Joseph Melia
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 199
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    More and more philosophers are using modal concepts to shed light on various philosophical problems and to analyse philosophical concepts. This introduction to the topic of modality emphasizes the metaphysics of modality - in particular, the view that a commitment to possible worlds gives us the best way to understand modality - rather than the formal semantics of quantified modal logic. Joseph Melia shows how different theories about possible worlds not only influence our more general modal beliefs but illustrate and illuminate methodological considerations such as ontological and ideological parsimony, the degree to which any philosophical theory ought to respect common sense, and the nature of philosophical analysis. Melia begins by introducing students to the de re/de dicto distinction, conventionalist and conceptualist theories, and some of the key problems in modality. He then explains how possible worlds provide a solution to many of these problems and how possible worlds themselves have been used to analyse notions outside modality such as properties and propositions. Melia also shows how possible worlds can introduce new problems of their own and argues that to make progress with these problems a theory of possible worlds is required. The pros and cons of various theories are examined in turn, including those of Lewis, Kripke, Adams, Stalnaker, and Plantinga.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8338-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. 1 Introduction to modality
    (pp. 1-20)

    Suppose we possessed an extraordinarily comprehensive and accurate theory of the world. Suppose that the language of this theory contained a name for every object; every single thing, from the black holes hidden in the heart of the furthest galaxies, to the fine cobwebs swaying in the corner of an attic, is mentioned by this theory. Suppose also that this theory contained a predicate for every categorical property, simple or complex, that is actually instantiated. The theory says what things are like to the highest level of detail. It tells us whether something has a mass of 1.153 kg, whether...

  5. 2 Modal language and modal logic
    (pp. 21-62)

    In this chapter we meet the modal languages and modal logics that philosophers and logicians use to formalize modal thought and talk. In order to understand the significance of the model theory for modal languages, we shall also examine model theory for nonmodal first-order language. Finally, we’ll see that there are limitations to the expressive resources of these modal systems: certain natural modal theses cannot be expressed in straightforward modal languages - although theycanbe expressed in a first-order language that quantifies over worlds and possibilia. This will be the first sign of support for possible worlds theory.


  6. 3 Quinian scepticism
    (pp. 63-80)

    In the first half of the twentieth century, modality was either ignored altogether or regarded with suspicion and scepticism. Of these early modal sceptics, the most suspicious and the most sceptical was W.V. Quine. Part of Quine’s scepticism stemmed from his belief that modal notions are, in some sense, not required in our philosophical and scientific theorizing.¹ As we saw in Chapter 1, this view now seems scarcely tenable. Today we see modal notions looming large in much of our everyday thought and our scientific and philosophical theorizing. Perhaps future philosophers will one day show us how the modal notions...

  7. 4 Modalism
    (pp. 81-98)

    Modalism is the view that the correct expression and articulation of modal thought and talk should include primitive modal operators such asnecessarilyandpossibly,but shouldnotinvolve quantification over or reference to possible worlds or possibilia. The correct logical form of “It is possible thatP”is simply OP. In short, modalism is the view that modal truth is not to be articulated or understood in terms of possible worlds or possibilia.

    Unlike Quine, the modalist does not wish to eliminate the modal; the modalist wishes to respect our everyday thought and talk about the possible and the...

  8. 5 Extreme realism
    (pp. 99-122)

    We now turn our attention to those metaphysicians who take the picture of possible worlds seriously and who think that possible worlds model theorydoes,in some sense, correspond to the modal facts about the world and that possible worlds should be used in the analysis of our everyday modal claims.

    How can we assess different realisms about possible worlds? What criteria should guide us in our theory choice? There are two main presuppositions that underpin the possible worlds debate. These presuppositions should not be seen as unique to the debate in modality. Rather, they have lain behind the resurgence...

  9. 6 Quiet moderate realism
    (pp. 123-154)

    One can be a realist about possible worlds, believe there are such things that exist independently of our thought and talk, without having to accept Lewis’s extreme views about their nature. Possible worlds might be abstract or mathematical entities; they might be sets of propositions or maximal uninstantiated properties; they might be like books or pictures. If we could have a metaphysics that included possible worlds but excluded talking donkeys, stalking monsters and the like, we might be able to help ourselves to many or most of the advantages of possible worlds without having to pay an unacceptable ontological price....

  10. 7 Possible worlds as sets of sentences
    (pp. 155-172)

    In this chapter we examine the view that possible worlds are essentially sets of sentences. We call this position thelinguistic theory.Unlike the quiet moderate realist, the linguistic theorist has something to say about representation, about what it is for a proposition to be true at a world. Propositions are true at worlds in much the same way as they are true at books: by being implied by the book. Indeed, linguistic theorists may evendefinethe phrase “true atw”.In this way, the linguistic theorist hopes to avoid the unnatural and magical primitives of the quiet moderate...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 173-182)
  12. Further reading
    (pp. 183-186)
  13. Index
    (pp. 187-190)