Impossible Worlds

Noûs 47 (3):713-728 (2013)
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Abstract

Impossible worlds are representations of impossible things and impossible happenings. They earn their keep in a semantic or metaphysical theory if they do the right theoretical work for us. As it happens, a worlds-based account provides the best philosophical story about semantic content, knowledge and belief states, cognitive significance and cognitive information, and informative deductive reasoning. A worlds-based story may also provide the best semantics for counterfactuals. But to function well, all these accounts need use of impossible and as well as possible worlds. So what are impossible worlds? Graham Priest claims that any of the usual stories about possible worlds can be told about impossible worlds, too. But far from it. I'll argue that impossible worlds cannot be genuine worlds, of the kind proposed by Lewis, McDaniel or Yagisawa. Nor can they be ersatz worlds on the model proposed by Melia or Sider. Constructing impossible worlds, it turns out, requires novel metaphysical resources.

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Mark Jago
Nottingham University

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