Composition as identity, as I understand it, is a theory of the composite structure of reality. The theory’s underlying logic is irreducibly plural; its fundamental primitive is a generalized identity relation that takes either plural or singular arguments. Strong versions of the theory that incorporate a generalized version of the indiscernibility of identicals are incompatible with the framework of plural logic, and should be rejected. Weak versions of the theory that are based on the idea that composition is merely analogous (...) to identity are too weak to be interesting, lacking in metaphysical consequence. I defend a moderate version according to which composition is a kind of identity, and argue that the difference is metaphysically substantial, not merely terminological. I then consider whether the notion of generalized identity, though fundamental, can be elucidated in modal terms by reverse engineering Hume’s Dictum. Unfortunately, for realists about possible worlds, such as myself,... (shrink)
It follows from Humean principles of plenitude, I argue, that island universes are possible: physical reality might have 'absolutely isolated' parts. This makes trouble for Lewis's modal realism; but the realist has a way out. First, accept absolute actuality, which is defensible, I argue, on independent grounds. Second, revise the standard analysis of modality: modal operators are 'plural', not 'individual', quantifiers over possible worlds. This solves the problem of island universes and confers three additional benefits: an 'unqualified' principle of compossibility (...) can be accepted; the possibility of nothing can be accommodated; and the identity of indiscernible worlds can be decisively refuted. (shrink)
In this chapter, I survey what I call Lewisian approaches to modality: approaches that analyze modality in terms of concrete possible worlds and their parts. I take the following four theses to be characteristic of Lewisian approaches to modality. (1) There is no primitive modality. (2) There exists a plurality of concrete possible worlds. (3) Actuality is an indexical concept. (4) Modality de re is to be analyzed in terms of counterparts, not transworld identity. After an introductory section in which (...) I motivate analyzing modality in terms of possible worlds, I devote one section to each of these four theses. For each thesis, I take Lewis’s interpretation and defense as my starting point. I then consider and endorse alternative ways of accepting the thesis, some of which disagree substantially with Lewis’s interpretation or defense. There is more than one way to be a Lewisian about modality. (shrink)
According to David Lewis, a realist about possible worlds must hold that actuality is relative: the worlds are ontologically all on a par; the actual and the merely possible differ, not absolutely, but in how they relate to us. Call this 'Lewisian realism'. The alternative, 'Leibnizian realism', holds that actuality is an absolute property that marks a distinction in ontological status. Lewis presents two arguments against Leibnizian realism. First, he argues that the Leibnizian realist cannot account for the contingency of (...) actuality. Second, he argues that the Leibnizian realist cannot explain why skepticism about one's own actuality is absurd. In this paper, I mount a defense of Leibnizian realism. (shrink)
I am a realist of a metaphysical stripe. I believe in an immense realm of "modal" and "abstract" entities, of entities that are neither part of, nor stand in any causal relation to, the actual, concrete world. For starters: I believe in possible worlds and individuals; in propositions, properties, and relations (both abundantly and sparsely conceived); in mathematical objects and structures; and in sets (or classes) of whatever I believe in. Call these sorts of entity, and the reality they comprise, (...) metaphysical. In contrast, call the actual, concrete entities, and the reality they comprise, physical. Physical and metaphysical reality together comprise all that there is. In this paper, it is not my aim to defend realism about any particular metaphysical sort of entity. Rather, I ask quite generally whether and how any brand of realism about metaphysical sorts of entity could be justified? (shrink)
In this chapter, I evaluate various conceptions of distance. Of the two most prominent, one takes distance relations to be intrinsic, the other extrinsic. I recommend pluralism: different conceptions can peacefully coexist as long as each holds sway over a distinct region of logical space. But when one asks which conception holds sway at the actual world, one conception stands out. It is the conception of distance embodied in differential geometry, what I call the Gaussian conception. On this conception, all (...) fundamental facts about distance are “local” facts.” But there is a problem: the Gaussian conception, notwithstanding its mathematical and physical credentials, appears metaphysically suspicious on Humean grounds. In the final section, I suggest that the Gaussian conception can be given a sound metaphysical footing in terms of non-standard analysis. (shrink)
The article explicates a notion of prudence according to which an agent acts prudently if he acts so as to satisfy not only his present preferences, but his past and future preferences as well. A simplified decision-theoretic framework is developed within which three analyses of prudence are presented and compared. That analysis is defended which can best handle cases in which an agent's present act will affect his future preferences.
