Counting Possibilia

Alfredo Tomasetta

Abstract


Timothy Williamson supports the thesis that every possible entity necessarily exists and so he needs to explain how a possible son of Wittgenstein’s, for example, exists in our world:he exists as a merely possible object (MPO), a pure locus of potential. Williamson presents a short argument for the existence of MPOs: how many knives can be made by fitting together two blades and two handles? Four: at the most two are concrete objects, the others being merely possible knives and merely possible objects. This paper defends the idea that one can avoid reference and ontological commitment to MPOs. My proposal is that MPOs can be dispensed with by using the notion of rules of knife-making. I first present a solution according to which we count lists of instructions - selected by the rules - describing physical combinations between components. This account, however, has its own difficulties and I eventually suggest that one can find a way out by admitting possible worlds, entities which are more commonly accepted - at least by philosophers - than MPOs. I maintain that, in answering Williamson’s questions, we count classes of physically possible worlds in which the same instance of a general rule is applied.


Keywords


Williamson; merely possible object; possible world; rule; artifact

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1387/theoria.639