Speakers (up-to-now confirmed)
Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary
Moderately Limited Omnipotence
My presentation explores the limits of God's omnipotence and the correct understanding of it. More precisely, it proposes a conception in which there is a limit to omnipotence, but it is limited to a very specific area. What God cannot do is evil, and that is because it is not in accordance with his nature. I argue that the only thing capable of limiting God is his own nature. This thesis is workable within the framework of theistic activism (Morris & Menzel 1986), because when examined more closely this theory reveals that God can only create that which is compatible with his nature. This view is also advantageous because we do not have to accept either that abstract objects have any authority over God, or that if God can do anything, he could create a morally bad universe. Therefore, it allows us to claim that God can create a universe where 2+2=5 is possible but not one where murdering innocent people is morally good.
In the first half of my presentation, I briefly outline three possible conceptions of omnipotence (limited, moderately limited and unlimited), and show why I think two of them are unattractive. I will then turn to elaborate on the conception of omnipotence that I consider most advantageous. This is the moderately limited conception of omnipotence and it can be put in parallel with the thesis of theistic activism. After presenting the theory of theistic activism, I will explain why the kind of conception of omnipotence I propose follows from the theory and I attempt to show that the moderately limited conception of omnipotence is superior to the other conceptions.
Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy
Perdurance Truth-Conditions for Temporal Predications
According to perdurance theory, objects are stretched over time and have different temporal parts at different times – a different temporal part for each moment at which these things are said to exist. A crucial feature of perdurantism is its account of property attribution. Perduring entities have their properties and enter in relations simpliciter. However, ordinary language describes objects in a temporal way. We ordinary says that Socrates is sitting during 400 B.C. According to perdurantism, the atemporal language is the fundamental language of reality; our ordinary language – which contains temporal predications – is less fundamental. Perdurantism provides the following account of ordinary temporal predications:
(TP1) Necessarily, (x is F) at t iff x has a temporal part at t, x-at-t, that is F.
(TP1) create serious problems for perdurance theory (Sattig, 2003):
(1) Zoe, and only Zoe, is happy at t From (TP1) we derive that also Zoe proper temporal part, minus-Zoe, is happy at t, contra (1).
(2) Everything that is happy at t1 is still happy at t2 We derive that for every extended thing that is happy at t, also its instantaneous temporal part at t1 is happy. Such temporal part does not exist at t2, so (2) is false.
The goal of this talk is to provide a new perdurance account of temporal predication that solves the previous problems. (TP1) isindeed an inadequate principle. It doesn’t relativize the truth of a sentence to the language it belongs to. Precisely, temporal predications belong to ordinary language, LO. So, we have “[“x is F at t” is true in LO]”. However, the right-hand side of (TP1) expresses a sentence belonging to the fundamental language of reality, LF. So, we have “[“x has a temporal part at t, x-at-t, that is F” is true in LF]”. Consequently, establishing truth-conditions for temporal predications in terms of perdurance theory requires: i) characterizing carefully both LO and LF, and ii) fixing the relations between the two languages. The resulting truth-conditions will be the following:
New Perdurance Truth-Conditions for Temporal Predications
(TP2A) If “x is F at t” is true in LO and “F” is an attributive predicate, then “#x has a temporal part at t, yt, that is #F” is true in LF.
(TP2B) If “#Fy and y is a temporal part – proper or improper – of #x” is true in LF, then “x is F at t” is true in LO.
Perdurance Truth-Conditions for Ordinary Objects Existence
(TP3A) If “x exists at t” is true in LO, then “#x has a temporal part, yt, that exists at t” is true in LF.
(TP3B) If “#x has a temporal part, yt, that exists at t” is true in LF, then “x exists at t” is true in LO.
We will justify these truth-conditions and show that they allow one to solve the problems besetting perdurance theory.
Sattig, T. 2003. “Temporal Predication with Temporal Parts and Temporal Counterparts”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 81: 355-368.
Colin R. Caret
Utrecht University, Netherlands
Live Options and Logical Possibility
According to Beall (2018), classical logic is wrong. The job of logic is to ‘. . . firmly mark the remotest boundaries of theoretical possibilities and also furnish the weakest skeletal structure of our true (closed) theories” (Beall, 2018, p.31). If a candidate (true, closed) theory has too little content (‘gaps’) or too much content (‘gluts’), it is classically ‘out of bounds’—logically impossible. Beall rejects this demarcation because of the existence of ‘live option’ gappy and glutty theories which are taken seriously in debates about truth and paradox (e.g. Priest (2006); Field (2008)).
T is a live option theory.
So, T is at least logically possible. (logic must accommodate it)
Beall’s Inference seems quite bad, yet it is hard to say exactly where it goes wrong. This can be seen as an implicit challenge to defenders of classical logic: either revise your views on logic or explain how to resist this inference, i.e. how can you treat a theory as a live option if it is not logically possible?
I reply to this challenge. The central issue is the status of ‘live options’, i.e. theories that are taken seriously within their respective debates. If being a live option means that the theory is logically possible, then Beall’s Inference is question-begging. On the other hand, if being a live option only means that the theory is epistemically possible, then there is a lacuna in Beall’s Inference. We have good reason to say that epistemic possibilities are not always logical possibilities, but that is not enough. That view is often motivated by considerations of epistemic oversight (see e.g. Jago (2014)), yet the active participants in a debate are not agents who just accidentally overlook the ‘violations of logic’ in live option theories.
What we need is an epistemology of theory-appraisal for situations where we are explicitly aware that a given theory under is logically impossible by our own lights. I develop the view that deduction is sometimes a simulacrum of real belief-guiding inference, one which allows for a kind of pretense detached from the aim of truth. On this account we can take logically impossible theories seriously, which blocks the inference that every live option should be considered logically possible.
Beall, Jc. 2018. “The Simple Argument for Subclassical Logic.” Philosophical Issues 28:30–54.
Field, Hartry. 2008. Saving Truth From Paradox. Oxford University Press.
Jago, Mark. 2014. The Impossible: An Essay on Hyperintensionality. Oxford University Press.
Priest, Graham. 2006. In Contradiction: A Study of the Transconsistent. Oxford University Press, 2nd edition.
Utrecht University, Netherlands
Logic without Impossibilities
What is a valid form of inference? Aristotle provided an analysis in terms of the syllogism which was widely accepted until the late nineteenth century, whereafter it was replaced by today’s familiar, and more mathematical, notion of what is commonly called classical logic. According to classical logic, an inference is valid when, and only when, there is no possible circumstance (formal model) in which each premise is true and the conclusion is false. In other words, the preservation of truth from premises to conclusion across any possible circumstance is a necessary and sufficient condition for validity. This account is fairly simple and, in many cases, accords with our intuitions concerning particular cases of what counts as valid. It is widely used in mathematical and scientific practice and serves as the basis of innumerable theories and analyses in mathematics, science, and philosophy.
