Philosophy | Metaphysics
P560 | 25318 | O'Connor


P560 Metaphysics of Modality

Much philosophical inquiry, scientific practice, and ordinary
thinking presuppose that, in addition to facts about what is the
case, there are facts about what might have been or what must be the
case. In this course, we will primarily consider a few accounts of
the general nature of such modal facts—possibilist and actualist,
reductionist and primitivist. We will also consider specific topics
such as the nature of kind and individual essences. Lastly and more
briefly, we will broach the epistemology of modal belief.

This course presupposes no background beyond a good undergraduate
introduction to metaphysics. Familiarity with modal logic, in
particular, is not required, and we will minimize discussion of
formal issues, though some of our readings will be difficult for
those unfamiliar or uncomfortable with semi-technical philosophical
writing. The optional text by Melia (see below) provides a clear and
accessible introduction to the subject, including a simple
introduction to the basic machinery of modal logic.

On the other hand, if you are intuitions-challenged in matters
metaphysical, as some otherwise respectable philosophers claim to be,
you may find yourself quite bewildered throughout much of our course.
If you manage to hang in there nonetheless, in the spirit of a
philosophical anthropologist, perhaps, you will be permitted to vent
some of your exasperation concerning the eccentricities of the
natives when we make safe harbor on the epistemological mainland. But
until then, you are admonished to conduct yourself with respect and
humility.

Texts:
David Lewis, ON THE PLURALITY OF WORLDS
Alvin Plantinga, ESSAYS ON THE METAPHYSICS OF MODALITY (ed. M.
Davidson)
Joseph Melia, MODALITY [optional]
Other material will be available for photocopy.