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Journal of Philosophical Research

Volume 19, 1994

Harry Deutsch
Pages 273-329

Logic for Contigent Beings

One of the logical problems with which Arthur Prior struggled is the problem of finding, in Prior’s own phrase, a “logic for contingent beings.” The difficulty is that from minimal modal principles and classical quantification theory, it appears to follow immediately that every possible object is a necessary existent. The historical development of quantified modal logic (QML) can be viewed as a series of attempts---due variously to Kripke, Prior, Montague, and the fee-logicians---to solve this problem. In this paper, I review the extant solutions, finding them all wanting. Then I suggest a new solution inspired by Kripke’s theory of rigid designation and Kaplan’s logic of demonstratives, the latter in particular. It turns out that the basic mechanism of Kaplan’s logic can be exploited to yield a version of QML that will serve as a viable logic for contingent beings. This result, as I show, sheds new light on the problems of singular negative existential propositions, the question of actualism, the question of the existence of the contingent a priori, the relation between logical truth and necessity, and various modal problems and paradoxes going back to Chrysippus, Ramsey, and Moore.

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