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Summary What is modality? The question is hard to make more precise in a theory-neutral way. The different approaches to modality encompassed within this section disagree radically over the sorts of resources that should be invoked when explaining the workings of our modal thought and talk. One widespread approach takes for granted the philosophical perspicuity of possible-worlds semantics, and then seeks to provide a metaphysical interpretation of the semantics. What kind of thing is a possible world? Are worlds linguistic entities, complex properties, fictions, concrete material objects resembling the actual world, or sui generis abstract entities? But other approaches to modality reject the possible-worlds framework, treating modal discourse as descriptive of the essential or dispositional properties of objects, or as expressive of our own inferential dispositions.
Key works A large proportion of the recent literature on the nature of modality responds to  Lewis 1986, which is both a presentation of Lewis' radical thesis of modal realism and a sustained methodological reflection on what is required of a theory of modality. At the other end of the spectrum from Lewis, Sider 2011 defends a conventionalism about modality which treats the distinction between contingent and non-contingent propositions as entirely of our own making. Rosen 1990 piggybacks on modal realism to propose an influential early version of modal fictionalism. Armstrong 1989 defends an alternative style of fictionalism. Relatedly, Blackburn 1986 overlays a non-cognitivist ('quasi-realist') metasemantics on the Lewisian picture.  Thomasson 2007 sets out 'modal normativism', an alternative form of non-cognitivism. Fine 1994 argues that essence cannot be reduced to modality and sketches the program of understanding modality in terms of essence. Vetter 2010 proposes to reduce modality to dispositional properties.
Introductions Sider 2003
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  1. Coincident Objects and The Grounding Problem.Ataollah Hashemi - 2022 - Journal of Philosophical Investigations at University of Tabriz 16 (41):164-173.
    Pluralists believe in the occurrence of numerically distinct spatiotemporal coincident objects. They argue that there are coincident objects that share all physical and spatiotemporal properties and relations; nevertheless, they differ in terms of modal and some other profiles. Appealing to the grounding problem according to which nothing can ground the modal differences between coincident objects, monists reject the occurrence of coincident objects. In the first part of this paper, I attempt to show that the dispute between monists and pluralists cannot (...)
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  2. Worlds are Pluralities.Isaac Wilhelm - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy:1-11.
    I propose an account of possible worlds. According to the account, possible worlds are pluralities of sentences in an extremely large language. This account avoids a problem, relating to the total number of possible worlds, that other accounts face. And it has several additional benefits.
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  3. Essence, Necessity, and Non-Generative Metaphysical Explanation.Michael Wallner - 2022 - Argumenta 7 (2):439-462.
    Finean essentialists take metaphysical necessity to be metaphysically explained by essence. But whence the explanatory power of essence? A recent wave of criticism against the Finean account has put pressure on essentialists to answer this question. Wallner and Vaidya (2020) have responded by offering an axiomatic account of the explanatory power of essence. This paper discusses their account in light of some recent criticism by Bovey (2022). Building on work by Glazier (2017), Bovey succeeds in showing that Wallner and Vaidya’s (...)
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  4. Essence and Necessity.Andreas Ditter - 2022 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 51 (3):653-690.
    What is the relation between metaphysical necessity and essence? This paper defends the view that the relation is one of identity: metaphysical necessity is a special case of essence. My argument consists in showing that the best joint theory of essence and metaphysical necessity is one in which metaphysical necessity is just a special case of essence. The argument is made against the backdrop of a novel, higher-order logic of essence, whose core features are introduced in the first part of (...)
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  5. On Unexplained (Modal) Patterns.Harjit Bhogal - 2022 - Erkenntnis:1-18.
    Some patterns call out for explanation, in the sense that we have a pro tanto reason to reject theories that do not give them an appropriate explanation. I argue that certain modal patterns call out for explanation in this way—and this provides a reason to reject certain theories of modality that fail to explain such patterns. However, I also consider a response to this argument, which claims that the modal patterns do not need explanation. This response might be viable but (...)
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  6. Nominalism and Immutability.Daniel Berntson - manuscript
    Can we do science without numbers? How much contingency is there? These seemingly unrelated questions--one in the philosophy of math and science and the other in metaphysics--share an unexpectedly close connection. For as it turns out, a radical answer to the second leads to a breakthrough on the first. The radical answer is new view about modality called compossible immutabilism. The breakthrough is a new strategy for doing science without numbers. One of the chief benefits of the new strategy is (...)