However, classical logic yields a number of counterintuitive results, e.g. that a contradiction entails everything and that everything entails a logical truth. For instance, even if the inference from ‘Roses are red and not red’ to ‘Cats meow’ is truth-preserving, it does not strike us as intuitively valid since the premise and conclusion have nothing to do with each other. The classical account of the conditional, i.e. ‘if. . . then’ statements, is similarly problematic. These counterintuitive features of classical logic often manifest as problems or puzzles for analyses based on classical logic. For instance, some of the criticisms of Carl Gustav Hempel’s logical analysis of scientific confirmation rest on counterintuitive properties of the classical conditional. This divergence between classical logic and our pretheoretic intuitions about conditionals and inference has led to the now rich field of relevance logic, according to which a conditional is true only if a connection of relevance holds between the antecedent and consequent (see e.g. (Anderson and Belnap, 1975)). It has also led to a growing interest in aboutness, subject matter, and content since relevance can be spelled out in terms of e.g. the sharing of subject matter or content (see e.g. (Lewis, 1988a), (Lewis, 1988b), (Yablo, 2014), and (Hawke, 2018)).
The notion of relevance has been notoriously difficult to spell out, but some of the first proof- theoretic analyses showed promise (albeit limited). For example, the natural deduction system of (Anderson and Belnap, 1975) gave a neat separation between truth preservation and relevance and was therefore faithful to its original motivation that validity involve two quite separate conditions. However, it is difficult to characterize a wide variety of notions of relevance this way, and it was not long until so-called Kripke or relational semantics for relevance logics were discovered and preferred over their proof-theoretic counterparts because of their greater flexibility. This flexibility comes with three significant costs, however.
1. First, the semantics fails to adequately separate truth preservation from relevance: a con- ditional is valid if, and only if, it is true in every circumstance—the separate condition of relevance disappears or the two are somehow conflated.
2. Second, and because of this, the semantics is committed to impossible circumstances. A coun- terexample to, e.g., ‘if roses are red and not red, then cats meow’, is one in which some circumstance makes the impossible antecedent true (see e.g. (Lewis, 1982), and (Lewis, 1988a)).
3. Third, negation is given a non-classical and contentious reinterpretation in order to provide an adequate analysis of a completely different connective, namely the conditional (see e.g. (Copeland, 1979), (Copeland, 1983), and (Slater, 1995).)
If relevance logic is to serve as the backbone of analyses in mathematics, science, and philosophy, it should not rest on a contentious semantic interpretation.
The aim of this paper is to provide a formal analysis of relevance in terms of content or subject matter which does not depend on a contentious notion of (e.g. impossible) circumstance, nor a non- classical reinterpretation of any of the usual truth-functional connectives, including the conditional. Indeed, I will argue that impossibilities have no place in logic proper. I will provide one novel example of a content-based semantics that gives rise to a well-known relevance logic.
Anderson, A. and Belnap, N. (1975). Entailment: The Logic of Relevance and Necessity, volume 1. Princeton University Press.
Copeland, B. J. (1979). On when a semantics is not a semantics: Some reasons for disliking the Routley-Meyer semantics for relevance logic. Journal of Philosophical Logic, 8(November):399– 413.
Copeland, B. J. (1983). Pure semantics and applied semantics. Topoi, 2(2):197–204.
Hawke, P. (2018). Theories of aboutness. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 96(4):697–723.
Lewis, D. (1982). Logic for equivocators. Nous ˆ , 16:431–441.
Lewis, D. (1988a). Relevant implication. Theoria, 54.
Lewis, D. (1988b). Statements partly about observation. Philosophical Papers, 17.
Slater, B. H. (1995). Paraconsistent logics? Journal of Philosophical Logic, 24(4):451–454.
Yablo, S. (2014). Aboutness. Princeton University Press.
University of Bucharest, Romania
On the Relevance of Intellectual Character Traits for Modal Epistemology
Modal epistemology tackles questions regarding the sources of our knowledge of modalities (e.g., possibility and necessity), and what justifies beliefs about modalities. Virtue epistemology, on the other hand, aims at explaining epistemological concepts like knowledge and justification in terms of properties of the epistemic subject: (a) intellectual capacities or faculties, i.e., truth-conducive, reliable faculties like perception, memory, logical reasoning etc., and (b) intellectual traits of character, i.e., acquired dispositions whose exercise involves an effort on part of the epistemic agent, e.g., thoroughness, attentiveness, epistemic autonomy, courage and open-mindedness. (Battaly 2018; Baehr 2011; Turri et al. 2021, Zagzebski 1996)
While there is extensive literature on both domains, modal epistemologists (see, among others, Chalmers 2002; Geirsson 2005; Gregory 2004; Hawke 2011; Kung 2010; Yablo 1993) elude the importance of exercising intellectual traits of character in justifying beliefs about modalities. The aim of my paper is to argue that exercising certain intellectual traits of character (e.g., thoroughness, attentiveness, epistemic autonomy, courage and open- mindedness) is necessary for (1) justifying modal beliefs, and (2) forming and retaining justified modal beliefs. The main lines of my argumentation are the following:
(1) As will be presented, according to many modal epistemologists (e.g., Chalmers 2002, Geirsson 2005; Gregory 2004; Kung 2010; Yablo 1993), imagining plays a central role in justifying modal beliefs, and acts of imagining that P involve the faculties of reasoning and memory. I will argue that an exercise of reasoning and memory is, in some cases, insufficient for justifying modal claims. Furthermore, I will point that only when exercising character traits like thoroughness, patience, perseverence, diligence etc. alongside the faculties of reasoning and memory we can acquire justification for modal beliefs.
(2) Drawing from Van Inwagen’s (1998) and Geirsson’s (2014), I will point that the epistemic activities of forming, sustaining, and rejecting modal beliefs are subject to social influences (for example, facing social pressure to accept certain modal beliefs for which there is no clear evidence). I will argue that by exercising certain traits of intellectual character like autonomy, open-mindedness and courage we can mitigate these influences on our epistemic activities, and increase the chances of forming and sustaining only justified modal beliefs.
Baehr, J. (2011). The Inquiring Mind: On Intellectual Virtues and Virtue Epistemology. Oxford University Press. Battaly, H. (2018). “Introduction.” In H.
Battaly (Ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Virtue Epistemology (1–11). New York: Routledge.
Chalmers, D. J. (2002). “Does conceivability entail possibility?” In T. S. Gendler & J.
Hawthorne (Eds.), Conceivability and Possibility (145–200). New York: Oxford University Press.
