truism, trivial and inferentially inert. I show that neither reaction is correct: the claim is both tractable and has important consequences for a number of debates in philosophy.
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  8. Contingent Objects, Contingent Propositions, and Essentialism.Jonas Werner - forthcoming - Mind.
    Trevor Teitel has recently argued that combining the assumption that modality reduces to essence with the assumption that possibly some objects contingently exist leads to problems if one wishes to uphold that the logic of metaphysical modality is S5. In this paper I will argue that there is a way for the essentialist to evade the problem described by Teitel. The proposed solution crucially involves the assumption that some propositions possibly fail to exist. I will show how this assumption affords (...)
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  9. Necessitism, Contingentism, and Lewisian Modal Realism.Cristina Nencha - 2022 - Acta Analytica 37 (2):227-247.
    Necessitism is the controversial thesis that necessarily everything is necessarily something, namely that everything, everywhere, necessarily exists. What is controversial about necessitism is that, at its core, it claims that things could not have failed to exist, while we have a pre-theoretical intuition that not everything necessarily exists. Contingentism, in accordance with common sense, denies necessitism: it claims that some things could have failed to exist. Timothy Williamson is a necessitist and claims that David Lewis is a necessitist too. The (...)
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  10. In Defence of Hybrid Contingentism.Lukas Skiba - 2022 - Philosophers' Imprint 22 (4):1-30.
    Hybrid contingentism combines first-order contingentism, the view that it is contingent what individuals there are, with higher-order necessitism, the view that it is non-contingent what properties and propositions there are (where these are conceived as entities in the range of appropriate higher-order quantifiers). This combination of views avoids the most delicate problems afflicting alternative contingentist positions while preserving the central contingentist claim that ordinary, concrete entities exist contingently. Despite these attractive features, hybrid contingentism is usually faced with rejection. The main (...)
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  11. Critical Note on Williamson: A Defence of the Actualism‐Possibilism Debate.Benjamin L. Curtis & Harold W. Noonan - 2021 - Philosophical Forum 52 (1):91-96.
    In his book Modal Logic as Metaphysics, Williamson argues that the traditional actualist‐possibilist debate should be abandoned as hopelessly unclear and that we should get on with the clearer contingentism‐necessitism debate. We think that Williamson’s pessimism is not warranted by the brief arguments he gives. In this paper, we explain why and provide a clear formulation of the traditional actualist‐possibilist debate.
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  12. Contingentism Versus Necessitism: The Tractatus Standpoint.Pasquale Frascolla - 2021 - Philosophical Investigations 44 (1):3-18.
    Philosophical Investigations, EarlyView.
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  13. Second-Order Modal Logic.Andrew Parisi - 2021 - Bulletin of Symbolic Logic 27 (4):530-531.
    The dissertation introduces new sequent-calculi for free first- and second-order logic, and a hyper-sequent calculus for modal logics K, D, T, B, S4, and S5; to attain the calculi for the stronger modal logics, only external structural rules need to be added to the calculus for K, while operational and internal structural rules remain the same. Completeness and cut-elimination are proved for all calculi presented.Philosophically, the dissertation develops an inferentialist, or proof-theoretic, theory of meaning. It takes as a starting point (...)
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  14. Higher‐Order Metaphysics.Lukas Skiba - 2021 - Philosophy Compass 16 (10):1-11.
    Subverting a once widely held Quinean paradigm, there is a growing consensus among philosophers of logic that higher-order quantifiers (which bind variables in the syntactic position of predicates and sentences) are a perfectly legitimate and useful instrument in the logico-philosophical toolbox, while neither being reducible to nor fully explicable in terms of first-order quantifiers (which bind variables in singular term position). This article discusses the impact of this quantificational paradigm shift on metaphysics, focussing on theories of properties, propositions, and identity, (...)
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  15. New Powers for Dispositionalism.Giacomo Giannini - 2020 - Synthese (ST: New Foundations for Disposit):1-30.