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  7. Making New Tools From the Toolbox of Metaphysics. [REVIEW]Raoni Wohnrath Arroyo - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-7.
    In this review, I specify the metametaphysical background against which Alastair Wilson’s “The Nature of Contingency” should be properly understood. Metaphysics, as a philosophical discipline, is standing on thin ice. The caricature of the situation is polarized, and is often presented as follows: metaphysics is either entirely extracted from science or it is entirely independent of science. There is a recent trend that focuses on the middle ground between these extremes, searching the philosophical literature for metaphysical theories that can fill (...)
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  8. Modal Objectivity1.Clarke-Doane Justin - 2019 - Noûs:266-295.
    It is widely agreed that the intelligibility of modal metaphysics has been vindicated. Quine's arguments to the contrary supposedly confused analyticity with metaphysical necessity, and rigid with non-rigid designators.2 But even if modal metaphysics is intelligible, it could be misconceived. It could be that metaphysical necessity is not absolute necessity – the strictest real notion of necessity – and that no proposition of traditional metaphysical interest is necessary in every real sense. If there were nothing otherwise “uniquely metaphysically significant” about (...)
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  9. Review of The nature of contingency by Alastair Wilson. [REVIEW]Baptiste Le Bihan - 2021 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 1.
  10. How to deal with the puzzle of coincident objects.Ataollah Hashemi - 2017 - Dissertation, University of Alberta
    The grounding problem is related to the puzzle of numerically distinct spatiotemporally coincident objects. Suppose Lumpl –a lump of clay– and Goliath – the statue – are created and later destroyed, simultaneously. They would share all of their physical and spatiotemporal properties and relations. But, Goliath and Lumpl have different modal and sortal properties, which would suggest they are distinct entities, while at the same time entirely co-located. This issue creates a puzzle and raises the question of how two distinct (...)
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  11. Mechanized analysis of Anselm’s modal ontological argument.John Rushby - 2021 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 89 (2):135-152.
    We use a mechanized verification system, PVS, to examine the argument from Anselm’s Proslogion Chapter III, the so-called “Modal Ontological Argument.” We consider several published formalizations for the argument and show they are all essentially similar. Furthermore, we show that the argument is trivial once the modal axioms are taken into account. This work is an illustration of Computational Philiosophy and, in addition, shows how these methods can help detect and rectify errors in modal reasoning.
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  12. The Nature of Contingency: Quantum Physics as Modal Realism.Samuel Kimpton-Nye - 2021 - Philosophical Quarterly 71 (2):444-447.
    The Nature of Contingency: Quantum Physics as Modal Realism. By Wilson Alastair.
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  13. Essence, Explanation, and Modality.Michael Wallner & Anand Vaidya - 2020 - Philosophy 95 (4):419-445.
    Recently, Kit Fine's (1994) view that modal truths aretrue in virtue of,grounded in, orexplained byessentialist truths has been under attack. In what follows we offer two responses to the wave of criticism against his view. While the first response is pretty straightforward, the second is based on the distinction between, what we call,Reductive Finean EssentialismandNon-Reductive Finean Essentialism. Engaging the work of Bob Hale onNon-Reductive Finean Essentialism, we aim to show that the arguments against Fine's view are unconvincing, while we acknowledge (...)
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  14. The Nature of Impossibility.Martin Vacek - 2019 - Bratislava, Slovakia: VEDA.
    Possible-worlds semantics proved itself as a strong tool in analysing the statements of actuality, possibility, contingency and necessity. But impossible phenomena go beyond the expressive power of the apparatus. The proponents of possible-worlds apparatus thus owe us at least three stories. The first one is the story about ontological nature of possible worlds, the second one is the story about the theoretical role such entities play and the third one is the story about the impossible. Modal Realism (MR) provides us (...)
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  15. Possibility in a Single World.Mark Ressler - manuscript
    In response to suspicions concerning the use of possible worlds in philosophy, this brief paper proposes an analysis of possibility that requires only a single world, using a combination of temporal logic and a potentiality operator.
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  16. The Structure of Essentialist Explanations of Necessity.Michael Wallner - 2020 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 9 (1):4-13.
    Fine, Lowe and Hale accept the view that necessity is to be explained by essences: Necessarily p iff, and because, there is some x whose essence ensures that p. Hale, however, believes that this strategy is not universally applicable; he argues that the necessity of essentialist truths cannot itself be explained by once again appealing to essentialist truths. As a consequence, Hale holds that there are basic necessities that cannot be explained. Thus, Hale style essentialism falls short of what Wilsch (...)
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  17. Essence and Explanation.Albert Casullo - 2020 - Metaphysics 2 (1):88-96.
    In Necessary Beings, Bob Hale addresses two questions: What is the source of necessity? What is the source of our knowledge of it? He offers novel responses to them in terms of the metaphysical notion of nature or, more familiarly, essence. In this paper, I address Hale’s response to the first question. My assessment is negative. I argue that his essentialist explanation of the source of necessity suffers from three significant shortcomings. First, Hale’s leading example of an essentialist explanation merely (...)
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  18. Quine's Monism and Modal Eliminativism in the Realm of Supervenience.Atilla Akalın - 2019 - International Journal of Social Humanities Sciences Research (JSHRS) 6 (34):795-800.
    This study asserts that W.V.O. Quine’s eliminative philosophical gaze into mereological composition affects inevitably his interpretations of composition theories of ontology. To investigate Quine’s property monism from the account of modal eliminativism, I applied to his solution for the paradoxes of de re modalities’ . Because of its vital role to figure out how dispositions are encountered by Quine, it was significantly noted that the realm of de re modalities doesn’t include contingent and impossible inferences about things. Therefore, for him, (...)
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  19. 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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  20. New Directions in the Epistemology of Modality: Introduction.Antonella Mallozzi - 2021 - Synthese 198 (Suppl 8):1841-1859.
    The fourteen papers in this collection offer a variety of original contributions to the epistemology of modality. In seeking to explain how we might account for our knowledge of possibility and necessity, they raise some novel questions, develop some unfamiliar theoretical perspectives, and make some intriguing proposals. Collectively, they advance our understanding of the field. In Part I of this Introduction, I give some general background about the contemporary literature in the area, by sketching a timeline of the main tendencies (...)
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  21. Clauses as Semantic Predicates: Difficulties for Possible-Worlds Semantics.Friederike Moltmann - 2020 - Festschrift for Angelika Kratzer.
    The standard view of clauses embedded under attitude verbs or modal predicates is that they act as terms standing for propositions, a view that faces a range of philosophical and linguistic difficulties. Recently an alternative has been explored according to which embedded clauses act semantically as predicates of content-bearing objects. This paper argues that this approach faces serious problems when it is based on possible worlds-semantics. It outlines a development of the approach in terms of truthmaker theory instead.
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  22. Necessity and Propositions.Tristan Haze - 2017 - Dissertation, University of Sydney
    Some​ ​propositions​ ​are​ ​not​ ​only​ ​true,​ ​but​ ​could​ ​not​ ​have​ ​been​ ​otherwise. This​ ​thesis​ ​is​ ​about​ ​modality​ ​and​ ​the​ ​philosophy​ ​of​ ​language.​ ​Its​ ​centrepiece​ ​is​ ​a​ ​new​ ​account​ ​of the​ ​conditions​ ​under​ ​which​ ​a​ ​proposition​ ​is​ ​necessarily​ ​true​ ​in​ ​the​ ​above​ ​sense.
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  23. Access Granted to Zombies.Duško Prelević - 2017 - Theoria: Beograd 60 (1):58-68.
    In his "Access Denied to Zombies", Gualtiero Piccinini argues that the possibility of zombies does not entail the falsity of physicalism, since the accessibility relation can be understood so that even in S5 system for modal logic worlds inaccessible from our world are allowed (in the case in which the accessibility relation is understood as an equivalence rather than as universal accessibility). According to Piccinini, whether the zombie world is accessible from our world depends on whether physicalism is true in (...)
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  24. Modality.P. H. Partridge - 1935 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 13 (3):188-200.
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  25. A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility.M. J. Cresswell - 1992 - Philosophical Review 101 (3):660.
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  26. The Metaphysics of Modality.Phillip Bricker - 1988 - Philosophical Review 97 (1):127.
  27. Logical Atoms and Combinatorial Possibility.Brian Skyrms - 1993 - Journal of Philosophy 90 (5):219-232.
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  28. II—C oincidence and F orm.John Divers - 2008 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 82 (1):119-137.
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  29. Critical Review of Cover and Hawthorne on Leibnizian Modality.Michael J. Murray - 2000 - The Leibniz Review 10:73-86.
