What Is Absolute Modality?

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy (2023)
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Talk of metaphysical modality as “absolute” is ambiguous, as it appears to convey multiple ideas. Metaphysical possibility is supposedly completely unrestricted or unqualified; metaphysical necessity is unconditional and exceptionless. Moreover, metaphysical modality is thought to be absolute in the sense that it’s real or genuine and the most objective modality: metaphysical possibility and necessity capture ways things could and must have really been. As we disentangle these ideas, certain talk of metaphysical modality qua “absolute” turns out to be misguided. Metaphysical possibility isn't completely unrestricted or most inclusive compared to the other modalities; metaphysical necessity, like all kinds of necessities, is relative to or conditional upon a specific framework of reference. Still, metaphysical modality captures how things could and must have really been most generally because it deals with reality and the nature of things or their essence. That’s the chief interest of metaphysics. Arguments against the alleged absoluteness of metaphysical modality may not thereby undermine its philosophical significance.

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Antonella Mallozzi
Providence College


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