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Res Philosophica

Special Editor: Kathryn Lindeman

Volume 94, Issue 3, July 2017
Special Issue: Henle Conference

Table of Contents

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Displaying: 1-5 of 5 documents

1. Res Philosophica: Volume > 94 > Issue: 3
J. L. Dowell Truth-assessment Methodology and the Case against the Relativist Case against Contextualism about Deontic Modals
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Recent challenges to Kratzer’s canonical contextualist semantics for modal expressions are united by a shared methodological practice: Each requires the assessment of the truth or warrant of a sentence in a scenario. The default evidential status accorded these judgments is a constraining one: It is assumed that, to be plausible, a semantic hypothesis must vindicate the reported judgments. Fully assessing the extent to which these cases do generate data that puts pressure on the canonical semantics, then, requires an understanding of this methodological practice.Here I argue that not all assessments are fit to play this evidential role. To play it, we need reason to think that speakers’ assessments can be reasonably expected to be reliable. Minimally, having such grounds requires that assessments are given against the background of non-defectively characterized points of evaluation. Assessing MacFarlane’s central challenge case to contextualism about deontic modals in light of this constraint shows that his judgments do not have the needed evidential significance. In addition, new experimental data shows that once the needed scenario is characterized non-defectively, none of the resulting range of cases provides data that cannot be accommodated by a Kratzer-style contextualism.
2. Res Philosophica: Volume > 94 > Issue: 3
Brian Leftow The Nature of Necessity
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I give an account of the nature of absolute or metaphysical necessity. Absolute-necessarily P, I suggest, just if it is always the case that P and there never is or was a power with a chance to bring it about, bring about a power to bring it about, etc., that not P. I display both advantages and a cost of this sort of definition.
3. Res Philosophica: Volume > 94 > Issue: 3
Gillian Russell Indexicals and Sider's Neo-Linguistic Account of Necessity
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Sider offers a new take on a linguistic account of necessity. In this paper, I assess his view’s vulnerability to objections made against more traditional linguistic accounts, especially an argument I call the “indexical problem.” I conclude that the indexical problem has no force against Sider’s approach because the view is able to attribute modal properties directly to propositions, rather than indirectly via analytic sentences that express them. However, Sider also argues that traditional linguistic accounts fail because of two well-known problems, and I argue that the same two problems undermine his own account.
4. Res Philosophica: Volume > 94 > Issue: 3
Meghan Sullivan Boring Ontological Realism
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Boring ontological realists hold that objects exist at times and persist over time without having substantive essences. Boring realism is a consequence of the minimal A-theory of time and the most sensible formulations of necessitism. This kind of realism is at odds with a ubiquitous realist thesis, which I call the persistenceessence link. This essay surveys some examples of the persistence-essence link and argues that it is best understood as a thesis about grounding. If we understand the link in terms of grounding, there are new options for denying it—and for better understanding boring realism.
5. Res Philosophica: Volume > 94 > Issue: 3
Timothy Williamson Modality as a Subject for Science
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Section 1 introduces the category of objective (non-epistemic) modality, closely related to linguists’ category of circumstantial or dynamic modals, and explains metaphysical modality as its maximal element. Section 2 discusses various kinds of skepticism about modality, as in Hume and recent authors, and argues that it is illmotivated to apply such skepticism to metaphysical modality but not to more restricted objective modalities, including nomic modality. Section 3 suggests that the role of counterfactual conditionals in applications of scientific theories involves an objective modal dimension. Section 4 briefly discusses the role of objective probabilities in scientific theories as exemplifying the scientific study of objective modality. Section 5 summarizes a case study of dynamical systems theory, widely used in natural science, as a mathematical theory whose intended applications are objectively modal, as perspicuously articulated in a language with modal and temporal operators and propositional quantification. State spaces in natural science characterize objective possibilities. Section 6 argues that, although those possibilities are usually more restricted than metaphysical possibility, their scientific study is a partial study of metaphysical possibility too.