If realism about possible worlds is to succeed in eliminating primitive modality, it must provide an 'analysis' of possible world: nonmodal criteria for demarcating one world from another. This David Lewis has done. Lewis holds, roughly, that worlds are maximal unified regions of logical space. So far, so good. But what Lewis means by 'unification' is too narrow, I think, in two different ways. First, for Lewis, all worlds are (almost) 'globally' unified: at any world, (almost) every part is directly (...) linked to (almost) every other part. I hold instead that some worlds are 'locally' unified: at some worlds, parts are directly linked only to "neighboring" parts. Second, for Lewis, each world is (analogically) 'spatio-temporally' unified; every world is 'spatio-temporally' isolated from every other. I hold instead: a world may be unified by nonspatio-temporal relations; every world is 'absolutely' isolated from every other. If I am right, Lewis's conception of logical space is impoverished: perfectly respectable worlds are missing. (shrink)
Which mathematical structures are possible, that is, instantiated by the concrete inhabitants of some possible world? Are there worlds with four-dimensional space? With infinite-dimensional space? Whence comes our knowledge of the possibility of structures? In this paper, I develop and defend a principle of plenitude according to which any mathematically natural generalization of possible structure is itself possible. I motivate the principle pragmatically by way of the role that logical possibility plays in our inquiry into the world.
According to the Truthmaker Principle: every truth has a truthmaker. Attempts to come to grips with the Truthmaker Principle played a prominent role in Lewis’s metaphysical writings over the last fifteen years of his career. Although Lewis agreed that the truth of propositions must somehow be ontologically grounded, the Truthmaker Principle was too strong: it conflicted with two of Lewis’s most fundamental metaphysical assumptions, the uniqueness of composition and the Humean denial of necessary connections. Lewis endorsed instead a weaker principle: (...) Truth Supervenes on Being. But towards the end of his career, he changed course, noting that his critique of the Truthmaker Principle rested on essentialist assumptions that he, as a counterpart theorist, does not accept. Once freed from those assumptions, a counterpart theorist can accept the Truthmaker Principle after all without buying into unmereological composition and mysterious necessary connections. (shrink)
Some argue, following Bertrand Russell, that because general truths are not entailed by particular truths, general facts must be posited to exist in addition to particular facts. I argue on the contrary that because general truths (globally) supervene on particular truths, general facts are not needed in addition to particular facts; indeed, if one accepts the Humean denial of necessary connections between distinct existents, one can further conclude that there are no general facts. When entailment and supervenience do not coincide (...) it is only failure of supervenience, not failure of entailment, that carries ontological import. (shrink)
Humeans have a problem with quantities. A core principle of any Humean account of modality is that fundamental entities can freely recombine. But determinate quantities, if fundamental, seem to violate this core principle: determinate quantities belonging to the same determinable necessarily exclude one another. Call this the problem of exclusion. Prominent Humeans have responded in various ways. Wittgenstein, when he resurfaced to philosophy, gave the problem of exclusion as a reason to abandon the logical atomism of the Tractatus with its (...) free recombination of elementary propositions. Armstrong promoted a mereological solution to the problem of exclusion; but his account fails in manifold ways to provide a general solution to the problem. Lewis studiously avoided committing to any one solution, trusting simply that, since Humeanism was true, there had to be some solution. Abandonment; failure; avoidance: we Humeans need to do better. -/- In this paper, I present what I take to be the best account of quantities, tailoring it where needed to meet Humean demands as well as my own prior commitment to quidditism, and my own comparativist inclinations. In short: determinables, not determinates, are the fundamental properties, and freely recombine; determinates arise from the instantiation of determinables in an enhanced world structure; determinate quantities may be local (in a sense to be explained), but they are not intrinsic. Is the account I end up with Humean? Not, unfortunately, as it stands: the problem of exclusion still rears its ugly head. After dismissing a failed attempt at a solution, I consider in the final section the two viable Humean options. One attributes the source of the necessary exclusions to conventional definition, the other attributes it to logic. The first is safe and familiar, but not a response I can accept given my other commitments. The second is more radical and less familiar; but I am convinced it is on the right track. I don’t have space to develop it much here, but I put it out for future research. (shrink)
