Philosophical Studies 141 (2):191-207 (2008)

David A. Denby
Tufts University
Our knowledge of the most basic alternative possibilities can be thought of as generated recursively from what we know about the actual world. But what are the generating principles? According to one view, they are recombinational: roughly, alternative possibilities are generated by “patching together” parts of distinct worlds or “blotting out” parts of worlds to yield new worlds. I argue that this view is inadequate. It is difficult to state in a way that is true and non-trivial, and anyway fails to account for our knowledge that there might have been other things, properties, relations, and combinations of these than there actually are. I sketch and defend an alternative view based on the distinction between determinable and determinate properties: roughly, alternative possibilities are generated by “intra-determinable” variation, variation from one determinate to another of the same determinable.
Keywords Possibilities  Knowledge  Metaphysics  Modality
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11098-007-9159-z
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 71,290
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

On the Plurality of Worlds.David Lewis - 1986 - Wiley-Blackwell.
New Work for a Theory of Universals.David Lewis - 1983 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61 (4):343-377.
A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility.David Malet Armstrong - 1989 - Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility.M. J. Cresswell - 1992 - Philosophical Review 101 (3):660.
Maximality and Intrinsic Properties.Theodore Sider - 2001 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63 (2):357 - 364.

View all 7 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Temporal Experience and the Present in George P. Adams’ Eternalism.A. R. J. Fisher - forthcoming - British Journal for the History of Philosophy:1-22.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Laws, Explanation, Governing, and Generation.Barry Ward - 2007 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 85 (4):537 – 552.
Silent Conditions.David Weissman - 2011 - Metaphilosophy 42 (1-2):145-154.
Generating Ultrafilters in a Reasonable Way.Andrzej Rosłanowski & Saharon Shelah - 2008 - Mathematical Logic Quarterly 54 (2):202-220.
'Might' Made Right.Kai von Fintel & Anthony Gillies - 2011 - In Andy Egan & Brian Weatherson (eds.), Epistemic Modality. Oxford University Press. pp. 108–130.


Added to PP index

Total views
82 ( #143,108 of 2,518,781 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #205,867 of 2,518,781 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes