Quine's interpretation problem and the early development of possible worlds semantics

In Ondrey Majer (ed.), The Logica Yearbook 2000. Filosofia (2001)
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In this paper, I shall consider the challenge that Quine posed in 1947 to the advocates of quantified modal logic to provide an explanation, or interpretation, of modal notions that is intuitively clear, allows “quantifying in”, and does not presuppose, mysterious, intensional entities. The modal concepts that Quine and his contemporaries, e.g. Carnap and Ruth Barcan Marcus, were primarily concerned with in the 1940’s were the notions of (broadly) logical, or analytical, necessity and possibility, rather than the metaphysical modalities that have since become popular, largely due to the influence of Kripke. In the 1950’s modal logicians responded to Quine’s challenge by providing quantified modal logic with model-theoretic semantics of various types. In doing so they also, explicitly or implicitly addressed Quine’s interpretation problem. Here I shall consider the approaches developed by Carnap in the late 1940’s, and by Kanger, Hintikka, Montague, and Kripke in the 1950’s, and discuss to what extent these approaches were successful in meeting Quine’s doubts about the intelligibility of quantified modal logic.

Author's Profile

Sten Lindström
Uppsala University


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