Modal sentences of the form "every F might be G" and "some F must be G" have a threefold ambiguity. in addition to the familiar readings "de dicto" and "de re", there is a third reading on which they are examples of the "plural de re": they attribute a modal property to the F's plurally in a way that cannot in general be reduced to an attribution of modal properties to the individual F's. The plural "de re" readings of modal (...) sentences cannot be captured within standard quantified modal logic. I consider various strategies for extending standard quantified modal logic so as to provide analyses of the readings in question. I argue that the ambiguity in question is associated with the scope of the general term 'F'; and that plural quantifiers can be introduced for purposes of representing the scope of a general term. Moreover, plural quantifiers provide the only fully adequate solution that keeps within the framework of quantified modal logic. (shrink)
Moderate composition as identity holds that there is a generalized identity relation, “being the same portion of reality,” of which composition and numerical identity are distinct species. Composition is a genuine kind of identity; but unlike numerical identity, it fails to satisfy Leibniz’s Law. A composite whole and its parts differ with respect to their numerical properties: the whole is one; the parts are many. Moderate composition as identity faces the challenge: how, in the absence of Leibniz’s Law, can one (...) characterize what counts as a genuine kind of identity? This paper explores a promising answer: a genuine kind of identity must satisfy a version of Leibniz’s Law restricted to properties that ascribe qualitative character. Strong composition as identity holds that there is only one identity relation, that it satisfies Leibniz’s Law, and that the parts are identical with the whole that they compose. Strong composition as identity faces the challenge of showing that numerical properties do not provide counterexamples to Leibniz’s Law, and doing so in a way that is compatible with the framework of plural logic that is needed to formulate the theory. The most promising way to do this is to hold that plural logic is fundamental at the level of our representations, but not fundamental at the level of being. At the level of being, portions of reality cannot be characterized as either singular or plural. It turns out that the proposed moderate theory and the proposed strong theory are one and the same. In spite of its many attractions, I reject it. The main issue has to do with whether slice-sensitive emergent properties are possible. I argue that they are, making use both of specific examples and general principles of modal plenitude. I do not claim that my arguments are irresistible. But they cannot be evaded as easily as a related argument against strong composition as identity given by Kris McDaniel. I critically examine McDaniel’s argument to pave the way for my own. (shrink)
The most commonly heard proposals for reducing possible worlds to language succumb to a simple cardinality argument: it can be shown that there are more possible worlds than there are linguistic entities provided by the proposal. In this paper, I show how the standard proposals can be generalized in a natural way so as to make better use of the resources available to them, and thereby circumvent the cardinality argument. Once it is seen just what the limitations are on these (...) more general proposals, it can be clearly seen where the real difficulty lies with any attempt to reduce possible worlds to language. Roughly, the difficulty is this: no actual language could have the descriptive resources needed to represent all the ways things might have been. I conclude by arguing that this same difficulty spells doom for any nominalist or conceptualist proposal for reducing possible worlds. (shrink)
This volume contains eighteen papers, three with new postscripts, that were written over the past 35 years. Five of the papers have not been previously published. Together they provide a comprehensive account of modal reality—the realm of possible worlds—from a Humean perspective, with excursions into neighboring topics in metaphysics. Part 1 sketches an account of reality as a whole, both the mathematical and the modal, defending a form of plenitudinous realism: every consistent proposition is true of some portion of reality. (...) Part 2 presents and defends a realist theory of concrete possible worlds with an absolute ontological distinction between the actual and the merely possible. Part 3 presents and defends a Humean account of modal plenitude, formulating and endorsing principles of recombination, of plenitude of possible structures, and of plenitude of alien contents. Part 4 applies the Humean account to truthmaking, mereology, spacetime, and quantities. I argue that holding fast to Humean strictures leads to views that differ in radical ways from those put forth by contemporary metaphysicians. (shrink)