Geirsson, H. (2005). Conceivability and Defeasible Modal Justification. Philosophical Studies, 122(3), 279–304.
Geirsson, H. (2014). Conceivability and Coherence: A Skeptical View of Zombies. Erkenntnis, 79(1), 211–225.
Gregory, D. (2004). Imagining Possibilities. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 69(2), 327–348.
Hawke, P. (2011). Van Inwagen’s modal skepticism. Philosophical Studies, 153(3), 351–364.
Turri, J., Alfano, M., & Greco, J. (2021). “Virtue Epistemology.” In Z. Edward N. (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2021).
Van Inwagen, P. (1998). Modal Epistemology. Philosophical Studies, 92(1), 67–84.
Yablo, S. (1993). Is Conceivability a Guide to Possibility? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 53(1), 1–42. Z
agzebski, L. (1996). Virtues of the Mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
University of Mainz, Germany
Real Definitions, and Individual Essences
The following assumptions are wide-spread among essentialists:
(1) Objects have essences, and for most (all, many...) objects it is true that the object’s essence can be expressed by a real definition.
(2) Objects have general as well as individual essences. That an object has a general essence means that there is something that makes it the sort of object it is. That an object has an individual essence means that there is something that makes it the individual object it is.
It follows from the conjunction of (1) and (2) that the individual essences of at least some objects can be expressed by real definitions. Henceforward, I call such definitions individual definitions. I consider two problems with individual definitions, each arising from widely accepted premises.
The first problem concerns the definiendum of an individual definition. Plausibly, in an individual definition (and, probably, in any definition whatsoever) the definiendum must be grounded in the definiens. This rules out what appears natural at first glance: that the definiendum in an individual definition is the object defined. A particular object is not the kind of thing that could be grounded in the definiens. The definiendum must be propositional of predicative in character.
Recently, prominent essentialists (see e.g. Fine 2015) have suggested a solution to this problem. The Solution relies on the common association of essence with identity. The definiendum of an individual definition, it is said, is not the object defined but the object’s identity with itself. I reject this solution. While an object’s Identity with itself has the required propositional character, it is still not a candidate for being grounded in the corresponding definiens. Presumably, an object’s identity with itself has no ground at all. But even if it has, this ground is not the kind of fact that is plausibly expressed by the definiens of an individual definition.
In view of that, I suggest another solution to the problem at hand. Instead of associating essence with identity we should associate it with existence. On this approach, the definiendum of an object’s individual definition is not the object’s identity with itself but its existence. An object’s existence has the required propositional character, and it is a suitable candidate for being grounded in the definiens in the object’s individual definition. This latter point, however, needs some argumentative support, for it contradicts the common idea that the properties figuring in the definiens of an object’s individual definition are properties exemplified by the object defined. An object’s exemplification of certain properties cannot ground this object’s existence, for the former presupposes the latter. I shall, therefore, argue that, strictly speaking, the definiens in an object’s individual definition must not make reference to the defined object and its properties, but to the more fundamental objects and properties which provide the ground of the object’s existence. (The definiens in the individual definition of an H2O molecule, for example, should contain no reference to this molecule, but only to the H- and O-atoms composing it.)
For the second problem I don’t have a presentable solution, which is why I shall restrict myself to unfolding the problem. The Problem concerns real definitions in general and not just individual definitions. Plausibly, in a real definition the definiens must be metaphysically necessary for the definiendum. Essentialists, however, typically assume that all metaphysical necessities can be reduced—in one or another way—to the essences of things. If the latter were true, however, the necessity of the definiens for the definiendum could not be a condition for the fact that both relate to each other as definiens to definiendum. Rather, the relevant necessity would have to be grounded in this latter fact, which seems to reverse the right order of explanation.
University of Tokyo, Japan
Reconsidering the Intrinsic Maskability of Dispositions from Metaphilosophical Perspective: Conceptual Revision to Resolve Ambiguity
The ability to engage in counterfactual thinking, which involves envisioning non- actual scenarios that are merely possible, is extensively utilised in both scientific and everyday activities. This ability enables people to grasp dispositional properties, which determine the typical behaviour of individual things under certain counterfactual conditions.
Firstly, this paper demonstrates that dispositionality is ambiguous in the sense that dispositional predicates do not refer to a definite class of properties, focusing on the debate over the intrinsic maskability of dispositions. A disposition’s circumstances are the conditions that activate it, and its manifestations are the typical responses of its bearers. A disposition is extrinsically maskable if something external to its bearer prevents its manifestation in some possible circumstance. It has been debated whether there are also intrinsically maskable dispositions, that is, whether some dispositions can be masked by an intrinsic property of its bearer. One potential explanation for this debate is that philosophers may be capturing different classes of properties while mistakenly assuming that they share a class as the common topic of inquiry. Everyday conversations that employ dispositional predicates highlight this possibility. Uses of such predicates have a common purpose of communicating that individuals with a certain feature F 1 have a high chance of exhibiting a manifestation. Sometimes, however, there is another feature F2 such that only a small part of individuals with F1 have F2 , and F2 prevents its bearers from exhibiting a manifestation. This paper argues that it is merely a matter of stipulation to determine whether the property referred to by a dispositional predicate in such a context is included in dispositionality.
The second objective is to resolve the ambiguity of the locution ‘be disposed to M when C’, which is cited in many philosophical disciplines. Contemporary metaphilosophy provides a methodology to achieve this goal. Metaphilosophers demonstrate that some philosophical endeavours are aimed at conceptual revision, which involves changing a concept to make it more useful. In this paper, a concept is understood as a manner of lexicalisation, as proposed by Burgess & Plunkett (2013, pp. 1094–1095). The standards for evaluating the usefulness of a new concept are based on whether its lexicalisation serves the functions of dispositional predicates excellently, in accordance with Thomasson’s proposal (2020, p. 440). The proposal of this paper is to introduce a new lexicalisation of ‘be E/I-disposed to M when C’. The extension of ‘E-disposed’ is stipulated to be a narrow class of properties that are only extrinsically maskable, and that of ‘I-disposed’ is stipulated to be a wide class of properties that are both extrinsically and intrinsically maskable. As a case study, this paper addresses a problem in the philosophy of mind. According to Ashwell (2014), functionalists must admit the intrinsic maskability of dispositions in explaining conflicting desires. She contends that given the controversial nature of their intrinsic maskability, philosophers of mind should avoid having such a strong 3 commitment. However, it is argued that using ‘I-dispositions’ instead of ‘dispositions’ provides a solution to this problem.
The main contributions of this paper are twofold: (1) metaphysicians studying dispositions may not share a definite class of properties as the topic of inquiry; and (2) conceptual revision is required to address philosophical problems arising from the ambiguity of dispositionality.
