Non-Descriptivism About Modality. A Brief History And Revival

The Baltic International Yearbook of Cognition, Logic and Communication. 2009;4 DOI 10.4148/biyclc.v4i0.132


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Journal Title: The Baltic International Yearbook of Cognition, Logic and Communication

ISSN: 1944-3676 (Print)

Publisher: New Prairie Press

Society/Institution: University of Latvia, Center for Cognitive Sciences and Semantics, Riga, Latvia

LCC Subject Category: Philosophy. Psychology. Religion: Psychology | Philosophy. Psychology. Religion: Philosophy (General)

Country of publisher: United States

Language of fulltext: English

Full-text formats available: PDF



Amie Thomasson


Blind peer review

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Time From Submission to Publication: 8 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

Despite the otherwise-dominant trends towards physicalism and naturalism in philosophy, it has become increasingly common for metaphysicians to accept the existence either of modal facts and properties, or of Lewisian possible worlds. This paper raises the historical question: why did these heavyweight realist views come into prominence? The answer is that they have arisen in response to the demand to find truthmakers for our modal statements. But this demand presupposes that modal statements are descriptive claims in need of truthmakers. This presupposition was, however, rejected by many earlier analytic philosophers, including the logical positivists, Wittgenstein, Ryle and Sellars, all of whom denied that (at least certain kinds of) modal statement were descriptive at all. Yet the non-descriptivist approach has largely fallen out of discussion and out of philosophical consciousness. In this paper I examine why non-descriptivist views first came into and then fell out of favor, and consider what the prospects are for reviving this more deflationary approach to modality.