The Forrest-Armstrong argument, as reconfigured by David Lewis, is a reductio against an unrestricted principle of recombination. There is a gap in the argument which Lewis thought could be bridged by an appeal to recombination. After presenting the argument, I show that no plausible principle of recombination can bridge the gap. But other plausible principles of plenitude can bridge the gap, both principles of plenitude for world contents and principles of plenitude for world structures. I conclude that the Forrest-Armstrong argument, (...) when fortified in one of these ways, demands that unrestricted recombination be rejected. The appropriate restriction comes from a consideration of what world structures are possible. I argue that, although there are too many worlds to form a set, for any world, the individuals at that world do form a set. To defend it I invoke a principle of Limitation of Size together with an iterative conception of structure. (shrink)
In this introductory chapter to my collection of papers, Modal Matters, I present my tripartite account of reality. First, I endorse a plenitudinous Platonism: for every consistent mathematical theory, there is in reality a mathematical system in which the theory is true. Second, for any way of distributing fundamental qualitative properties over mathematical structures, there is a portion of reality that has that structure with fundamental properties distributed in that way; some of these portions of reality, when isolated, are the (...) possible worlds. Third, there is a fundamental ontological distinction between those portions of reality that are absolutely actual, and those that are merely possible. In the course of developing this account of reality, I sketch my views on logic, mathematics, modality, qualitative character, and actuality. An austere Humeanism that rejects all primitive modality motivates and constrains my views. (shrink)
David Lewis's book 'On the Plurality of Worlds' mounts an extended defense of the thesis of modal realism, that the world we inhabit the entire cosmos of which we are a part is but one of a vast plurality of worlds, or cosmoi, all causally and spatiotemporally isolated from one another. The purpose of this article is to provide an accessible summary of the main positions and arguments in Lewis's book.
Reality and Humean Supervenience confronts the reader with central aspects in the philosophy of David Lewis, whose work in ontology, metaphysics, logic, probability, philosophy of mind, and language articulates a unique and systematic foundation for modern physicalism.
In sections 1 through 5, I develop in detail what I call the standard theory of worlds and propositions, and I discuss a number of purported objections. The theory consists of five theses. The first two theses, presented in section 1, assert that the propositions form a Boolean algebra with respect to implication, and that the algebra is complete, respectively. In section 2, I introduce the notion of logical space: it is a field of sets that represents the propositional structure (...) and whose space consists of all and only the worlds. The next three theses, presented in sections 3, 4, and 5, respectively, guarantee the existence of logical space, and further constrain its structure. The third thesis asserts that the set of propositions true at any world is maximal consistent; the fourth thesis that any two worlds are separated by a proposition; the fifth thesis that only one proposition is false at every world. In sections 6 through 10, I turn to the problem of reduction. In sections 6 and 7, I show how the standard theory can be used to support either a reduction of worlds to propositions or a reduction of propositions to worlds. A number of proposition-based theories are developed in section 6, and compared with Adams's world-story theory. A world-based theory is developed in section?, and Stalnaker's account of the matter is discussed. Before passing judgment on the proposition based and world-based theories, I ask in sections 8 and 9 whether both worlds and propositions might be reduced to something else. In section 8, I consider reductions to linguistic entities; in section 9, reductions to unfounded sets. After rejecting the possibility of eliminating both worlds and propositions, I return in section 10 to the possibility of eliminating one in favor of the other. I conclude, somewhat tentatively, that neither worlds nor propositions should be reduced one to the other, that both worlds and propositions should be taken as basic to our ontology. (shrink)
Part 2 is concerned, in chapter 4, with semantic features of dates and duration terms, and, in chapter 5, with the conventionality of measurements of duration, and the incoherence of durationless instants.
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Diana Raffman, Nicholas Asher, Modality, Morality, and Belief, Essays in Honor of Ruth Barcan Marcus.Terence Parsons, Ruth Barcan Marcus and the Barcan Formula.Robert Stalnaker, The Interaction of Modality with Quantification and Identity.Maxwell J. Cresswell, S1 is not so Simple.David Kaplan, A Problem in Possible-world Semantics.Charles Parsons, Structuralism and the Concept of Set.