Real impossible worlds : the bounds of possibility

Dissertation, University of St Andrews (2010)
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Abstract
Lewisian Genuine Realism about possible worlds is often deemed unable to accommodate impossible worlds and reap the benefits that these bestow to rival theories. This thesis explores two alternative extensions of GR into the terrain of impossible worlds. It is divided in six chapters. Chapter I outlines Lewis’ theory, the motivations for impossible worlds, and the central problem that such worlds present for GR: How can GR even understand the notion of an impossible world, given Lewis’ reductive theoretical framework? Since the desideratum is to incorporate impossible worlds into GR without compromising Lewis’ reductive analysis of modality, Chapter II defends that analysis against objections. The rest of the thesis is devoted to incorporating impossible worlds into GR. Chapter III explores GR-friendly impossible worlds in the form of set-theoretic constructions out of genuine possibilia. Then, Chapters IV-VI venture into concrete impossible worlds. Chapter IV addresses Lewis’ objection against such worlds, to the effect that contradictions true at impossible worlds amount to true contradictions tout court. I argue that even if so, the relevant contradictions are only ever about the non-actual, and that Lewis’ argument relies on a premise that cannot be nonquestion- beggingly upheld in the face of genuine impossible worlds in any case. Chapter V proposes that Lewis’ reductive analysis can be preserved, even in the face of genuine impossibilia, if we differentiate the impossible from the possible by means of accessibility relations, understood non-modally in terms of similarity. Finally, Chapter VI counters objections to the effect that there are certain impossibilities, formulated in Lewis’ theoretical language, which genuine impossibilia should, but cannot, represent. I conclude that Genuine Realism is still very much in the running when the discussion turns to impossible worlds.
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Archival date: 2013-04-23
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2010-07-22

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