Ashwell, L. (2014). The metaphysics of desire and dispositions. Philosophy Compass, 9(7), 469–477.
Burgess, A., & Plunkett, D. (2013). Conceptual ethics I. Philosophy Compass, 8(12), 1091–1101.
Thomasson, A. L. (2020). A Pragmatic Method for Conceptual Ethics. In H. Cappelen, D. Plunkett, & A. Burgess (Eds.), Conceptual Engineering and Conceptual Ethics (pp. 435–458). Oxford University Press.
Cameron L. Johnson
CUNY Graduate Center, The United States
Every Possible World Exists, and Each is Necessarily a Loop
Why is there something rather than nothing? In “Why Anything? Why This?”, Derek Parfit canvasses several ultimate explanations for existence and their pitfalls, conceding that the possibility for any cogent answer to the question is unlikely. Though this perennial problem is seemingly intractable, I believe that many explanations fail due to foundational assumptions regarding the nature of nothingness. By shifting our intuitions on nothingness, a plausible explanation can be given.
I provide such an explanation first by giving a model of reality common to most explanations, focusing on simplicity as an ultimate explanation. Then, by developing an account against the coherence of absolute nothingness, I critique the view that the simplest reality is one devoid of anything. In so doing, I provide two arguments against absolute nothingness: The Truth- maker Argument and the Modal Argument. Briefly, the Truth-maker Argument says that there is no truth-maker for absolute nothingness and therefore nothing to make it the case that it obtains; the Modal Argument says that absolute nothingness could not have obtained (that is, there is no possible world where absolute nothingness obtains) since absolute nothingness precludes the existence of possible worlds. Thereafter, I underscore the difference between ontological and explanatory simplicity, showing that though a reality of finitely many worlds is ontologically simpler than one with infinitely many, such a finitude is explanatorily more complex and arbitrary. I then argue that an unbounded maximality of infinitely many, causally disconnected worlds (the opposite of absolute nothingness, henceforth “Maximality”) is the simplest explanation for existence. I then attempt to make the view more palatable by questioning, as Robert Nozick did in Philosophical Explanations, absolute nothingness as the default state from which to build up existence (I also briefly address an objection to the concept of a default state). I argue that we should instead take Maximality as the default state, thus requiring no explanation for our existence since our world is member of the collection of all existing worlds. I leave it an open question whether there any worlds are filtered out of Maximality (that is, whether impossible worlds are a part of Maximality).
Toward the end, I address concerns for this version modal realism, namely the purported necessity of eternalism in each possible world, and posit that each possible world must be a causal loop. I conclude by remarking on complications for, and implications from, the view, namely whether impossible worlds exist, how to avoid arbitrariness with personal identity in Maximality, whether causally disconnected worlds makes sense, and whether a good action in one world is always negated by a bad action in another (that is, whether the view implies that we should be (moral) nihilists).
David Mark Kovacs
Tel Aviv University, Israel
Necessitarianism about Composition: Substantive and Methodological
Peter van Inwagen’s (1990) Special Composition Question (SCQ) asks: for any objects, the xs, under what necessary and jointly sufficient conditions is there a y such that the xs compose y? It used to be standardly assumed that the true answer to the SCQ is constant throughout possible worlds (Sider 1993, Williams 2006). I will call this view necessitarianism. However, some philosophers challenge this assumption and defend contingentism about composition (Cameron 2007, Miller 2009, Parsons 2013).
The main purpose of this paper is to clarify what is at stake in the debate between necessitarians and contingentists. I will distinguish between a substantive and a methodological version of each view. Substantive necessitarians think of some particular answer to the SCQ that that answer is necessarily true. By contrast, methodological necessitarians think that we should accept as a reasonable working hypothesis that the answer to the SCQ, whatever it is, is necessarily true.
I will argue that the truth of substantive necessitarianism is impossible to settle in the abstract because it depends on what the correct answer to the SCQ is, and on our best reasons for accepting that answer. For example, necessitarianism is more likely to be true conditional on nihilism (the view that the xs don’t compose anything under any circumstances) than conditional on organicism (van Inwagen’s view that the xs compose something just in case their activity constitutes a life).
This leaves open the question of how we should think about methodological necessitarianism. Even if the modal status of composition cannot be settled independently of the truth of specific first-order views and the arguments supporting them, is either necessitarianism or contingentism reasonable as a default position that we can accept as “innocent until proven guilty”? This raises the question of how methodological necessitarianism, understood as a thesis that isn’t committed to any first-order view about composition, should be formulated. I will distinguish between actuality-sensitive and actuality-insensitive formulations: according to the former, we should assume that if an answer to the SCQ is true, it is necessarily true; while according to the latter, we should assume that if an answer to the SCQ is possibly true, it is necessarily true. Moreover, I will distinguish between existential and universal formulations: according to the former, at least one answer to the SCQ is necessarily true; while according to the latter, any true answer to the SCQ is necessarily true. The difference is significant because, as I will show, there are extensionally equivalent answers to the SCQ that might differ in their modal status.
I will argue that the best formulation of methodological necessitarianism is an existentially quantified actuality-sensitive thesis. I also will argue that this thesis is promising, because composition is a natural relation on which our best handle is the set of conditions under which it obtains; i.e., these conditions fix the reference of ‘composition’. Thus, attempts to describe worlds in which the conditions of composition are different are best understood as descriptions of worlds in which a different (composition-like) relation obtains under different conditions. Thus, a certain form of methodological necessitarianism is vindicated.
University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
The Prehistory of Possible Worlds Semantics
It is usually pointed out that the basic idea of interpreting necessity as truth in all possible worlds and possibility as truth in at least one possible world comes from Leibniz. In fact, we find in Leibniz a traditional logical understanding of modality. A proposition is necessarily true if its denial involves contradiction and contingently true if its denial does not involve contradiction. More specifically, Leibniz establishes the distinction between necessity and contingency in terms of analysis: in the case of necessary propositions the analysis arrives at the statement of identity, while in the case of contingent propositions the analysis never ends. Therefore, Leibniz does not introduce the theory of possible worlds in his explanation of modality, but rather in his theodicy and defense of God’s and people’s free will. Possible worlds are the ideas in God’s intellect from amongst which he chooses the best one and creates it. Nevertheless, this idea is indeed important for the development of the contemporary understanding of modality since it involves reference to simultaneous alternatives. There exists only one world, but there are infinitely many other worlds which are also possible and represent the unrealized alternatives to our world. In ancient philosophy we do not find this synchronic understanding of modality. Apart from the usual understanding of possibility as non-contradictoriness, the most prevalent is the diachronic one: what is necessary is always actual, what is impossible is never actual, and what is possible is at least sometimes actual. However, the synchronic notion makes an appearance already in the Middle Ages; we find it, for example, in Duns Scotus’s modal logic. Quite intriguing is also the use of imaginary worlds in the natural philosophy after “The Condemnation of 1277” when the bishop of Paris, Etienne Tempier, condemned 219 propositions among which was also the claim “that the first cause could not make several worlds” (Article 34). Natural philosophers continued to support Aristotle’s position that only one world exists but made sure to add that God could also create others if He wished so. Here they usually asserted a counterfactual by way of imagination. In other words, they referred to the imaginary worlds which could be viewed as predecessors of Leibniz’s possible worlds.
