The Bounds of Possibility: Puzzles of Modal Variation

ISBN : 9780192846655

Cian Dorr; John Hawthorne; Juhani Yli-Vakkuri
448 Pages
164 x 245 mm
Pub date
Nov 2021
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In general, a given object could have been different in certain respects. For example, the Great Pyramid could have been somewhat shorter or taller; the Mona Lisa could have had a somewhat different pattern of colours; an ordinary table could have been made of a somewhat different quantity of wood. But there seem to be limits. It would be odd to suppose that the Great Pyramid could have been thimble-sized; that the Mona Lisa could have had the pattern of colours that actually characterizes The Scream; or that the table could have been made of the very quantity of wood that in fact made some other table. However, there are puzzling arguments that purport to show that so long as an object is capable of being somewhat different in some respect, it is capable of being radically different in that respect. These arguments rely on two tempting thoughts: first, that an object's capacity for moderate variation is a non-contingent matter, and second, that what is possibly possible is simply possible. The Bounds of Possibility systematically investigates competing strategies for resolving these puzzles, and defends one of them. Along the way it engages with foundational questions about the metaphysics of modality.


1 Logical tools
2 Tolerance Puzzles
3 Motivating Non-contingency
4 Coincidence Puzzles
5 Accepting Hypertolerance
6 Hypertolerance and supervenience
7 Rejecting Iteration
8 Iteration for metaphysical necessity
9 Tolerance and chance
10 Tolerance and counterpart theory
11 Resolving the puzzles
12 Refinements and choice points
13 Alternatives and challenges
14 Indiscernible Tolerance Arguments
15 Non-qualitativeness and aboutness
Appendix A Modal logics
Appendix B Rigidity and Ancestral Iteration
Appendix C Consequences of the rigidity axioms
Appendix D Narrower modalities in higher-order S4

About the author: 

Cian Dorr studied at University College, Cork and Princeton University. He is currently Professor of Philosophy at New York University, and has previously held positions at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Oxford. ; John Hawthorne is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California and at the Dianoia Institute of Philosophy at the Australian Catholic University. He was previously Waynflete Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy at the University of Oxford. ; Juhani Yli-Vakkuri is Senior Research Fellow at the Dianoia Institute of Philosophy at the Australian Catholic Unieversity. He was previously Professor of Philosophy of Language at the University of Tartu.

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