Laws, explanations and the reduction of possibilitiesArnold Koslow
1IntroductionThere is a good case to be made for the idea that explanations delimit or 'narrow down' a certain range of possibilities, if the concepts of possibility and the narrowing down or reducing of possibilities are understood in a way that differs from the standard candidates for them that can be found in the literature. So the task, as I see it, is to make the case for these new types of possibilities,
1 and to describe the special way that sets of possibilities get narrowed down by laws and explanations. These possibilities (let's call them natural possibilities) might easily be dismissed as no possibilities at all, but merely a case of speaking with the vulgar. Nevertheless, there is, I think, good reason to take these examples as seriously modal. Indeed, they represent a kind of modality that opens the way to a new account of the way in which scientific explanations and laws are related to possibilities.
2Natural possibilities: casesLet us begin with some familiar cases, where things are usually and naturally described as possibilities:
|(1) A die is thrown and there are, as we say, six possibilities. They refer to what happens when the die is subject to a certain experiment, such as tossing, and an outcome (a die with six uppermost) is usually taken to be one possibility among others. |
|(2) In sample spaces generally, the members of the space are usually described as possibilities. In some cases they are the possible outcomes of an experiment, but this need not generally be the case. Usually the members of the sample space are said to represent all the possibilities. |
|(3) Declarative sentences are described as being either true or false, and this is described very naturally (in the case of standard logic) to be the only two possibilities. |
|(4) Another example, like the preceding one, only more complex, can be found in some versions of possible worlds semantics. It is assumed that a certain collection of worlds is such that it contains all the worlds, and that |
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Book title: Real Metaphysics: Essays in Honour of D.H. Mellor.
Contributors: Hallvard Lillehammer - Editor, Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra - Editor.
Place of publication: New York.
Publication year: 2002.
Page number: 169.
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