Actualism, Ontological Commitment, and Possible World Semantics

Synthese 85 (3):355-389 (1990)
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Actualism is the doctrine that the only things there are, that have being in any sense, are the things that actually exist. In particular, actualism eschews possibilism, the doctrine that there are merely possible objects. It is widely held that one cannot both be an actualist and at the same time take possible world semantics seriously — that is, take it as the basis for a genuine theory of truth for modal languages, or look to it for insight into the modal structure of reality. For possible world semantics, it is supposed, commits one to possibilism. In this paper I take issue with this view. To the contrary, I argue that one can take possible world semantics seriously without any commitment to possible worlds or possibilism and hence remain in full compliance with actualist scruples. Moreover, one can do so without without invoking either "ersatz" worlds or haecceities.

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Christopher Menzel
Texas A&M University


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