    Establishing Dispositionalism as a viable theory of modality requires the successful fulfilment of two tasks: showing that all modal truths can be derived from truths about actual powers, and offering a suitable metaphysics of powers. These two tasks are intertwined: difficulties in one can affect the chances of success in the other. In this paper, I generalise an objection to Dispositionalism by Jessica Leech and argue that the theory in its present form is ill-suited to account for de re truths (...)
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  16. In Defense of the Possibilism–Actualism Distinction.Christopher Menzel - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (7):1971-1997.
    In Modal Logic as Metaphysics, Timothy Williamson claims that the possibilism-actualism (P-A) distinction is badly muddled. In its place, he introduces a necessitism-contingentism (N-C) distinction that he claims is free of the confusions that purportedly plague the P-A distinction. In this paper I argue first that the P-A distinction, properly understood, is historically well-grounded and entirely coherent. I then look at the two arguments Williamson levels at the P-A distinction and find them wanting and show, moreover, that, when the N-C (...)
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  17. Ground and Modality.Alessandro Torza - 2020 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 63 (6):563-585.
    The grounding relation is routinely characterized by means of logical postulates. The aim of this paper is twofold. First, I show that a subset of those postulates is incompatible with a minimal characterization of metaphysical modality. Then I consider a number of ways for reconciling ground with modality. The simplest and most elegant solution consists in adopting serious actualism, which is best captured within a first-order modal language with predicate abstraction governed by negative free logic. I also explore a number (...)
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  18. Characterising Theories of Time and Modality.Daniel Deasy - 2019 - Analytic Philosophy 60 (3):283-305.
    Recently, some authors – call them Reformists – have argued that the traditional Presentism-Eternalism and Actualism-Possibilism debates in the metaphysics of time and modality respectively are unclear or insubstantial, and should therefore give way to the newer Temporaryism-Permanentism and Contingentism- Necessitism debates. In ‘On characterising the presentism/eternalism and actualism/possibilism debates’ (2016, Analytic Philosophy 57: 110-140), Ross Cameron defends the Conservative position that the traditional debates are both substantial and distinct from the Temporaryism-Permanentism and Contingentism- Necessitism debates. In this paper I (...)
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  19. Serious Actualism and Higher-Order Predication.Bruno Jacinto - 2019 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 48 (3):471-499.
    Serious actualism is the prima facie plausible thesis that things couldn’t have been related while being nothing. The thesis plays an important role in a number of arguments in metaphysics, e.g., in Plantinga’s argument for the claim that propositions do not ontologically depend on the things that they are about and in Williamson’s argument for the claim that he, Williamson, is necessarily something. Salmon has put forward that which is, arguably, the most pressing challenge to serious actualists. Salmon’s objection is (...)
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  20. Contingent Existence and the Reduction of Modality to Essence.Trevor Teitel - 2019 - Mind 128 (509):39-68.
    This paper first argues that we can bring out a tension between the following three popular doctrines: (i) the canonical reduction of metaphysical modality to essence, due to Fine, (ii) contingentism, which says that possibly something could have failed to be something, and (iii) the doctrine that metaphysical modality obeys the modal logic S5. After presenting two such arguments (one from the theorems of S4 and another from the theorems of B), I turn to exploring various conclusions we might draw (...)
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  21. An Objection to Naturalism and Atheism From Logic.Christopher Gregory Weaver - 2019 - In Graham Oppy (ed.), Blackwell Companion to Atheism and Philosophy. Malden: Blackwell Publishers. pp. 451-475.
    I proffer a success argument for classical logical consequence. I articulate in what sense that notion of consequence should be regarded as the privileged notion for metaphysical inquiry aimed at uncovering the fundamental nature of the world. Classical logic breeds necessitism. I use necessitism to produce problems for both ontological naturalism and atheism.
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  22. Higher-Order Contingentism, Part 2: Patterns of Indistinguishability.Peter Fritz - 2018 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 47 (3):407-418.
