Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

Dispositional Arrays: Why So Scared of Possible Worlds? [Special Issue]

Topics: Epistemology, Metaphysics, Modal Logic, Ontology, Philosophical logic, Philosophy of language
Keywords: Modal ontology, Modal semantics, Possible worlds, Powers


Some philosophers believe that powers are more acceptable, naturalistic, non-ad hoc and actualist-friendly candidates to replace possible worlds (PWs) in a dispositionalist analysis of modality. However, such a swift opposition between powers and PWs is both unwarranted and problematic. Furthermore, there is at least one power-based ontology of PWs, which in turn offers a power-based applied PW-semantics for dispositionalists. On this account, first briefly suggested in Vetter 2015, a PW is taken to be a dispositional array, viz., a power for the entire universe to be so-and-so. I discuss several features of this proposal, from the nature of dispositional arrays, to the true-at relation, to the range of possibilities countenanced by the semantics—and in doing so I will show that there are many advantages for those willing to countenance dispositional arrays in their ontology. Finally, I will illustrate a fascinating correlation between this PW-semantics and the usual power-based semantics envisioned by the dispositionalist, which will bear crucial consequences concerning the ultimate source of modality.

Recent years have not been kind to possible worlds (PWs). As accounts of PWs became increasingly complex, people began to express dissatisfaction with the notion altogether. The reasons are numerous: the ontological baggage of the ersatzist is often unclear and at best dubious, while Lewis’ plurality of worlds, albeit metaphysically clearer, is outright outlandish. The dissatisfaction is reinforced by the persistent influence exerted by the charge of irrelevance: although it is notoriously difficult to articulate an object against PWs along these lines (as in Divers 2002: 124-33), many still believe there to be a nugget of truth in such attempts (e.g., Jacobs 2010). Relatedly, there also is the worry that PW-ontology is immediately read off the formal semantics, with little to no independent motivation—which is, one may argue, a very ad hoc way of…


  Click here to download full article