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Monday, September 17, 2018


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Thank you for devoting so much time to answering my question.
I admit I am still surprised that philosophers smarter than I am find this apparatus clarifying, but at least I am clearer on one point: if you are correct, PW talk is philosophically neutral--which is not always the case when, e.g., someone wants an extensional account of something.
Having said that, I now see another thing I don't understand. If PW talk is just another way of saying the same thing, it must be possible--mustn't it?--to explain Lewis' position ("actual" is indexical), his reasons for it, and others' objections to it, without such talk, but it is not obvious to me how to do so.

I get the impression you are confusing PW talk with the ontology of PWs.

There are possible worlds in which I stayed in engineering and didn't go into philosophy. But I could say the same thing without using PW jargon: I might have stayed in engineering and not have gone into philosophy.

I don't have to worry about what possible worlds ARE. And I certainly don't have to adopt the concretist scheme of David Lewis.

I can talk the talk without walking the Lewisian walk.

I was not assuming that one has to accept Lewis' position, or even have an opinion about it. My idea was that if PW talk is dispensable, then every statement in the PW literature can be translated back into language that makes no mention of PWs. But I don't see how you can explain what Lewis' position is, or the pros and cons of it, without such reference. And if you can't, doesn't that imply that the PWers are adding something substantive? I've been trying to think of an analogy; it doesn't seem to be on a par with expressing "Every boy loves some girl" in logical notation.

I admit that I'm not sure that this is a good question; maybe I'm not seeing something obvious. But I don't think I 'm making the mistake you attribute to me.

You are right that one cannot explain what Lewis' position is without PW talk. >>And if you can't, doesn't that imply that the PWers are adding something substantive?<<

No. And why do you conclude that? It is not clear what you mean by "adding something substantive"?

The question is whether we can express modal truths without invoking the apparatus of possible worlds.

Example. I am not now playing the guitar, but I can play the guitar. There is no need to invoke merely possible worlds in which I am now playing the guitar; it suffices to say that I have the presently unexercised ability to play the guitar.

The truthmaker of 'I can play the guitar' is not what some Lewisian counterpart of me is doing in some possible world, but the ability (power, capacity) I possess to play the guitar.

But then what do we do with (DD) above?

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