Possible worlds are often invoked when discussing what's possible, necessary, contingent, impossible or counterfactually the case. We will begin our examination of the notion with a brief survey of the formal semantics for modal logic and the logic of counterfactuals. We will then look at the various debates on the existence and nature of possible worlds and their inhabitants: realism vs anti-realism, actualism vs possibilism, necessitism vs contingentism. Time permitting we may also discuss theories that admit impossible worlds.
We aim to develop the following skills: presenting, with a minimum of jargon, the central
claims of our philosophers so that it is clear to a thoughtful non-specialist what these claims mean;
providing textual evidence that our interpretation is accurate; making explicit the logical structure of
the arguments, which includes uncovering implicit principles and assumptions; and finally, evaluating
the arguments for cogency and persuasiveness and considering possible responses to objections.
It is essential that you attend the course regularly, prepared to discuss the
readings. At the end of the term you will write a paper of 2000 words on a topic you have chosen and
discussed with me.