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Strohminger & Yli-Vakkuri Improve (in Some Respects) Upon Kipper's Bombshell (and My Account of Necessity May Be False)

This post is quite compressed and relies on things explained in the previous posts on the task of linking Necessity to apriority, as well as alluding to my Account of necessity as expressed in my PhD thesis. In a future post, I intend to explain and explore what these developments mean for my account of necessity.

There has recently appeared an unpublished manuscript on PhilPapers (PDF available here at time of writing) which contains even stronger counterexamples to both Casullo's and my proposed link between necessity and apriority. It is by Margot Strohminger and Yuhani Yli-Vakkuri.

a priori (and, relevantly for me, these examples also don't seem to be implied by propositions whose general modal status can be known a priori). For example:

Bob Dylan is at least as tall as Robert Zimmerman.
This is necessary, since Bob Dylan is Robert Zimmerman. But for all we can know a priori, Dylan and Zimmerman are distinct, in which case this proposition would not be necessary, but contingent.

But hold on a minute! My link appeals to implication, and I said that the example above isn't implied by a proposition whose general modal status is knowable a priori. But can't we say that it is implied by 'Bob Dylan is Robert Zimmerman', which we can know a priori to be necessary? Yes, we can - although here we need a notion of implication which takes into account the meaning of 'is at least as tall as' - or at least the fact that it's a certain kind of comparative expression - rather than just the meanings of subject-neutral particles like 'or', 'all' and 'some'. So, from the point of view of disproving Casullo's proposed link, this example may be the best available so, but from the point of view of disproving my proposed implication-involving link, Kipper's natural kind examples may still have an edge.

It seems to be a very exciting time to be thinking about these issues! So far, in this post and the last, I've been talking about how these examples affect my proposed link between necessity and apriority. But the situation is more serious than that for me. The centrepiece of my PhD thesis was an account of the conditions under which a proposition is necessarily true (I've blogged about this account quite a bit here). And these developments, as far as I can tell, may well show that account to be false. This is very momentous for me, as I worked on that account for several years and considered it to be maybe my best bit of work.

I can't believe I didn't think of the example above in connection with my account! I even considered a very similar example when making a side point about using my notion of a genuine counterfactual scenario description (used in my account of necessity) to arrive at a definition of rigid designation which is in some ways more fundamental than the Kripkean one.

Stay tuned for more on whether and how these developments affect my account of necessity, and what can be done about it if they do.

This post first appeared on Service Unavailable, please read the originial post: here

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Strohminger & Yli-Vakkuri Improve (in Some Respects) Upon Kipper's Bombshell (and My Account of Necessity May Be False)


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