    The models of contingency in what propositions, properties and relations there are developed in Part 1 are related to models of contingency in what propositions there are due to Robert Stalnaker. It is shown that some but not all of the classes of models of Part 1 agree with Stalnaker’s models concerning the patterns of contingency in what propositions there are they admit. Further structural connections between the two kinds of models are explored.
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  23. Higher-Order Contingentism, Part 3: Expressive Limitations.Peter Fritz - 2018 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 47 (4):649-671.
    Two expressive limitations of an infinitary higher-order modal language interpreted on models for higher-order contingentism – the thesis that it is contingent what propositions, properties and relations there are – are established: First, the inexpressibility of certain relations, which leads to the fact that certain model-theoretic existence conditions for relations cannot equivalently be reformulated in terms of being expressible in such a language. Second, the inexpressibility of certain modalized cardinality claims, which shows that in such a language, higher-order contingentists cannot (...)
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  24. Second-Order Necessitism.José Tomás Alvarado Marambio - 2017 - Eidos: Revista de Filosofía de la Universidad Del Norte 26:268-301.
    Resumen En una serie de escritos Timothy Williamson ha argumentado a favor del necesitismo, esto es, la tesis de que es necesario que todo exista necesariamente. Este trabajo discute el necesitismo de segundo orden, esto es, la tesis de que es necesario que toda propiedad exista necesariamente, considerando líneas de argumentación semejantes a las desplegadas en primer orden. Se examinan tres de estos argumentos: el carácter necesario de ser una propiedad, la aparición de las propiedades en proposiciones, y los compromisos (...)
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  25. Contingent Existence and Iterated Modality.Cian Dorr - 2017 - Analysis 77 (1):155-165.
    A discussion of a view, defended by Robert Adams and Boris Kment, according to which contingent existence requires rejecting many standard principles of propositional modal logic involving iterated modal operators.
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  26. Logics for Propositional Contingentism.Peter Fritz - 2017 - Review of Symbolic Logic 10 (2):203-236.
    Robert Stalnaker has recently advocated propositional contingentism, the claim that it is contingent what propositions there are. He has proposed a philosophical theory of contingency in what propositions there are and sketched a possible worlds model theory for it. In this paper, such models are used to interpret two propositional modal languages: one containing an existential propositional quantifier, and one containing an existential propositional operator. It is shown that the resulting logic containing an existential quantifier is not recursively axiomatizable, as (...)
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  27. Counterfactuals and Propositional Contingentism.Peter Fritz & Jeremy Goodman - 2017 - Review of Symbolic Logic 10 (3):509-529.
    This article explores the connection between two theses: the principle of conditional excluded middle for the counterfactual conditional, and the claim that it is a contingent matter which (coarse grained) propositions there are. Both theses enjoy wide support, and have been defended at length by Robert Stalnaker. We will argue that, given plausible background assumptions, these two principles are incompatible, provided that conditional excluded middle is understood in a certain modalized way. We then show that some (although not all) arguments (...)
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  28. Counting Incompossibles.Peter Fritz & Jeremy Goodman - 2017 - Mind 126 (504):1063–1108.
    We often speak as if there are merely possible people—for example, when we make such claims as that most possible people are never going to be born. Yet most metaphysicians deny that anything is both possibly a person and never born. Since our unreflective talk of merely possible people serves to draw non-trivial distinctions, these metaphysicians owe us some paraphrase by which we can draw those distinctions without committing ourselves to there being merely possible people. We show that such paraphrases (...)
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  29. Strongly Millian Second-Order Modal Logics.Bruno Jacinto - 2017 - Review of Symbolic Logic (3):1-58.
    The most common first- and second-order modal logics either have as theorems every instance of the Barcan and Converse Barcan formulae and of their second-order analogues, or else fail to capture the actual truth of every theorem of classical first- and second-order logic. In this paper we characterise and motivate sound and complete first- and second-order modal logics that successfully capture the actual truth of every theorem of classical first- and second-order logic and yet do not possess controversial instances of (...)
