Essays in the Metaphysics of Modality

Essays in the Metaphysics of Modality

Essays in the Metaphysics of Modality

Essays in the Metaphysics of Modality

Synopsis

Perhaps no one has done more in the last 30 years to advance thinking in the metaphysics of modality than has Alvin Plantinga. Collected here are some of his most important essays on this influential subject. Dating back from the late 1960's to the present, they chronicle the development of Plantinga's thoughts about some of the most fundamental issues in metaphysics: what is the nature of abstract objects like possible worlds, properties, propositions, and such phenomena? Are there possible but non-actual objects? Can objects that do not exist exemplify properties? Plantinga gives thorough and penetrating answers to all of these questions and many others. This volume contains some of the best work in metaphysics from the past 30 years, and will remain a source of critical contention and keen interest among philosophers of metaphysics and philosophical logic for years to come.

Excerpt

The idea of possible worlds has both promised and, I believe, delivered understanding and insight in a wide range of topics. Pre-eminent here, I think, is the topic of broadly logical possibility, both de dicto and de re. But there are others: the nature of propositions, properties, and sets; the function of proper names and definite descriptions; the nature of counterfactuals; time and temporal relations; casual determinism; in philosophical theology, the ontological argument, theological determinism, and the problem of evil (see Plantinga 1974, chs. 4 & 9). in one respect, however, the idea of possible worlds may seem to have contributed less to clarity than to confusion; for if we take this idea seriously, we may find ourselves committed to the dubious notion that there are or could have been things that do not exist. Let me explain.

I. the canonical conception of possible worlds

The last quarter-century has seen a series of increasingly impressive and successful attempts to provide a semantical understanding for modal logic and for interesting modal fragments of natural language (see, for example, Kripke [1963] 1974; Lewis 1972, p. 169; and Montague 1974). These efforts suggest the following conception of possible worlds: call it 'the Canonical Conception. ' Possible worlds themselves are typically 'taken as primitive, ' as the saying goes: but by way of informal explanation it may be said that a possible world is a way things could have been– a total way. Among these ways things could have . . .

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