'On a Supposed Puzzle Concerning Modality and Existence'

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Kit Fine has proposed a new solution to what he calls ‘a familiar puzzle’ concerning modality and existence. The puzzle concerns the argument from the alleged truths ‘It is necessary that Socrates is a man’ and ‘It is possible that Socrates does not exist’ to the apparent falsehood ‘It is possible that Socrates is a man and does not exist’. We discuss in detail Fine’s setting up of the ‘puzzle’ and his rejection, with which we concur, of two mooted solutions to it. (One of these uses standard, Kripkean, notions, and the other rests on work done by Arthur Prior.) We set out, and reject, the philosophy of modality underlying Fine’s new solution, and we defend an alternative response to the alleged puzzle. Our solution follows the work of David Wiggins in distinguishing between the sentential operator ‘It is necessary that’ and the predicate modifier ‘necessarily’. We briefly provide this distinction with a possible- world semantics on which it is neither a necessary truth, in some sense, that Socrates exists nor true, in some sense, that Socrates necessarily exists.
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Archival date: 2019-08-28
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