University of Massachusetts, Boston, The United States
She Lied. He Lied. They both Lied
One traditional way of individuating propositions is to identify them with the set of possible worlds in which they are true. However, this approach fails to account for the content/meaning of propositions: certain propositions that share the same content/meaning may have different truth values in possible worlds outside of the scope of our epistemic reach, while other propositions identified by the same set of possible worlds may have different contents (necessary truths being the standard example for this case). My paper will introduce a Moderate Antirealist (hereafter MAR) approach to meaning and truth, built around the concept of knowability. The main goal of this essay is to suggest that this MAR approach offers a way out of the above problem, the problem of hyperintensionality.
I will use the following puzzle, taken from Tim Maudlin, to illustrate our MAR approach and its explanatory power: “Sam says ‘Sue is lying’. Sue says ‘Joe is lying’. Joe says ‘Both Sam and Sue are lying’. Who is telling the truth?” While this puzzle has a standard solution (Sue is telling the truth, while the other two are lying), we (following Maudlin) may find this “solution” unsatisfactory, as it is unclear what content/meaning these sentences could have at all. Our insights about this logical puzzle will be extended to multi-sentence variants of such semantic paradoxes as the Truthteller and the Liar (e.g.: The next sentence is false. The previous sentence is true.)
Semantic antirealism is built around the twin principles that neither truth nor meaning can outstrip knowability. Our MAR approach is motivated by the fact that both principles resist easy, straightforward formalizations. The simplest way to formalize the first principle (regarding truth) is that
(where K is the knowledge operator, expressing that p is known) but this formalization is inadequate, as we can learn from the Church-Fitch paradox. It also fails to provide an antirealist definition of truth, as it offers only a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for it. Similarly, identifying propositional meaning with the set of possible worlds in which the proposition is true fails to meet the expectations of the second principle regarding meaning.
One way to prevent the Church-Fitch paradox is to introduce a MAR truth definition the following way:
where T is the moderate antirealist truth operator. Truth, accordingly, is essentially two-pronged: it is neither purely metaphysical/ontological, nor it is purely epistemic; these two aspects cannot be reduced to either one of them. Our MAR approach to content/meaning will identify propositional meaning not with the set of worlds in which the proposition is true, but rather with the sets of worlds in which the proposition is known to be true (positive content) and known to be false (negative content). More importantly, I will argue that these two approaches – to truth and to propositional meaning – are fundamentally interconnected and provide support for each other.
Using this MAR approach to our logical puzzle, we can properly formalize the sentences, and the proposition representing all three sentences will turn out to be unknowable and so meaningless. Accordingly, the proper solution of the puzzle is that each of the sentences are factual, but unknowable. Still, this answer is incomplete without considering the source of the standard (and in our view, incorrect) solution. The answer I will offer is that the standard solution originates from the fact that we attributed, illegitimately, meaning/content to sentences that cannot have meaning. This section will also connect this puzzle to some other semantic paradoxes (namely, the Liar and the Truthteller) and to their multi-sentence versions.
Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
Ontological Commitment Exposed
The currently dominant metaontology is Quinean and places ontological commitment at its centre. It is the purpose of this paper to assess the viability of ontological commitment. I argue that the various criteria of ontological commitment do not answer to the particular motivations there are to introduce ontological commitment in the first place. In order to do so, I distinguish between four potential problems for criteria of ontological commitment, viz., that criteria should (i) be neutral, (ii) not ascribe too many or (iii) too few ontological commitments, and (iv) not ascribe wrong ontological commitments.
We can distinguish between three potential motivations to introduce ontological commitment into the debate—all three of these can loosely be traced back to Quine himself—viz., levelling the playing field, catching cheaters, and theory choice. Let me discuss these briefly in turn.
The first motivation, i.e., levelling the playing field, can be taken to be the original motivation for Quine to write his ‘On What There Is’ (1948; OWTI henceforth). Quine’s self-set task in OWTI is to find a way to have ontological debates without begging the question. In particular, Quine wants a sentence like ‘Fs do not exist’ to be unproblematically assertable and not presuppose the existence of F, since otherwise
[i]t would appear [. . . ] that in any ontological dispute the propo- nent of the negative side suffers the disadvantage of not being able to admit that his opponent disagrees with him. (1948: 21)
The second motivation, i.e., catching cheaters, similarly traces to OWTI and Quine’s point to introduce an “ontological standard” (1948: 34). The idea is that once we have a criterion of ontological commitment, we can check whether someone’s claims cohere with their accepted ontology, i.e., following Berto and Plebani’s (2015: 27) phrasing, we can catch ontological cheaters by showing that their ontological commitments and their ontology comes apart.
The third motivation is that we can use the ontological commitments of theories to choose between them, viz., two theories which are otherwise equal can be distinguished by their ontological commitments; the fewer ontological commitment a theory has the better.
Given these motivations, criteria of ontological commitment should avoid the mentioned four potential problems, i.e., we can place the fol- lowing constraints on criteria:
(O-Neutral) A criterion should be ontologically neutral.
(Too Many OCs) A criterion should not ascribe too many ontological commitments to a theory.
(Too Few OCs) A criterion should not ascribe too few ontological com- mitments to a theory.
(Wrong OCs) A criterion should not ascribe wrong ontological com- mitments to a theory.
What I argue is that the usual criteria, assuming them to satisfy (O- Neutral) either don’t satisfy (Too Many OCs) or (Too Few OCs)— as solving the one problem leads to the other—and often not (Wrong OCs). In particular, I consider the criteria proposed by Quine himself as well as those by Cartwright (1954), Church (1958), as well as the unknown relative criteria as proposed by Chateaubriand (1971).
In particular, as I argue, in order for criteria to ascribe the apparently correct ontological commitments to theories, we need to step outside the theories and thereby violate (O-Neutral) and potentially (Too Many OCs) and (Wrong OCs). But this means that the first and third motivations are not satisfied, and the second motivation is, at best, satisfied by arbitrary decisions.
Berto, Francesco and Matteo Plebani (2015). Ontology and Metaontology. A Contemporary Guide. London: Bloomsbury.
