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Wednesday, January 08, 2014

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Happy New Year, Bill.

Does part (c) of the triad state (1) that the real is a species in the genus of the actual, or (2) that the real is identical to the actual? And if the conceptualist/constructivist accepts (c), does he accept (1) or (2)?

It seems that (1) and (2) each pose problems for the conceptualist/constructivist who accepts (c) but denies (b).

Happy New Year, Elliot.

The former, except that I wouldn't say that the actual is a genus.

(c)says that, for any x, if x is real, then x is actual. That is weaker than the biconditional: x is real iff x is actual.

I don't see any problem with a conceptualist's joint rejection of (b) and acceptance of weak or strong (c).

Regarding (d), (e), and (f), if we must speak of possible worlds, why not say that there are three groups of worlds involved? Why believe that through (e) or (f) we have made contact with (have arrived at, or made reference to) this or that particular world? Rescher denies that we ever deal with or successfully refer to a particular possible world in the course of our deliberations.

I'm not sure you understand what a possible world is. This may help: http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2009/10/some-theses-on-possible-worlds.html

That's a helpful post! But my minor question remains, and I'm not sure it was based on a misunderstanding (though you're quite right to doubt that I understand possible worlds).

You speak of "the world in which our boy remains single". Why not speak of a world in the group of worlds in which he remains single? Should we believe that there is only one such world?

One of Rescher's contentions is that when we discuss merely possible worlds, we are never discussing this or that particular world; the best we can manage is to discuss a sort of world or a group of worlds. "Merely possible worlds can only be discussed in the indefinite plural" (378). Your "the" makes it seem that you disagree with Rescher on this point; do you actually?

Bashar,

Now I see what you mean. Sorry to misunderstand you. There are many possible worlds in which Clinton remains single, many worlds in which he marries Hillary, and many worlds in which he marries someone other than Hillary.

So my exposition was sloppy.

Possible worlds are wholly determinate, determinate down to the last detail. That follows from the fact that worlds are maximal. Rescher rejects possible worlds. His reasoning, however, is not compelling. And this for essentially the same reason that the (A)-(D) argument is not compelling.

Another minor question: Do you think of actual individuals in merely possible worlds as merely possible individuals? That's what your second-to-last sentence seems to imply, though you might have meant the phrase "or merely possible individuals" as a parenthesis.

Also a minor comment: Judging from this paper alone, I think Rescher would agree that "Bill Clinton" refers to the same individual in (d), (e), and (f). Section III contains a simple argument for--or perhaps only a vigorous assertion of--"transworld identity" in hypotheses that involve changes to actual individuals.

Correction: "you might have meant 'and merely possible individuals' by the parenthesis."

Perhaps we should read Rescher as stating the following in the paragraph you quoted: (i) There is a realm of nonexistent possibility. (ii) This realm includes objects of our contrivance. (iii) These objects are the only members of the realm with which we can deal, the only ones, that is, to which we can have cognitive access, about which we can form beliefs, and so on. (iv) We can have cognitive access to these precisely because of what they are: objects of our own contrivance, of our own thought or cognition.

To these we might add (v): We have no reason to believe that the realm of nonexistents includes anything besides the objects that we contrive. Or (v)': We have no reason to believe that the realm of nonexistents includes anything besides objects of contrivance (our contrivance or God's). Whether it does, and what they are, "God only knows" (p. 381). Hence Rescher's "as far as we are concerned" and "as best we ourselves can indicate what is at issue here" (378). In this paper, Rescher doesn't quite deny that there can be complete nonexistent objects, or possibilia. He denies that finite minds can ever make reference to them in the course of their deliberations, and he doubts that finite minds can have a good, nontheological reason for positing them as genuine objects (377, 381).

Here are some of Rescher's key assumptions: (vi) Whenever we try to access the realm of nonexistent possibility, we proceed by forming hypotheses or by engaging in a similar activity (see pp. 364, 377, 380). (vii) But forming hypotheses is a constructive activity (364, 377-8). A hypothesis is more like a mixing bowl than a telescope, to borrow your analogy. Thus, a hypothesis can be said to engender an object of contrivance, a linguistic or intellectual "artifact", a "putative item", an "item of discussion or consideration" (364, 379-80). (viii) We have no (nontheological) reason to believe that the realm of nonexistents includes items, or a class of items, besides the ones, whatever they are, with which we can deal.

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