Philosophy 540

Spring 2003

Wed 7-9:50 PM



Professor Karen Bennett

221 1879 Hall



The purpose of this seminar is to go over some of the important literature on the metaphysics of modality, with a particular eye towards working out how to be an actualist.  We will begin with some of the early-ish attempts to provide 'ersatzist' accounts of possible worlds, and work our way to some quite recent, actualist-friendly, approaches to modality.  Among other things, we will discuss aliens, iterated modalities, the Barcan formula and its converse, modalism, fictionalism, modal epistemology, and the source of modal truth.


Disclaimer:  although some of what we will cover presumably counts as philosophical logic, I don't remotely pretend to be a logician.



All of the readings are on reserve in the Marx Library. 



A unit can be earned either by paper or by a time-limited take-home exam.  If you plan to do either, please let me know as soon as possible.


Tentative Schedule of Readings:


2/5       No class (Dick Jeffrey's memorial service)


2/12     Introduction & Background

Lycan (1991), "Two‹No, Three‹Concepts of Possible Worlds"

Lewis (1990), "Noneism or Allism?"

Adams (1974), "Theories of Actuality"

Stalnaker (1976), "Possible Worlds"

Armstrong (1989), from A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility


2/19     Plantinga-fest

Plantinga (1974), The Nature of Necessity, pp.44-77  (optional?)

Plantinga (1976), "Actualism and Possible Worlds"

Plantinga (1981), "On Existentialism"

Optional: Jager (1982), "An Actualist Semantics for Quantified Modal Logic"

McMichael (1983), "A Problem for Actualism about Possible Worlds"

Fine (1985), "Plantinga on the Reduction of Possibilist Discourse"

Plantinga (1985), from "Replies"


2/26     Back to SQML? 

Kripke (1963), "Semantical Considerations on Modal Logic"

Linsky & Zalta (1994), "In Defense of the Simplest Quantified Modal Logic"

Tomberlin (1996), "Actualism or Possibilism?"

Linsky & Zalta (1996), "In Defense of the Contingently Nonconcrete"

Bennett (draft), "Against Proxy 'Actualism'"??


Williamson, (1998) "Bare Possibilia" (esp. section 5)

Williamson (1999), "Existence and Contingency" (esp section 3)

Williamson (1999), "Truthmakers and the Converse Barcan Formula" (2000)


3/5       'Existentialist', Non-Proxy Actualism

Prior, from Time and Modality

Adams (1981), "Actualism and Thisness"

Lycan and Shapiro (1986), "Actuality and Essence," § 0, 1, (2), and 5.4

Lewis (1986), On the Plurality Of Worlds, 3.1 and 3.2

Bennett (draft), "Barcan Mad"??  (probably elsewhere)

Fitch (1996) "In Defense of Aristotelian Actualism"


3/12     Modalism

Fine (1977), "Postscript to Worlds, Times, and Selves"

Forbes (1985), "Metaphysics for the Semantics," ch. 4 (pp. 70-95) of The Metaphysics of Modality

Chihara (1998), from The Worlds of Possibility 141-172

Forbes (1989), Languages of Possibility, ch. 2, 3, and 4 (pp. 19-114)

Melia (1992), "Against Modalism"

Forbes (1992), "Melia on Modalism"


Spring Break


3/26     Fictionalism

Rosen (1990), "Modal Fictionalism"

Brock, (1993), "Modal Fictionalism: Response to Rosen"

Rosen (1993), "A Problem for Fictionalism about Possible Worlds"?

Hale (1995), "Modal Fictionalism: A Simple Dilemma"

Rosen (1995), "Modal Fictionalism Fixed"

Hale (1995), "A Desperate Fix"

Noonan (1994) "In Defense of The Letter of Fictionalism"

Nolan (1997), "Three Problems for 'Strong' Modal Fictionalism"

Divers (1999), "A Modal Fictionalist Result"

Chihara, from Worlds of Possibility, 168-181


4/2       a) Catch-up and b) Another Option

Melia (2001), "Reducing Possibilities to Language"

Sider (2002), "The Ersatz Pluriverse"


4/9       Blackburn's Quasi-Realism

Blackburn (1987),"Morals and Modals"

Blackburn (19xx), "Moral Epistemology"


4/16     Nouveau-Conventionalism

Sidelle (1989), from Necessity, Essence, and Individuation: A Defense of Conventionalism

Yablo (1992), Review of Necessity, Essence, and Individuation

Forbes (19xx), Review of Necessity, Essence, and Individuation

Sider (draft), "Reducing Modality"


4/23     Recent Fine

Fine (1994), "Essence and Modality"

Fine (2001), "Varieties of Necessity"


4/30     Recent Peacocke

Peacocke (1999), Chapter 4 of Being Known

Peacocke (2002), "Precis of Being Known"

Rosen (2002), "Peacocke on Modality"

Williamson (2002), "Peacocke's Theory of Modality

Wright (2002), "On Knowing What is Necessary"

Peacocke (2002), "The Principle-Based Account of Modality: Elucidations and Resources"

Peacocke(2002), "Principles for Possibilia