Cartwright, Richard L. (1954). Ontology and the Theory of Meaning. Philosophy of Science 21(4), 316–325.
Chateaubriand, Oswaldo (1971). Ontic Commitment, Ontological Reduc- tion, and Ontology. PhD Thesis, University of California at Berkeley.
Church, Alonzo (1958). Ontological Commitment. Journal of Philosophy 55(23), 1008–1014.
Quine, Willard van Orman (1948). On What There Is. The Review of Metaphysics 2(5), 21–38.
Northeastern University London, The United Kingdom
Noneism, Possibilism and Actualism
Actualism is a widespread view in the metaphysics of modality, according to which, necessarily, everything that could have existed already does: □∀x(♢Ex → Ex) (Menzel (2020), Jacinto (2019), Plantinga (1985)). To be an actualist, therefore, is to deny that there could have been possibilia: objects which could have existed but, in fact, do not. Actualism is, thus, the striking thesis that all possibilities are grounded in what (actually) exists.
In this talk, I will elaborate on some ideas contained in Ch. 9 of Priest (2016) and present a twofold case against actualism. The view which underpins those objections is a novel form of Meinongian possibilism, which I call noneist possibilism, committed to the view that there could have been something which could have existed but, in fact, does not (♢∃x(♢Ex&¬Ex)). T
he first of the two arguments which I will press against actualism revolves around the noneist account of conceivability, which is based on the simple principle that an agent can conceive every scenario: possible, or otherwise (Berto (2022: 110 ff), Priest (2016: 192 ff)). With this account in place, this novel form of possibilism finds itself in a position to show that actualism cannot fully vindicate the intuitions it purports to account for. For example, as Menzel (2023) contends, an actualist will typically argue that, given the doctrine of the essentiality of origin, no one could have been Pope Francis’ child (assuming Pope Francis’ lifelong chastity). Now, the possibilist need not disagree with the actualist that one’s origin is necessary; nor need they disagree with the actualist that no one could have been Pope Francis’ child. But surely we know what we are talking about when we are talking about the child whom Pope Francis could have fathered. And we know this, because we can conceive of a child fathered by Pope Francis. Now, for the noneist possibilist, this intuition can be vindicated by maintaining that Pope Francis’ child only exist at impossible worlds. The actualist, by contrast, has no way to vindicate the intuition. Given the key thesis of actualism, □∀x(♢Ex → Ex), the actualist can maintain that some existent are inconsistent. Alternatively, as Menzel (2020: 1980) suggests, the actualist can (should!) help themselves to the additional principle that, necessarily, everything is possible (□∀x♢Ex) and maintain that the child whom Pope Francis could have fathered is, in fact, nothing at all. Thus, I conclude that, given actualism, either the existent is inconsistent, or else we cannot conceive of some things which we seemingly have no reason to doubt we can conceive.
The second argument I would like to press against actualism takes off from this last point, and takes seriously the possibility that we may have serious reasons to doubt that we can conceive of the child Pope Francis may have fathered. Even granted that this possibility is available to the actualist, I contend that much more is needed to show that they can avoid the conclusion that the existent is inconsistent. I will exploit the Priest construction in (2016: §§9.1-9.5), to observe that the actualist’s underlying logic may well be FDE. And, if so, any state of affairs will be logically possible - including, of course, the one where Pope Francis fathered a child. The upshot of my discussion, I submit, is that actualism is far from being the obvious doctrine that it is far too often portrayed to be.
Berto, F. (2022). Topics of Thought. The Logic of Knowledge, Belief, Imagination. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Jacinto, B. (2019). Serious Actualism and Higher-Order Predication. Journal of Philosophical Logic, 48(3), 471–499.
Menzel, C. (2020). In Defense of the Possibilism-Actualism Distinction, Philosophical Studies, 177: 1971-1997.
Menzel, C. (2023). The Possibilism-Actualism Debate. In E. N. Zalta & U. Nodelman (Eds.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, Spring 2023 edition.
Plantinga, A. (1985). Replies to my Colleagues, in Alvin Plantinga, ed. James Tomberlinand Peter Van Inwagen, Dordrecht: D. Reidel: 313–396.
Priest, G. (2016). Towards Non-Being: The Logic and Metaphysics of Intentionality. Oxford:Oxford University Press, 2nd Edition.
Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain
Induction Towards Necessity
Modal knowledge, if fallible, seems mundane: for example, I know, by experience, that heavy objects must fall towards the ground when dropped, and I can use this knowledge to evaluate how possible actions would unfold when making plans. The standard possible worlds analysis of modalities makes it hard to understand how we could acquire such knowledge from experience, since all our past experiences belong to the actual world. My aim is to present an alternative picture based on situated possibilities.
A situation is a local, coarse-grained state of affairs. We can rigidly refer to a situation and conceive a range of alternative ways it could be a priori, holding fixed:
(i) background conditions (e.g. it happens here, on the surface of the Earth),
(ii) properties deemed identifying, associated with its class (it involves an heavy object that is dropped),
(iii) a level of grain in our description, including a focus on some relevant properties (in which direction the object moves, not its colour).
This range of a priori possibilities is obtained by a combinatorial process on the conceivable variations of relevant properties. However, only some among them are really possible in virtue of natural and environmental constraints. This can be formalised as a S5 modal system localised on the situation, with an accessibility relation between possible situations (note □s the universal quantifier over alternative ways s could really be). Which situations are really possible cannot be known a priori, but I will argue that it can be known by induction on situations of the same class.
Induction is an inference by which a characteristic present in a sample is projected onto other members of the same class. An induction on possible situations assumes that the set of experienced situations of a given class is a representative sample of all possible situations of the same class (all alternative ways all actual situations of this class could be). So, from the fact that experienced situations of class C never instantiate a property P (flying towards the sky for heavy objects in standard conditions), we can infer that no possible situation of this class does: it is impossible for them to do so: (∀s)(Cs → □s ¬Ps). This is, in Hale (2003)’s terminology, a possibility first epistemological approach.
I will argue that sceptical arguments against modal induction so construed also apply to extensional induction, and that even an agnostic about possibilities (Divers 2004) can accept its validity. Our old modal beliefs are often relativised to a contingent context when we extend our range of experiences, so our current modal beliefs are probably not absolutely true. However, we can hope to converge towards knowledge of unrestricted necessities by actively exploring possibility space. Experimental science can be viewed as such an activity.
Divers, John. 2004. ‘Agnosticism About Other Worlds: A New Antirealist Programme in Modality’. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 69 (3): 660–85.
Hale, Bob. 2003. ‘Knowledge of Possibility and of Necessity’. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 103 (1): 1–20.
