Problems for Modal Reductionism: Concrete Possible Worlds as a Test Case

Dissertation, Birkbeck College (2015)
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Abstract
This thesis is an argument for the view that there are problems for Modal Reductionism, the thesis that modality can satisfactorily be defined in non-modal terms. I proceed via a case study of David Lewis’s theory of concrete possible worlds. This theory is commonly regarded as the best and most influential candidate reductive theory of modality. Based on a detailed examination of its ontology, analysis and justification, I conclude that it does badly with respect to the following four minimal conditions on a satisfactory reductive theory of modality: that it be (a) genuinely reductive, (b) materially adequate, (c) conceptually adequate and (d) that its justification provides good reason to think it true. These problems for Lewis’s theory are not, I suggest, due to his idiosyncratic conception of possible worlds as concrete entities. Rather, because Lewis’s theory can be seen to represent an important class of structurally similar reductive theories of modality, the problems for Lewis’s theory generalise to problems for these other theories. This suggests that Modal Reductionism is unpromising. In the light of this, the alternative approach to understanding modality, Modal Primitivism, appears more attractive.
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