Imagining Irreality: A Study of Unreal Possibilities
Nicholas Rescher surveys and analyzes the different kinds of unreal possibilities and nonexistent objects, tying together all the diverse ways in which this area has been approached by philosophers. As he surveys the field and clarifies the kinds of unreality, he also makes a sustained argument against the philosophical fashion for dealing with nonexistent possible world as though they were authentic objects.
The author holds that, while we may discuss possibilities, we ought not to accord them ontological status. The possibility of existence of a certain sort of world is not the existence of possible world of a certain sort. While we may reasonable discuss possibilities at the generic level, such as a world where dogs have horns, this does not require a commitment to a possible world where they do. The work that theorists of logic and language want to accomplish with possible worlds and individuals can be managed with propositional manifolds, stories or scenarios, while the modalities of necessity and possibility that modal logicians want to analyze in terms of realization in possible worlds can be handled by turning instead to figuring in stories or scenarios.
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abstract accordingly actual existence actual world affairs assumption authentic objects basis characterize claim cognitive coherent committed conception concrete consider construed counterfactual conditionals course crucial descriptive dicto possibilities discourse discussion domain example existential fact false fictional objects Heraclitus hypothesis idea identify imaginary imagination incomplete individuals and worlds issue Julius Caesar king of France language Leibniz logic manifold matter meaningful meaningfully Meinong merely possible individuals mind modal modal logic nature nominalistic nonexis nonexistent individuals nonexistent objects nonexistent possible not-p numbers objecthood ontological ontological commitment Parmenides particular position possi possibilia possible worlds predicate principle priority problem properties propositions purport quantifier quasi-existence real things real world reality realized realm refer regard scenarios schematic semantics sense Sherlock Holmes simply sort specification statements status story subsistence supposed supposition sure talk tence theorists theory of descriptions thesis thought experiments tion tive true truth unicorns unrealized possibilities W.V. Quine Xenophanes