The Problem of Possibilia

Kit Fine

in The Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics

Published in print September 2005 | ISBN: 9780199284221
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

The Problem of Possibilia


Are there, in addition to the various actual objects that make up the world, various possible objects? Are there merely possible people, for example, or merely possible electrons, or even merely possible kinds? In the semantics for modal logic we presuppose an ontology of possibilia twice over. For first, we countenance various possible worlds, in addition to the actual world; and second, each of these worlds is taken to be endowed with its own domain of objects. These will be the actual objects of the world in question, but they need not be actual simpliciter, i.e. actual objects of our world. What are we to make of such discourse? There are four options: (i) the discourse is taken to be unintelligible; (ii) it is taken to be intelligible but non-factual, i.e. as not in the business of stating facts; (iii) it is taken to be factual but reducible to discourse involving no reference to possibilia; (iv) it is taken to be both factual and irreducible. These options range from a full-blooded form of actualism at one extreme to a full-blooded form of possibilism at the other.

Keywords: possibilia; ontology of possibilia; actual objects; possible objects; modal logic; actualism

Article.  9536 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Metaphysics

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