Samuel Kimpton-Nye (University of Bristol). Modal Anti-Realism: The Really Poisoned Pawn
Samuel Kimpton-Nye (University of Bristol), Samuel Kimpton-Nye

part of: CLE Permanent Seminar on Metaphysics
May 11, 2022, 5:00pm - 6:30pm

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  • Support: grant #2021/11381-1, São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP)

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University of Campinas
Universidade Federal do ABC

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[All seminars] 17:00 to 18:30 pm (GMT+0): https://meet.google.com/odf-sdnr-grw

Abstract: Thoroughgoing modal anti-realism is unachievable. In fact, anti-realism cannot even curtail real modality because anti-realism about a given necessity implies realism about a corresponding possibility and vice versa (or so I’ll argue), and this undermines the original motivation for modal anti-realism. However, the modal anti-realist’s tools could still be put to fruitful work in figuring out where to draw the line between real necessity and real contingency, though this is a significant retreat from the original aims of the view.

Here’s the argument in a nutshell. Assume that it is necessary that φ, the anti-realist must say that it is not really necessary that φ in the sense that this modal truth does not hold in virtue of how the world objectively is. But if it is not really necessary that φ then it is really possible that not-φ because if it is not really possible that not-φ then it is really necessary that φ, contra the anti-realist assumption about the necessity of φ. On the other hand, if it is not really possible that not-φ, this possibility holds just in virtue of facts about semantic rules, say, then it follows that it is really necessary that φ because if it is not really necessary that φ then it is really possible that not-φ, contra the anti-realist assumption about the possibility of not-φ. Hence, we cannot be throughgoing anti-realists about modality. We can be anti-realists about modality piecemeal but not across the board because anti-realism about a given necessity always implies realism about a corresponding possibility and vice versa. Real modality is ineliminable.

I’ll spend the talk examining this argument in more detail before discussing the significance of its conclusion.

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