University of Italian Switzerland (Lugano), Italy
How to have Concretism without Lewisian Worlds
I aim to develop a metaphysics of possible worlds which has been so far overlooked. It rests on these principles: (1) there are no possible worlds but there could have been, (2) the actual world and the other worlds have the same ontological status and (3) the actual world exists contingently. The resulting theory will use a primitive notion of possibility but remains concretist in spirit.
For the plausibility of (1), consider the well-known similarity between time and modality. It is warranted by the semantics for tensed and modal logic. Indeed, one can give a semantics for tensed operators by imposing an ordering on the accessibility relation between worlds. In the metaphysics of time, most alternatives to eternalism assume some events do not exist, without thereby excluding their past or future existence. But the modal counterpart of this claim, i.e. principle (1), has been traditionally rejected in modal metaphysics. Since the similarity between time and modality relies on the common semantics for their respective logic, principle (1) ought not to be so widely denied in modal metaphysics.
Granted principle (1), principle (3) and that the actual world is concrete, ontological parsimony motivates principle (2), thus implying that possible worlds are contingently concrete entities. How much of Lewis’s “paradise for philosophers” can be retained once we cannot quantify over non-actual worlds? Identifying propositions or properties with sets of concrete entities will not allow one to account for intensional distinctions. A better option is to use classes instead of sets. A class represents a collection of entities that satisfy a certain condition, so the same class can have different members in different contexts. E.g., the class of natural numbers has different members at different stages of the process by which one can construct natural numbers, for no stage will generate every possible natural number.
We can use this modal aspect of classes and our primitive notion of possibility to metaphysically explain properties and modal truths. Consider the case of propositions as an example. A proposition ⟨p⟩ expressed by a sentence p will be identified with the class of worlds which satisfy the condition that their existence entails p. On the assumption that no possible worlds can co-exist, the cardinality of a proposition will represent its truth value: a true proposition will have cardinality 1, a false one cardinality 0. A proposition will be possibly true iff it is possible that it has cardinality 1. A similar treatment can be given to property-possession once properties are understood as classes of concrete entities.
By using classes, one can not only recover much of Lewis’s paradise for philosophers, but can also avoid some standard objections to concretism. For example, one will no longer need counterpart theory so they can avoid the famous irrelevance objection. Moreover, necessarily coextensive properties will no longer be identical, since one need not assume Extensionality holds for classes. I conclude by arguing that my version of concretism has at least the same explanatory power Lewis’s version had, while also avoiding known objections to it.
University of St Andrews, The United Kingdom
The Modal Separability Argument
A hyperintensional conception of properties says roughly that sameness of intension among properties does not imply property identity, and hence dis- tinct properties may have the very same intension. While this conception of properties might have an important place in discussions concerning the dif- ferent ways we represent properties in our language and thought, skepticism looms large if a metaphysician takes a hyperintensional conception of prop- erties to extend beyond how we represent properties, and into discussions concerning how properties themselves are.
The purpose of this essay is to address an objection that attacks a hy- perintensional conception of properties for permitting modally inseparable properties, that is, properties which stand in two-way necessary connections. This objection calls into question the metaphysical status of hyperintensional distinctions between properties. Intensional, or modal distinctions, so the ob- jection goes, are what ‘carve up’ reality; they serve as the sole litmus test for determining when it is that there is one property and not two.
I will call the objection in this essay ‘the Modal Separability Argument’. No one has yet, to my knowledge, given an explicit statement of this argu- ment. But I believe that the argument brings several important considera- tions out into the open that seem to be tacitly at work, to various degrees, in the minds of many intensionalists. My hope is that by bringing these considerations into the open, this will give us a ‘commanding view’ of why it is that intensionalists are so suspicious of a hyperintensional conception of properties. I will begin by spelling out the Modal Separability Argument. Then I will discuss how the hyperintensionalist may respond.
University of Reading, United Kingdom
Against Johnston’s Duplication Argument for the Personite Problem
According to the perdurantism, only those spacetime worms which are maximal aggregates of R-interrelated person-stages are continuant persons (Lewis, 1983). However, mereological universalism (MU) (Builes & Hare, forthcoming), which along with maximality is standardly endorsed by perdurantists, entails the existence of many overlapping non-maximal R- interrelated aggregates which are compositionally similar to persons in many respects but fail to be such. Johnston calls these aggregates personites, arguing that it is possible to individuate a personite for every sufficiently extended time interval during the lifetime of a continuant person. However, the shaky existence of personites, coupled with the fact that they massively overlap, leads him to conclude that any ontology which accommodates personites is incompatible with an ethical theory that does not endorse moral fecklessness or hedonism. This, in a nutshell, is what the Personite Problem (PP) consists in (Johnston, 2016; 2017).
Johnston’s main argument for the PP, i.e. the Duplication Argument, is based on the idea that every personite has a possible person as a duplicate. Consider Bill, a person so a maximal aggregate of person-stages who persist for 80 years. Due to MU, it is possible to individuate many personites during Bill’s lifetime, such as Bob, the one extending from Bill’s birth until one hour before his death. We could imagine that Bill’s life could have been shorter, even by an hour: there is a possible world in which there is a counterpart of Bill, Ben, which happens to be just as extended as Bob in the actual world, and shares with him every intrinsic property. Ben and Bob are duplicates, but only the former is a person. Since by definition duplicates share all their intrinsic properties (Langton & Lewis, 1998), and according to Johnston persons have moral status intrinsically, Johnston concludes that personites such as Bob also have moral status.
My talk focuses on blocking Johnston’s Duplication argument by arguing against the standard duplication account of intrinsic properties on which it is built upon. I argue that there are at least three ways for the perdurantist to show that personites fail to have possible persons as duplicates and so to be recognized as moral agents. The first way is to argue for the extrinsicness of moral status (Walsh, 2011). Taking moral status to be intrinsic is certainly 2 more widely adopted, but I argue that Kantians, Aristotelians and utilitarians should hold that it is extrinsic and border-sensitive like maximal things are (Sider, 2001). The second is to restrict duplication following our commonsense intuitions about how intrinsic properties are distributed within persons and their personites (Kowalczyk, 2022). This solution involves introducing and reasoning around concepts such as part-intrinsicality (Williams, 2013) as well as alternative accounts of intrinsicness. Finally, the third is to adopt a functional maximality account, which proves to be better than duplication at accounting for the properties of objects and their large parts since in most scenarios the former often exhaust the latter functioning, which mutatis mutandis can be applied to persons and personites (Madden, 2016).
Builes, D., & Hare, C. (forthcoming). Why Aren’t I Part of a Whale? Analysis.
Johnston, M. (2016). Personites, Maximality And Ontological Trash. Philosophical Perspectives, 30(1), 198–228.
