McGinn (Colin)
Source: McGinn - Logical Properties, 2000, Chapter 4
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract1

  1. The view that modal2 expressions can be successfully paraphrased by means of quantification over possible worlds is rejected on the grounds that such translations are either circular or inadequate.
  2. It is argued instead that modal3 expressions function as ‘copula modifiers’, specifying whether an object instantiates a property in the ‘necessary mode’ or in the ‘contingent mode’.
  3. The chapter concludes with a brief examination of some metaphysical issues about modality4, including whether it constitutes a sui generis ontological category and whether it is causally efficacious.

Author’s Abstract5
  1. Next comes modality6. Recent tradition has assimilated modal7 expressions to quantifier expressions: "possibly" and "necessarily" are treated as existential and universal quantifiers, respectively.
  2. From my point of view in this chapter, it matters little what these quantifiers range over - my objection is to the semantic proposal itself, not to its metaphysical interpretation. But of course it is worlds that are held to be the domain of quantification, either as robust realities or as linguistic constructions.
  3. I argue that such a quantificational translation cannot work because it must employ the world "possible" within the putative translation, and hence cannot account for every use of modal8 expressions. This is not to say that there are no possible worlds or that they cannot be usefully invoked in semantics and metaphysics; it is simply to say that, as an account of the meaning of modal9 words, the theory cannot deliver the goods, since it cannot account for all occurrences of such words.
  4. As an alternative, I amend the well-known predicate modifier treatment, suggesting that modal10 expressions are best seen as operating on the copula and not on the copulated predicate. Intuitively, when we say that Socrates is necessarily a man we are saying that Socrates instantiates manhood in the mode of necessity - not that he instantiates the modal11 property of necessary manhood. This is a subtle difference, but a significant one.
  5. This copula modifier theory can account for all uses of modal12 expressions, even de dicto uses, I claim, so that it does not have the same kind of problem as the quantifier treatment. It does, however, require us to enlarge our accepted types of logical form (there are no copula modifiers in predicate logic).


Photocopy filed in "Various - Papers on Identity Boxes: Vol 10 (M1: Ma-Mc)".

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Taken from Oxford Scholarship Online.

Footnote 5: Taken from "McGinn (Colin) - Précis of 'Logical Properties: Identity, Existence, Prediction, Necessity, Truth'".

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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