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  30. The Modal Octagon and John Buridan's Modal Ontology.Spencer Johnston - 2017 - In J. Béziau & G. Basti (eds.), The Square of Opposition: A Cornerstone of Thought. Springer. pp. 35-52.
    In this paper we will argue that the ontology implicit in John Buridan’s modal octagon commits him to a form of contingentism. In particular, we will argue that Buridan is committed to denying the validity of the Barcan and converse Barcan formulae.
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  31. Counting Things That Could Exist.Tobias Rosefeldt - 2017 - Philosophical Quarterly 67 (266):127-147.
    The paper deals with cases of counting things that could exist but do not actually exist that resist common strategies for actualist paraphrases and that play an important role in motivating Timothy Williamson's ontology of contingently concrete objects. It is argued that these cases should be understood as cases of quantification not over individual possible objects but rather over kinds of objects, some of which do not actually have instances. This claim is motivated by a comparison with other cases of (...)
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  32. Boring Ontological Realism.Meghan Sullivan - 2017 - Res Philosophica 94 (3):399-413.
    Boring ontological realists hold that objects exist at times and persist over time without having substantive essences. Boring realism is a consequence of the minimal A-theory of time and the most sensible formulations of necessitism. This kind of realism is at odds with a ubiquitous realist thesis, which I call the persistenceessence link. This essay surveys some examples of the persistence-essence link and argues that it is best understood as a thesis about grounding. If we understand the link in terms (...)
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  33. Williamson on Modality.Juhani Yli-Vakkuri & Mark McCullagh (eds.) - 2017 - Routledge.
    Timothy Williamson is one of the most influential living philosophers working in the areas of logic and metaphysics. His work in these areas has been particularly influential in shaping debates about metaphysical modality, which is the topic of his recent provocative and closely-argued book *Modal Logic as Metaphysics* (2013). The present book comprises ten essays by metaphysicians and logicians responding to Williamson’s work on metaphysical modality. The authors include some of the most distinguished philosophers of modality in the world, as (...)
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  34. On Characterizing the Presentism/Eternalism and Actualism/Possibilism Debates.Ross P. Cameron - 2016 - Analytic Philosophy 57 (2):110-140.
  35. Necessity, Necessitism, and Numbers.Roy T. Cook - 2016 - Philosophical Forum 47 (3-4):385-414.
    Timothy Williamson’s Modal Logic as Metaphysics is a book-length defense of necessitism about objects—roughly put, the view that, necessarily, any object that exists, exists necessarily. In more formal terms, Williamson argues for the validity of necessitism for objects (NO: ◻︎∀x◻︎∃y(x=y)). NO entails both the (first-order) Barcan formula (BF: ◇∃xΦ → ∃x◇Φ, for any formula Φ) and the (first-order) converse Barcan formula (CBF: ∃x◇Φ → ◇∃xΦ, for any formula Φ). The purpose of this essay is not to assess Williamson’s arguments either (...)
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  36. Modal Logic and Contingentism: A Comment on Timothy Williamsons Modal Logic as Metaphysics.Louis deRosset - 2016 - Analysis 76 (2):155-172.
    Necessitists hold that, necessarily, everything is such that, necessarily, something is identical to it. Timothy Williamson has posed a number of challenges to contingentism, the negation of necessitism. One such challenge is an argument that necessitists can more wholeheartedly embrace possible worlds semantics than can contingentists. If this charge is correct, then necessitists, but not contingentists, can unproblematically exploit the technical successes of possible worlds semantics. I will argue, however, that the charge is incorrect: contingentists can embrace possible worlds semantics (...)
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  37. Williamson on Fine on Prior on the Reduction of Possibilist Discourse.Kit Fine - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (4-5):548-570.