    In the introduction to Substance and Individuation in Leibniz, Jan Cover and John Hawthorne inform us that the aim of the book is to “grasp more clearly the metaphysical problems of individuation by taking seriously how these are played out in the hands of one influential philosopher standing as the important mediary between scholastic and modern philosophers.” Were the book to succeed in this modest aim it would be a significant achievement. In fact, it achieves this aim and a good (...)
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  30. On the possibility of a better world.H. B. Townsend - 1936 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 10:132.
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  31. On The Metaphysics Of Negation, Generality And Modality.Herbert Hochberg - 2000 - Metaphysica 1 (1).
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  32. Modality for Metaphysicians and Applications.Mark Nowacki & Ilya Farber - unknown
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  33. Fatalism and the Metaphysics of Contingency.M. Oreste Fiocco - 2015 - In Steven M. Cahn & Maureen Eckert (eds.), Freedom and the Self: Essays on the Philosophy of David Foster Wallace. Columbia University Press. pp. 57-92.
    Contingency is the presence of non-actualized possibility in the world. Fatalism is a view of reality on which there is no contingency. Since it is contingency that permits agency, there has traditionally been much interest in contingency. This interest has long been embarrassed by the contention that simple and plausible assumptions about the world lead to fatalism. I begin with an Aristotelian argument as presented by Richard Taylor. Appreciation of this argument has been stultified by a question pertaining to the (...)
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  34. Possibility and respectus-notes for the reconstruction of the precritical Kantian doctrine of modality.M. Stampa - 1995 - Rivista di Storia Della Filosofia 50 (2):355-367.
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  35. 4. Analyzing Modality.Michael Jubien - 2007 - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 3:99.
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  36. Two New Interpretations of Modality.J. Garson - 1972 - Logique Et Analyse 15:443-459.
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  37. The ghost of modality.Herman Weyl - 1940 - In Marvin Farber & Edmund Husserl (eds.), Philosophical Essays in Memory of Edmund Husserl. Cambridge: Mass., Published for the University of Buffalo by the Harvard University Press. pp. 278--303.
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  38. The Modality of Being.Robert C. Beissel - 1992 - The Thomist 56:49-69.
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  39. A Modality.Percival L. Everett - 2004 - Symploke 12 (1):152-154.
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  40. Memory for modality: Within-modality discrimination is not automatic.Leah L. Light & Dale E. Berger - 1974 - Journal of Experimental Psychology 103 (5):854.
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  41. Modality and Tautology.Peter Long - 1960 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 60:27 - 36.
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  42. Realism, Mathematics, and Modality.Hartry Field - 1988 - Philosophical Topics 16 (1):57-107.
  43. Two global views of metaphysics.Emily Grosholz - 1987 - Metaphilosophy 18 (2):161–170.
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  44. The place of the concept in logical doctrine.J. H. Muirhead - 1896 - Mind 5 (20):508-522.
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  45. The principle-based conception of modality: Sullivan's question addressed.Christopher Peacocke - 1998 - Mind 107 (428):847-849.
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  46. An immaculate conception of modality or how to confuse use and mention.Brian Skyrms - 1978 - Journal of Philosophy 75 (7):368-387.
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  47. On the possibility of a better world.H. G. Townsend - 1937 - Philosophical Review 46 (2):132-146.
  48. Leibniz' Doctrine of Necessary Truth.Margaret Dauler Wilson - 1990 - Garland.
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Modal Combinatorialism
  1. Lawful Persistence.David Builes & Trevor Teitel - forthcoming - Philosophical Perspectives.
    The central aim of this paper is to use a particular view about how the laws of nature govern the evolution of our universe in order to develop and evaluate the two main competing options in the metaphysics of persistence, namely endurantism and perdurantism. We begin by motivating the view that our laws of nature dictate not only qualitative facts about the future, but also which objects will instantiate which qualitative properties. We then show that both traditional doctrines in the (...)
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  2. Grounds, Roots and Abysses.Roberto Loss - 2016 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 5 (1):41-52.
    The aim of this study is to address the “Grounding Grounding Problem,” that is, the question as to what, if anything, grounds facts about grounding. I aim to show that, if a seemingly plausible principle of modal recombination between fundamental facts and the principle customarily called “Entailment” are assumed, it is possible to prove not only that grounding facts featuring fundamental, contingent grounds are derivative but also that either they are partially grounded in the grounds they feature or they are (...)
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