Ostrich Actualism

In Sara Bernstein & Tyron Goldschmidt (eds.), Non-being: New Essays on the Metaphysics of Nonexistence. pp. 205-225 (2021)
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In On What Matters, Derek Parfit enters the debate between actualists and possibilists. This debate concerns mere possibilia, possible but non-actual things such as golden mountains and talking donkeys. Roughly, possibilism says that there are such things, and actualism says that there are not. Parfit not only argues for possibilism but also argues that some self-proclaimed actualists are, in fact, unwitting possibilists. I argue that although Parfit’s arguments do not fully succeed, they do highlight a tension within the frameworks of many actualists. Many actualists conscript abstract objects into the role of "possible worlds" to avoid quantifying over mere possibilia. But, in doing so, actualists must quantify over mere possibilia anyway. When we alleviate this tension, a Parfit-friendly form of actualism arguably remains. This form of actualism says that while everything that exists is actual, it is also true in some sense that there are mere possibilia.

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Craig Warmke
Northern Illinois University


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