    I attempt to meet some criticisms that Williamson makes of my attempt to carry out Prior's project of reducing possibility discourse to actualist discourse.
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  38. First-Order Modal Logic in the Necessary Framework of Objects.Peter Fritz - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (4-5):584-609.
    I consider the first-order modal logic which counts as valid those sentences which are true on every interpretation of the non-logical constants. Based on the assumptions that it is necessary what individuals there are and that it is necessary which propositions are necessary, Timothy Williamson has tentatively suggested an argument for the claim that this logic is determined by a possible world structure consisting of an infinite set of individuals and an infinite set of worlds. He notes that only the (...)
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  39. Propositional Contingentism.Peter Fritz - 2016 - Review of Symbolic Logic 9 (1):123-142.
    According to propositional contingentism, it is contingent what propositions there are. This paper presents two ways of modeling contingency in what propositions there are using two classes of possible worlds models. The two classes of models are shown to be equivalent as models of contingency in what propositions there are, although they differ as to which other aspects of reality they represent. These constructions are based on recent work by Robert Stalnaker; the aim of this paper is to explain, expand, (...)
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  40. Higher-Order Contingentism, Part 1: Closure and Generation.Peter Fritz & Jeremy Goodman - 2016 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 45 (6):645-695.
    This paper is a study of higher-order contingentism – the view, roughly, that it is contingent what properties and propositions there are. We explore the motivations for this view and various ways in which it might be developed, synthesizing and expanding on work by Kit Fine, Robert Stalnaker, and Timothy Williamson. Special attention is paid to the question of whether the view makes sense by its own lights, or whether articulating the view requires drawing distinctions among possibilities that, according to (...)
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  41. An Argument For Necessitism.Jeremy Goodman - 2016 - Philosophical Perspectives 30 (1):160-182.
    This paper presents a new argument for necessitism, the claim that necessarily everything is necessarily something. The argument appeals to principles about the metaphysics of quantification and predication which are best seen as constraints on reality’s fineness of grain. I give this argument in section 4; the impatient reader may skip directly there. Sections 1-3 set the stage by surveying three other arguments for necessitism. I argue that none of them are persuasive, but I think it is illuminating to consider (...)
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  42. Williamson on Necessitism.Jeremy Goodman - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (4-5):613-639.
    I critically discuss some of the main arguments of Modal Logic as Metaphysics, present a different way of thinking about the issues raised by those arguments, and briefly discuss some broader issues about the role of higher-order logic in metaphysics.
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  43. Timothy Williamson on the Contingently Concrete and Non-Concrete.Jeffrey C. King - 2016 - Analysis 76 (2):190-201.
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  44. Model Theory and Contingent Existence.Boris Kment - 2016 - Analysis 76 (2):172-190.
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  45. On Williamson and Simplicity in Modal Logic.Theodore Sider - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (4-5):683-698.
    According to Timothy Williamson, we should accept the simplest and most powerful second-order modal logic, and as a result accept an ontology of "bare possibilia". This general method for extracting ontology from logic is salutary, but its application in this case depends on a questionable assumption: that modality is a fundamental feature of the world.
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  46. Reply to Fine.Timothy Williamson - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (4-5):571-583.
  47. Modal Science.Timothy Williamson - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (4-5):453-492.
    This paper explains and defends the idea that metaphysical necessity is the strongest kind of objective necessity. Plausible closure conditions on the family of objective modalities are shown to entail that the logic of metaphysical necessity is S5. Evidence is provided that some objective modalities are studied in the natural sciences. In particular, the modal assumptions implicit in physical applications of dynamical systems theory are made explicit by using such systems to define models of a modal temporal logic. Those assumptions (...)
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  48. Reply to Fritz.Timothy Williamson - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (4-5):610-612.
  49. Reply to Goodman.Timothy Williamson - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (4-5):640-653.
  50. Replies to King, deRosset and Kment.Timothy Williamson - 2016 - Analysis 76 (2):201-222.
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