Higher-Order Contingentism, Part 1: Closure and Generation

Journal of Philosophical Logic 45 (6):645-695 (2016)
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Abstract
This paper is a study of higher-order contingentism – the view, roughly, that it is contingent what properties and propositions there are. We explore the motivations for this view and various ways in which it might be developed, synthesizing and expanding on work by Kit Fine, Robert Stalnaker, and Timothy Williamson. Special attention is paid to the question of whether the view makes sense by its own lights, or whether articulating the view requires drawing distinctions among possibilities that, according to the view itself, do not exist to be drawn. The paper begins with a non-technical exposition of the main ideas and technical results, which can be read on its own. This exposition is followed by a formal investigation of higher-order contingentism, in which the tools of variable-domain intensional model theory are used to articulate various versions of the view, understood as theories formulated in a higher-order modal language. Our overall assessment is mixed: higher-order contingentism can be fleshed out into an elegant systematic theory, but perhaps only at the cost of abandoning some of its original motivations.
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Archival date: 2018-01-22
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