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date: 20 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines modality in the history of analytic philosophy. There were, in this history, two principal types of reductionism or eliminativism about modality, and two corresponding phases in the rejection of anti-modal stances. First, the founders of analytic philosophy, Frege, Moore, and Russell, took necessity and possibility to be reducible to more fundamental logical notions, where logic for these thinkers consists of truths about a mind- and language-independent reality extending beyond the empirical world. Against this reductionism, C. I. Lewis and Wittgenstein argued that logic itself requires modal notions. Second, Carnap advanced a pragmatically motivated account of modal terms as expressing pseudo-object properties, which appear to be properties of objects but can be construed as properties of their designations. Quine criticized this account and proposed a thoroughgoing elimination of modality. Quine’s well-known claim that quantifying into modal contexts is unintelligible without resorting to essentialism cannot be fully understood independently of Carnap’s notion of pseudo-object property. Against Quine, Ruth Marcus and Saul Kripke argued for the coherence of modal concepts and their entrenchment in ordinary language and thought, leading to the now dominant view that modal properties are mind- and language-independent features of the world.

Keywords: modality, analytic philosophy, logic, a priori, a posteriori, analytic, synthetic, necessary, contingent, essentialism, Frege, G. E. Moore, Bertrand Russell, C. I. Lewis, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Rudolf Carnap, W. V. O. Quine, Ruth Barcan Marcus

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