Imagining Irreality: A Study of Unreal Possibilities

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Open Court Publishing, 2003 - Philosophy - 298 pages
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Nicholas Rescher surveys and analyzes the different kinds of unreal possibilities and nonexistent objects, tying together all the diverse ways in which this area has been approached by philosophers. As he surveys the field and clarifies the kinds of unreality, he also makes a sustained argument against the philosophical fashion for dealing with nonexistent possible world as though they were authentic objects.
The author holds that, while we may discuss possibilities, we ought not to accord them ontological status. The possibility of existence of a certain sort of world is not the existence of possible world of a certain sort. While we may reasonable discuss possibilities at the generic level, such as a world where dogs have horns, this does not require a commitment to a possible world where they do. The work that theorists of logic and language want to accomplish with possible worlds and individuals can be managed with propositional manifolds, stories or scenarios, while the modalities of necessity and possibility that modal logicians want to analyze in terms of realization in possible worlds can be handled by turning instead to figuring in stories or scenarios.
 

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Contents

Fact and Fiction
5
Real Things
25
Possibilities and Merely Possible Individuals
45
Against Reifying Fictional Objects
69
Then and Now
109
Merely Possible Worlds?
141
A Conceptualistic Ontology of Possibility
165
Possible Worlds and Modality
193
Counterfactual Conditionals
211
Historical Counterfactuals
229
The Vagaries of Fiction
239
Bibliography
273
Index
293
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About the author (2003)

Born in Germany, Nicholas Rescher moved to the United States with his parents in 1939 and became a naturalized American citizen in 1944. He attended Queens College in New York City and he received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1951. Rescher served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1952 to 1954 and was employed by the Rand Corporation from 1954 to 1956. He resumed his academic career in 1957 and in 1961 joined the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh, where he is now Research Professor of Philosophy. He played a major role in propelling Pittsburgh into the very top rank among graduate schools in philosophy in the United States. Rescher is the most prolific living American philosophical author, as the list of his books in print reveals. He is also the founding editor of three major philosophical journals: American Philosophical Quarterly, History of Philosophy Quarterly, and Public Affairs Quarterly. Approaching philosophy with a solid background in mathematics and science, he has also specialized in the history of philosophy, with a doctoral dissertation and early articles on Leibniz and, later, with pioneering scholarship on medieval Arabic logic. Rescher's experiences led him to seek practical applications for his philosophical expertise, and he ventured beyond academic philosophy to draw upon empirical research as well as logical method to produce significant works in social thought. He has also sought to formulate a coherent philosophical system in the great tradition. His thinking has moved in the direction of philosophical idealism as he increasingly emphasized the role of mind in constituting its objects.

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