Modal Normativism and De Re Modality

Argumenta 7 (2):293-307 (2022)
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In the middle of the last century, it was common to explain the notion of necessity in linguistic terms. A necessary truth, it was said, is a sentence whose truth is guaranteed by linguistic rules. Quine famously argued that, on this view, de re modal claims do not make sense. “Porcupettes are porcupines” is necessarily true, but it would be a mistake to say of a particular porcupette that it is necessarily a porcupine, or that it is possibly purple. Linguistic theories of necessity fell out of favour with the publication of Kripke’s Naming and Necessity, and Quine’s arguments were put aside. In her recent book, Norms and Necessity, Amie Thomasson presents her modal normativism, which is an updated version of the mid-century theories just described. Quine’s arguments are thus relevant once again. We recapitulate Quine’s central argument, in the context of modal normativism. We then criticise Amie Thomasson’s discussion of de re modality. We finish by briefly presenting an alternative account of de re modal statements, which is compatible with modal normativism.

Author Profiles

Tom Donaldson
Simon Fraser University
Jennifer Wang
Simon Fraser University


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