Upcoming talk: “Humean possibilities”

On 22 September, at the workshop ‘What is really possible 2 (WIRP-2): Logical and philosophical aspects of real possibility’, at Konstanz–a satellite workshop of GAP8–, I will give a talk entitled ‘Humean possibilities’.


This talk will contend that all modality is grounded in actuality, and in actuality only. ‘Real’ possibility can only ever arise a posteriori out of building blocks we collect in our interactions with the actual world. The theories we thus construct span ranges of possibilities, which do not physically exist but are ‘real’ to the extent to which we accept the theory on which they are based. Humans and other epistemically restricted agents do not have access to the entire ‘Humean mosaic’ of occurrent facts and are thus compelled to ‘theorize’ about the world they inhabit, i.e., they must hypothesize about its regularity structure. From this hypothesizing emerges the modality we ascribe to our world. Modality, on this view, is ‘de theoria’ rather than either ‘de re’ or ‘de dicto’. The view sketched here thus rejects both modal realism, de re essentialism, and necessitarian combinatorialism, as well as the empiricist position which takes necessity to arise from stipulated semantic conventions.


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