The Nature of Necessity: Preface
Plantinga (Alvin)
Source: Plantinga - The Nature of Necessity, Preface; pp. v-vi (2)
Paper - Abstract

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  1. Although the notion of necessity has had a long and distinguished career in Western thought, it has not, on the whole, been treated kindly by twentieth-century philosophy. The dominant traditions (both Anglo-American and Continental) have for the most part made a determined effort to dispense with necessity, or to explain it away in favour of linguistic, psychological, or sociological surrogates.
  2. I think this is a mistake; and in the present book I take the idea of necessity seriously and at face value.
    • In the first chapter I try to locate and fix the idea in question — the idea of broadly logical necessity — and to distinguish it from others in the neighbourhood. I also distinguish de dicto necessity — a matter of a proposition's being necessarily true — from de re necessity, which involves an object's having a property essentially or necessarily.
    • In Chapters II and III, I consider and reject some objections to modality1 de re and argue that it can be explained by way of modality2 de dicto.
    • Chapter IV introduces and explains the idea of possible worlds; this notion, I believe, permits a genuine advance in our grasp of matters modal3.
    • The question of Chapter V is whether an object has an essence: a property essential to it and essentially unique to it; the answer is indeed it has.
    • Chapter VI examines the so-called problem of transworld identity, widely thought to afflict the view that the same object exists in more than one possible world; it concludes that this problem is more appearance than reality.
    • In Chapters VII and VIII, I explore one aspect of the venerable problem of not-being. Some possible worlds contain objects that do not in fact exist: must we conclude that there are some things that do not exist? Can we think and talk about what does not exist? The answer is we must not and cannot.
    • Chapters IX and X consider the bearing of some of the foregoing ideas on two traditional concerns of natural theology: the problem of evil and the ontological argument for the existence of God. I argue that these ideas enable us to resolve the former and find a sound formulation of the latter.
    • Finally, in the appendix, I examine and partly concur with Quine's claim that quantified modal logic4 presupposes what he calls Aristotelian Essentialism — the view that objects typically have both accidental and essential properties.
  3. [Snip … re-publications, etc.] I am especially eager to express my indebtedness to a large number of colleagues — in particular, those at Calvin and U.C.L.A. — students, and friends for penetrating criticism, stimulating discussion, and wise advice. Special thanks for such benefits are due Roderick Chisholm, Peter De Vos, David Kaplan, David Lewis, Lawrence Powers, and Nicholas Wolterstorff.

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