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ERIC Number: ED548871
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 200
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-2676-8368-7
Modal Inconstancy: How Our Interests Influence How Things Could Be
Cray, Wesley David
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, The Ohio State University
Many sentences of modal discourse are "inconstant": "Paris Hilton could have been a politician", for example, seems to be true in some contexts, false in others. In this dissertation, I explore this topic, which we can call the "inconstancy of de re modal attributions". My goal is to develop, motivate, and defend a new account of inconstancy and consider how it affects our understanding of certain issues in metaphysics and metametaphysics. Extant accounts, such as David Lewis's counterpart theory, locate inconstancy in the gap between a sentence and the proposition it expresses, so that the sentence "Paris Hilton could have been a politician" expresses different propositions in different contexts, in much the way that the sentence "I am not a crook" expresses different propositions in different contexts. Accounts like these are instances of what I call the "shallow view" of inconstancy. I instead locate the inconstancy in the gap between propositions and the world: the sentence expresses the same proposition in all contexts, but that proposition is true in some circumstances, false in others. I call this view the deep view of inconstancy. The "deep view", I claim, is preferable to the shallow view. In support of this claim, I advance three main lines of argument. First, I argue that, on most formulations, the shallow view runs into semantic and metaphysical problems not faced by the deep view. Second, I argue that the deep view comes with conceptual advantages over any version of the shallow view: competence with certain fragments of natural language seems to be conceptually prior to competence with others, and the deep view best makes sense of this. Third, I argue that relevant linguistic data favor the deep view over the shallow view. While none of these lines of argument, taken in isolation, is enough to settle the matter, when we consider all three together we find a compelling cumulative case for accepting the deep view. If the deep view is correct, then as these sentences change truth-value from one circumstance to the next, something about the circumstance must change alongside them. I argue that what changes are our conversational goals and interests. In making sense of this, I give an account of how such goals and interests can play a role in determining which objects could or must instantiate which properties (or stand in which relations). On this account, our goals and interests can help shape an object's modal profile. Such a claim has far-reaching implications: if our goals and interests influence modal profiles, then those same goals and interests become relevant to certain debates in metaphysics and metametaphysics. The friend of the deep view thus has the resources to say new and interesting things in these debates; I focus in particular on a new strategy the deep view offers us when it comes to the familiar problem of the statue and the clay. Additionally, I spend some time sketching out and discussing a preliminary metametaphysical picture the deep view can provide. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A