Plenitude and Recombination

In Helen Beebee & A. R. J. Fisher (eds.), Perspectives on the Philosophy of David K. Lewis. Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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In On the Plurality of Worlds (Lewis 1986), David Lewis imposes a condition on realist theories of modality which he calls ‘plenitude’. Lewis apparently assigns this condition considerable importance, and uses it to motivate his Humean principle of recombination, but he never says exactly what plenitude amounts to. This chapter first sets aside some obvious ways of reconstructing the plenitude criterion which do not fit with the textual evidence. An objection to modal realism due to John Divers and Joseph Melia (Divers and Melia 2002) is diagnosed as equivocating between an overly-demanding plenitude constraint and a weaker constraint which fails to establish their conclusion. An alternative deflationary interpretation of the plenitude condition has it following from an application of standard theoretical virtues to a modal realist’s total theory; Lewis’ correspondence provides new evidence in support of this interpretation. The deflationary plenitude criterion also has broader application, beyond Lewisian modal realism.

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Alastair Wilson
University of Leeds


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