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In this paper I explore informationalism, a pragmatic theory of modality that seems to solve some serious problems in the familiar possible worlds accounts of modality. I view the theory as an elaboration of Stalnaker's moderate modal realism, though it also derives from Dretske's semantic theory of information. Informationalism is presented in Section 2 after the prerequisite stage setting in Section 1. Some applications are sketched in Section 3. Finally, a mathematical model of the theory is developed in Section 4.
How many times have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth? (Arthur Conan Doyle)
You've put me in an impossible situation. (Anonymous)
[N]othing we imagine is absolutely impossible. (David Hume)
A theory of ersatz impossible worlds is developed to deal with the problem of counterpossible conditionals. Using only tools standardly in the toolbox of possible worlds theorists, it is shown that we can construct a model for counterpossibles. This model is a natural extension of Lewis's semantics for counterfactuals, but instead of using classical logic as its base, it uses the logic LP.
The question of the interpretation of impossible pictures is taken up. Penrose's account is reviewed. It is argued that whereas this account makes substantial inroads into the problem, there needs to be a further ingredient. An inconsistent account using heap models is proposed.
Reasoning about situations we take to be impossible is useful for a variety of theoretical purposes. Furthermore, using a device of impossible worlds when reasoning about the impossible is useful in the same sorts of ways that the device of possible worlds is useful when reasoning about the possible. This paper discusses some of the uses of impossible worlds and argues that commitment to them can and should be had without great metaphysical or logical cost. The paper then provides an account of reasoning with impossible worlds, by treating such reasoning as reasoning employing counterpossible conditionals, and provides a semantics for the proposed treatment.
The paper contains a short story which is inconsistent, essentially so, but perfectly intelligible. The existence of such a story is used to establish various views about truth in fiction and impossible worlds.
Paraconsistent logics are often semantically motivated by considering "impossible worlds." Lewis, in "Logic for equivocators," has shown how we can understand paraconsistent logics by attributing equivocation of meanings to inconsistent believers. In this paper I show that we can understand paraconsistent logics without attributing such equivocation. Impossible worlds are simply sets of possible worlds, and inconsistent believers (inconsistently) believe that things are like each of the worlds in the set. I show that this account gives a sound and complete semantics for Priest's paraconsistent logic LP, which uses materials any modal logician has at hand.
The best arguments for possible worlds as states of affairs furnish us with equally good arguments for impossible worlds of the same sort. I argue for a theory of impossible worlds on which the impossible worlds correspond to maximal inconsistent classes of propositions. Three objections are rejected. In the final part of the paper, I present a menu of impossible worlds and explore some of their interesting formal properties.
Lewis has argued that impossible worlds are nonsense: if there were such worlds, one would have to distinguish between the truths about their contradictory goings-on and contradictory falsehoods about them; and this--Lewis argues--is preposterous. In this paper I examine a way of resisting this argument by giving up the assumption that `in so-and-so world' is a restricting modifier which passes through the truth-functional connectives. The outcome is a sort of subvaluational semantics which makes a contradiction 'A and not-A' false even when both 'A' and 'not-A' are true, just as supervaluational semantics makes a tautology 'A and not-A' true even when neither 'A' and 'not-A' are.
In this paper, the author derives a metaphysical theory of impossible worlds from an axiomatic theory of abstract objects. The underlying logic of the theory is classical. Impossible worlds are not taken to be primitive entities but are instead characterized intrinsically using a definition that identifies them with, and reduces them to, abstract objects. The definition is shown to be a good one–the proper theorems derivable from the definition assert that impossible worlds have the important characteristics that philosophers suppose them to have. None of these consequences, however, imply that any contradiction is true (though contradictions can be "true at" impossible worlds). This classically-based conception of impossible worlds provides a subject matter for paraconsistent logic and demonstrates that there need be no conflict between the laws of paraconsistent logic and the laws of classical logic, for they govern different kinds of worlds. It is argued that the resulting theory constitutes a theory of genuine (as opposed to ersatz) impossible worlds. However, impossible worlds are not needed to distinguish necessarily equivalent propositions or for the treatment of the propositional attitudes, since the underlying theory of propositions already has that capacity.