Thought ISSN 2161-2234
Hardcore Actualism and Possible
King’s College London
According to hardcore actualism (HA), all modal truths are grounded in the concrete constituents
of the actual world. In this paper, I discuss some problems faced by HA when it comes to accounting
for certain alleged possibilities of non-existence. I focus particular attention on Leech (2017)’s
dilemma for HA, according to which HA must either sacrice extensional correctness or admit
mere possibilia. I propose a solution to Leech’s dilemma, which relies on a distinction between
weak and strong possibility. It remains the case, however, that HA cannot capture certain iterated
de re possibilities of non-existence and that it is committed to a stock of necessary existents. But I
still think that the virtues of the view outweigh these costs.
Keywords actualism; existence; grounding; modality; time
Recently, there has been some steady interest in a view about the metaphysics of modality
that Contessa (2010) calls hardcore actualism (HA). HA grounds all modal truths in the
concrete constituents of the actual world, which is an appealing alternative to a long
tradition of using questionable ontological categories such as abstracta or possibilia to
account for modality. Furthermore, HA can claim some continuity with science. Science
is well placed to yield knowledge of ordinary concrete things and their properties and
hence, given HA, to yield modal knowledge.
Barbara Vetter (2015) presents the most thoroughly developed hardcore actualist
modal metaphysics (but see also Borghini and Williams 2008; Jacobs 2010). Vetter posits
an ontology of irreducibly modal properties that she calls potentialities.Potentialities
are similar to dispositions and the two are related as follows: potentialities admit of
degrees such that to qualify as possessing some disposition,anindividualmustpossess
the relevant potentiality to a suciently high degree. Both a vase and a brick, for example,
have the potentiality to break but only the vase possesses this potentiality to a high
enough degree to count as being disposed to break. Potentialities (and dispositions) are
individuated, not via some stimulus-manifestation pair, but via their manifestation alone;
an individual’s potentiality to break entails just that it can break. Hence, possibility,and
not the counterfactual, is the modality with which potentialities are most closely allied
(Vetter 2015, pp. 33–60).
Correspondence to: E-mail: email@example.com
Thought 7 (2018) 122 –131
© 2018 The Author. Thought: A Journal of Philosophy published by The Thought Trust and Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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