Johnston, M. (2017). The Personite Problem: Should Practical Reason Be Tabled?. Noûs, 51(3), 617–644.
Kowalczyk, K. (2022). Johnston versus Johnston. Synthese, 200(2), 1–19.
Langton, R., & Lewis, D. (1998). Defining ‘intrinsic’. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 58(2), 333–345.
Lewis, D. (1983). Philosophical Papers Volume I. Oxford University Press.
Madden, R. (2016). Thinking Parts. In S. Blatti & P. F. Snowdon (Eds.), Animalism: New Essays on Persons, Animals, and Identity. Oxford University Press.
Sider, T. (2001). Maximality and Intrinsic Properties. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 63(2), 357–364.
Walsh, S. D. (2011). Maximality, duplication, and intrinsic value. Ratio, 24(3), 311–325. Williams, J. R. G. (2013). Part‐Intrinsicality. Noûs, 47(3), 431–452.
Peter Shiu-Hwa Tsu
National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan
Reflections on Moral Impossibility for the Virtuous: Towards a Dual Model of Virtuous Agency
An honest person cannot bring himself to lie. A kind prson cannot bring himself to harm animals. A loyal person cannot bring himself to betray. These immoral actions constitute what I call ‘the moral impossibilities’ for the virtuous. Indeed, according to McDowell (2002), these immoral actions never enter into the thought of the virtuous. The opportunities to do these actions are not ‘heard’ by the virtuous as reasons for action; rather, they are simply ‘silenced’ in their ears. Indeed, this is how the virtuous are distinguished from the continent. The virtuous take pleasure in doing the right thing, whereas the continent feel conflicted about doing so. However, our moral life is often met with dilemmas that might offer one a moral reason to lie (so as to save a friend’s face), to harm animals (to put out a pandemic), or even to betray (to vindicate the incriminated innocents). Could McDowell’s ‘silencing model’ of virtuous agency cope with these dilemmas? It might seem that these morally imperfect actions ought to be considered by the virtuous rather than brushed aside and ‘silenced’, and the virtuous are supposed to feel conflicted in such dilemmas. In defense of McDowell’s ‘silencing model’, I will argue that although it may not apply to these dilemmatic cases where there are indeed moral reasons to lie, to harm animals or to betray, it may not be meant to apply to these cases in the first place. Rather, its scope of application might be limited to cases where there are no such reasons. In cases where true moral dilemmas arise where there are both moral reasons for and against a particular action, I will argue for a Rossian ‘overriding model’ of virtuous agency according to which the virtuous agents would feel conflicted over whether the reasons for action override those against; this would provide the best explanation (as compared to the ‘silencing model) for a sense of ‘regret’ a virtuous agent ought to feel in such dilemmas. In a nutshell, I advocate a dual model of virtuous agency, according to which the McDowellian silencing model holds in non-dilemmatic cases whereas the Rossian overriding model holds in dilemmatic ones.
McDowell, John. (2002). “Non-cognitivism and Rule-following” in Mind, Value & Reality, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, pp. 198-218
Emanuele Tullio Tullio
Central European University, Austria
The Disclosing Window: Shaping the Bones of a Novel Temporalist Theory of Time
I put forward the bones of a novel temporalist theory of time built within the framework of the perdurantist theory of persistence. Standard perdurantism is tied together with two interlaced theses – which are discussed at length in, e.g., Hawthorne (2006) and Sattig (2006). According to the first, temporal parts are more fundamental than the perduring worm that they compose. According to the second, temporal parts are the primary bearers of the properties instantiated by worms: a worm derivatively instantiates the properties had by its temporal parts – informally, the worm inherits the properties of its temporal parts.
I shall show that there is conceptual space for building a temporalist theory which (i) holds that fundamental facts about instantiation of properties by temporal parts are eternal and (ii) derivative facts about inheritance of properties by worms are temporary – a moderate temporalist theory in Bacon’s (2018) sense. According to the resulting picture, while it is always the case that temporal parts instantiate their properties, it is not always the case that a perduring worm inherits properties from a given temporal part. Inheritance can be figuratively described like a window which is sometimes open and sometimes closed. When open, it discloses to a worm the property-landscape of one of its parts; when closed it makes it completely inaccessible. But its openness and closure does not affect the reality of the landscapes, which remains always the same regardless of where inheritance is centred.
I shall thereby label the theory the Disclosing Window Theory (DW). I contend that DW is worthy of scrutiny and exploration and is kindred to non-standard temporalist theories which have been recently explored by Dorr (MS), Bacon (2018) and Effingham (2021). I shall focus on a major prima facie concern about DW (and moderate temporalism more broadly). DW postulates an asymmetry between fundamental and derivative facts: as time passes, the very same fundamental facts about instantiation bring about different derivative facts about inheritance. This becomes especially puzzling if it is assumed that the relation linking the fundamental and derivative facts at stake in SW is a necessary relation. In such a case, DW comes with the weird – and possibly unwelcome, see Dorr & Goodman (2020) – implication that some necessities are temporary. I review two possible strategies for coping with this issue. First, building on the solution that Bacon (2018) recommends, I briefly consider a strategy which in fact accepts temporary necessities. Then, I explore an alternative strategy 2 according to which the relation between the fundamental and the derivative is not a matter of necessity. In particular, I develop a version of DW according to which the relation linking worms to the properties of their parts is a grounding relation which holds contingently. Building on an account recently put forward by Werner (2022), I further speculate that the relation at stake can be characterized as a contingent arbitrary grounding relation, where a plurality of fundamental facts contingently grounds an arbitrary fact out of a plurality of equally ‘groundable’ derivative facts. Finally, I conclude by reviewing the implications and prospects of the strategies considered, evaluating how they relate to the broader picture provided by DW.
Bacon, A., 2018, ‘Tense and Relativity’. Noûs, 52 (3): 667-696.
Dorr, C., Counterparts. Manuscript.
Dorr, C., & Goodman, J., 2020, ‘Diamonds are Forever’. Noûs 54 (3):632-665.
Effingham, N., ‘The Wave Theory of Time: a Comparison to Competing Tensed Theories’. Journal of the American Philosophical Association. Forthcoming.
Hawthorne, J., 2006, ‘Three-Dimensionalism’, in Metaphysical Essays. OUP.
Leuenberger, S., ‘Grounding and Necessity’. Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 57 (2):151-174.
Sattig, T., 2006, The Language and Reality of Time. OUP.
Skiles, A., 2015, ‘Against grounding necessitarianism’. Erkenntnis, 80(4) 717–751.
Werner, J., 2022, ‘Arbitrary Grounding’. Philosophical Studies 179 (3):911-9.