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Necessary Beings: An Essay on Ontology, Modality, and the Relations Between Them. Bob Hale. Abstract. This essay is concerned with two central areas of.
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At the request of the author, I mention an error that will be corrected in the paper back edition. I chose a few issues for closer and critical discussion that I found particularly interesting and worth developing. I think that Hale's new amendment of his well known inferential tests for singular terms is slightly underdeveloped, as it lacks an account of immediate inferences. I suggest that there is an omission in Hale's falsity conditions for the counterfactuals and that Hale's preferred counterfactual logic should turn out to be an analogue of Lewis's VWU, based on Hale's alternative semantics in terms of possibilities rather than possible worlds.

Hale defines necessity in terms of counterfactuals, but I question whether we understand counterfactuals as well as we understand necessity, possibility and contingency. I end with the suggestion that Hale's metaphysics can be used to motivate an idea put forward by Arthur Prior: to introduce a new kind of expression into the modal language, often called nominals, which name possibilities, and to adopt hybrid modal logics. Rather the explanation is supplied solely by the essences of the relevant entities X1 , As one might expect of any theory that offers such a detailed, comprehensive, and provocative philosophical vision, concerns can be raised about certain elements.

In the remainder of this review, I will discuss what strike me as the most interesting and significant. It is in the main a virtue that he is not overly taken with formality — philosophy is always center stage and, but for a few relatively short technical sections, formal details receive attention only to the extent that they bear on the substantive philosophical matters at hand.

At the same time, I think there are a few points where somewhat more attention to for- mal detail is warranted, particularly with regard to his essentialist theory.


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It seems to me that this can be dealt with in either of two ways. However, in light of the point I will make in the following paragraph, this option is probably not feasible. Rather, ETN is simply a schema expressing the general form of a biconditional that, according to the theory, holds for each proposition p. But it is not itself an expression of the theory proper; indeed, the most natural, non-schematic expression of what Hale actually has in mind by his schema seems to require an infinitary language.

To see this, note that the number n of entities X1 , Thus, the full, non-schematic expression of the essentialist theory of necessity in its full generality is this: for all propositions p, p is necessary just in case there is some finite number n of entities in virtue of whose essences p is true, i. And that ellipsis is of course naturally 23 In fact, Hale has in recent correspondence reported that in as yet unpublished work he argues that such variables are needed to give adequate expression to his broadly Fregean account of the connections between logico-syntactic and ontological categories.

Likewise, p is possible just in case its negation fails to be true in virtue of the essences of any finite number of things, i. On the face of it, given his deep commitment to the finitary nature of properties, the use of an infinitary language and its concomitant logic might seem out of the question for Hale.

But the implementation of the idea is not straightforward. For simplicity, in what follows I will continue using ETN and ETP, as they suffice for purposes here and can, if necessary, be thought of as placeholders for more complete principles. See Menzel for a reasonably comprehensive over- view. For detailed proofs, see Menzel ibid. As he discusses extensively in Chapter 9, Hale is a committed contingentist. That is, unlike necessitists like Linsky and Zalta and Williamson , Hale accepts both that there are contin- gent beings — beings like Aristotle that exist but might not have — and that there could have been other contingent beings, i.

Some con- tingentists — Plantinga himself, notably — believe that all properties and propositions exist necessarily. Consequently, on this view, even if Aristotle and all the objects if any involved in his essence had failed to exist, his essence would still have existed; at the least, there would still have been his thisness, being Aristotle. More generally, following the likes of fellow strict contingentists Prior , pp.

Hence, assuming, as we have, that a possibility is just a proposition that could have been true, there would have been no singular possibilities about Aristotle either. Thus he writes p.

Bob Hale (philosopher) - Wikipedia

There would only have been general possibilities, to the effect that there might have existed a man with such-and-such specific characteristics, etc. Now, Hale appears not to notice that, since he is rejecting an apparent implication of ETP, the above argument is actually a reductio of the principle in its current form. ETP therefore requires two revisions if it is to incorporate principle P properly so that it can be used to rebuff the above objection. First, to incorporate principle P we need to be able to express that a proposition exists.

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Accordingly, let us add an existence operator E! However, if Hale is dubious about attributing literal existence to propo- sitions or about this method of doing so, I believe he could follow Prior , Ch. XIII and identify E! But there are a couple of problems with this response. It follows straightaway that the char- acteristic S5 axiom 5 fails. All four arrived at arguments similar to the one above and, hence, bit the bullet and abandoned the S5. V; , Ch. XIII , Adams , p.

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Fitch op. Specifically, Prior argued , pp. The crux of the argument is a metaphysical principle — hence, for Prior, a logical principle — even stronger than P, viz. Then by principle T, it exists at w. However, from an external perspective in the actual world, the proposition in question both exists and quite correctly characterizes w; it is true at w.

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It follows immediately that a proposition must exist at a world in order to be possible there. However, as Turner , p. For more on serious actualism, see Plantinga , Hinchliff , Bergmann , and Hudson By distinguishing these two logical forms, Adams could then claim that only the latter is a true predication and, hence, false at Aristotle-free worlds. Fitch ibid.

Hence p is possible at a world only if it exists there. However, his essentialist theory of possibility appears to force the internal perspective. For, on his essentialist the- ory, what is possible with respect to a world or, more generally, counterfactual situation w is always determined entirely by the essences that happen to exist in w. But, as pointed out above, this revision appears to entail the invalidity of the 5 axiom.

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I cannot see that Hale has any clear path to the resolution of this incompatibility. But how serious, after all, is it? Although Hale seems to be quite firmly attached to S5 and appeals to the necessity of the alethic modalities at several points in his presentation, his overall theory would likely remain largely intact if the 5 axiom were not available to him in its full generality. Perhaps then he should simply follow the example set by Prior here.

enter site For Prior, logic was the servant of metaphysics, not the other way around. Although Hale only defines the semantics explicitly for propositional modal languages in his book, I cannot see that there would be any problem in incorporating the notion of truth at a possibility into the semantics in a way that verifies S5 by allowing, e. A consequence of this conceptual truth is that not every actual possibility would have been possible had things been otherwise, and our logic must therefore simply be made to reflect this remarkable metaphysical discovery.

And to say that I wrestled with it is by no means to imply that the book is tough going. I cannot recommend the book highly enough; indeed I consider it required reading for anyone whose work extends at all into ontology, the philosophy of language, or the philosophy of logic and mathemat- ics.

Primitive thisness and primitive identity. Journal of Philosophy, —26, Robert Adams. Actualism and thisness. Synthese, —41, Karen Bennett. Proxy actualism. Philosophical Studies, —, Michael Bergmann.


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A new argument from actualism to serious actualism. Nous, 30 3 : —, September Amsterdam: North Holland, Herbert Enderton. A Mathematical Introduction to Logic. Academic Press, San Diego, 2nd edition, Kit Fine. Vagueness, truth and logic.

Necessary Beings An Essay on Ontology, Modality, and the Relations Between Them

Journal of Philosophical Logic, 7 2 —, Plantinga on the reduction of possibilist discourse. Dordrecht: D. Reidel, The logic of essence. Journal of Philosophical Logic, 24 3 —, G W Fitch. In defense of aristotelian actualism. Philosophical Perspectives, —71, Bob Hale.