Possible Worlds as Propositions

The Philosophical Quarterly (forthcoming)
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Realists about possible worlds typically identify possible worlds with abstract objects, such as propositions or properties. However, they face a significant objection due to Lewis (1986), to the effect that there is no way to explain how possible worlds-as-abstract objects represent possibilities. In this paper, I describe a response to this objection on behalf of realists. The response is to identify possible worlds with propositions, but to deny that propositions are abstract objects, or indeed objects at all. Instead, I argue that realists should follow Prior (1971) and others in treating higher-order quantification (e.g. quantification into predicate or sentence position) as a genuine form of quantification in its own right, and so in particular, not to be analysed in terms of first-order quantification over abstract objects. I argue that from this ‘higher-orderist’ perspective, there is a relatively straightforward answer to the question of how possible worlds-as-propositions succeed in representing possibilities.

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Daniel Deasy
University College Dublin


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