Modal Fictionalism
Rosen (Gideon)
Source: Mind, 99, No. 395, Jul., 1990, pp. 327-354
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Conclusion1

  1. When I said that Ed2 was unwilling to take on a commitment to possible worlds, this was the character I had in mind – a theorist who rejects ersatzism, perhaps for Lewis's reasons, but at the same time finds the realist's metaphysical picture impossible to accept. Such a theorist has good reason to look into Ed's remaining option-to interpret his apparent quantification over possible worlds as an innocent facon de parler, involving no commitment to worlds of any sort.
  2. I will call any interpretation with this feature a deflationist interpretation of the possible worlds framework. According to deflationism, you can have all the benefits of talking about possible worlds without the ontological costs. You can legitimately say in one breath (perhaps in the course of explaining what you mean by some modal3 claim) 'there is a world where blue swans exist' and in the next breath; 'but really, I don't believe in possible worlds'. The trick is to explain why this is not a plain contradiction.
  3. A complete survey of the deflationist's options would, I suppose, have to recognize as a potential starting point each of the myriad dodges philosophers have devised to explain away their apparent quantification over entities they profess not to believe in. Thus the deflationist might try to maintain that his quantifier over worlds is not the familiar existential quantifier but some more exotic bird. Perhaps it is a substitutional quantifier; or possibly Routley's Meinongian 'particular' quantifier which ranges indiscriminately over what there is and what there is not. Alternatively, the deflationist might try to argue that the surface form of his assertion is more radically misleading, perhaps by claiming that his utterances of 'there are blue swan worlds' when properly understood contain no quantifier over worlds of any kind, much as claims about the average family are shown upon analysis to contain no term purporting to refer to such a creature.
  4. I want to discuss the prospects for deflationism. But I will not survey the landscape here. Instead my procedure will be to describe at the outset a new deflationist strategy which strikes me as especially promising. The aim is to see what sort of balm it might offer for someone in Ed's sad condition.



In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: To his Introductory Section 1.

Footnote 2: The author’s stooge, who does not believe in blue swans, but believes they might have existed.


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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)



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