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Modality Essence and Possible Worlds

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Item Code: NAL179
Author: Indrani Sanyal
Publisher: Suryodaya Books
Language: English
Edition: 2015
ISBN: 9788192570266
Pages: 304
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.0 inch x 6.0 inch
Weight 560 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

This volume is includes ten essays written by Prof. Indrani Sanyal in different phases of her long academic career. Essays collected in this volume document the author’s attempt to negotiate with some of the unmitigated issues frequently raised, debated and discussed in the domain of Anglo-American Analytic Philosophy. Viewpoints of some of the major philosophers like W.V.O. Quine, Ruth Barcan Marcus, Pranab Kumar Sen, David Wiggins and Ludwig Wittgenstein along with many others have come up for discussion and elaboration.

The first six essays of this volume deal directly with the issues relating to modal logic, quantification, essence and possible worlds. In the next three essays, the author has discussed the viewpoints of the earlier Wittgenstein and later Wittgenstein on logical space, limits of language and the nature of understanding. The last essay of this volume concentrates on the idea of structural universals and debates centring its feasibility.

The book has been written in a clear and lucid language without foregoing the required technicalities of the subject matter. Anybody interested in Philosophy in general and Philosophical Logic and metaphysics in particular will find the volume to be interesting. Scholars and researchers will be definitely benefitted by this volume.


About the Author

Prof. Indrani Sanyal Ph.D. is teaching philosophy at the Department of Philosophy, Jadavpur University for nearly thirty years and prior to that taught at Netaji Nagar College, Kolkata. She has also been actively engaged in research in areas of ethics, especially Indian ethics, Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo, and Western Analytic Philosophy. She has brought out various publications in the form of books, anthologies and research papers in journals. She had been the founder coordinator of the Centre for Sri Aurobindo Studies at the Department of Philosophy, Jadavpur University, Kolkata. Some of her important publications include On Essentialist Claims, Through the Lens of Dharma-ethics and edited anthologies (jointly with others), like Understanding Thoughts of Sri Aurobindo; Sri Aurobindo and His Contemporary Thinkrs; Dharmaniti O Sruti; Ethics and Culture: Some Indian Reflections; Education: Philosophy and Practice; The Refugees, Asuras, Marriage and Varied. Some other anthologies edited by Dr Sanyal are Sri Aurobindo: The Poet, Philosopher and Yogi: A Collection of Essays by Arabinda Basu; Ethics and Culture; Some Indian Reflections(vol.2).



Modality, Essence and Possible Worlds is a collection of ten essays I have written in different phases of my academic life—from the remotest to the very recent. The essays included in this volume are thematically linked with one another in one way or other, which also led me to come up with a plan for publishing these together under the same title. Essays collected in this volume are documentation of my modest attempts towards negotiation with some of the unmitigated issues frequently raised, discussed and debated in the domain of Anglo-American Analytic Philosophy. The Department of Philosophy at Jadavpur University, to which I belonged in various capacities –as a postgraduate student, as a research scholar and still belong as a teacher, has a long and vibrant history of nearly sixty years of academic pursuit in different domains of specializations. One of the significant trends of the Department was quite obvious with its direct and sometimes mediate engagement with the Anglo-American Analytic Philosophical tradition, which is a distinguishing historical movement of the twentieth century in the domain of philosophy. The analytic philosophy has different layers or phases and all philosophers engaged in this movement belonged to a family by their sincere urge to develop and practise ‘analysis’ in resolving or dissolving philosophical issues. Terms ‘analysis’, ‘conceptual analysis’, ‘logical analysis’, and ‘linguistic analysis’, are used to signify the method of philosophy advocated by the analytic movement in philosophy. The nomenclature ‘analytic philosophy’ is of very late origin, according to record, it is in vogue sometimes since 1950. Analytic philosophy does not have one unique model of analysis, nor does it stand for any definite viewpoint in philosophy. All analytic philosophers aimed at clarity of expressions and strength of arguments. It is not easy to identify some common areas of their admiration and aversions. It has been supposed that analytic philosophers are united in their anti-metaphysics stance. But this is also not a correct description of an analytic philosopher. There are analytic philosophers who do not consider analytic philosophy as anti-metaphysical in attitude, but rather consider it as a drive to reinstate metaphysics on stronger foundation. Analytic philosophy is a blanket expression, under the cover of which again there are multifarious sub-divisions like philosophy of language, philosophy of logic, philosophy of mind and so on. Many teachers and researchers of the Department of Philosophy at Jadavpur University were devoted to research in the line of analytic philosophy. As students we had also very good exposure to different areas of analytic philosophy. The methodology of analysis, the very germane of analytic philosophy, is still in practice at the Department of Philosophy, Jadavpur University but its practice has reconciled with the changes within the very analytic philosophical tradition by adopting diversifications through multifarious channels. No doubt, the trend persists in its broad spectrum, but admittedly it has taken diverse turns. The great gift of analytic philosophical tradition is its methodology for research. The present volume recounts my commitment to analytic philosophy.

In Chapter One, ‘How IS (?x) (x Is Necessarily Greater than 7) Possible? I am primarily trying to discuss about the feasibility of intermingling of quantifiers with modal operators, since the possibility of quantified modal logic has been put to sharp challenge by W.V. Quine. The logic that was born in the year 1946 out of intermingling of quantifiers with modal operators in a particular order has definitely survived, and is certainly fit to be a logic. But in the face of strong opposition by Quine and some others, these questions require a thorough examination. This article has dealt with views of many distinguished philosophers and logicians. The problem of quantification into a modal context has given rise to the following two important questions:

1. Is quantification into a modal context logically feasible?

2. Is quantification into a modal context metaphysically feasible?

To outline the ‘logical argument’ of Quine, as we may call it, wherein he gives certain formal reasons for rejecting quantified modal logic, is as follows: since it is not possible to quantify over-expression occupying referentially opaque positions, modal contexts which are also referentially opaque, do not permit quantification. The first essay of his volume deals with this issue step by step, in the first place, by figuring out Quine’s objection, second, considering four possible replies to Quine’s objection, that do not propose my radical change in the Quinean framework on quantification and third, concluding with the discussion showing the point of convergence of these four solutions. There are logicians who call into question the very notion of quantification as understood by Quine. Ruth Barcan Marcus proceeds to show that quantification is possible in an opaque context by introducing the substitutional interpretation of quantification in the place of Quine’s objectual interpretation of quantification. However, in this particular suggestion, I did not get into any discussion, though the nature of substitutional interpretation of quantification has been addressed in my article entitled ‘Sen’s Views on Reference and Quantification and Their Implications in a Modal Context’. Of the four solutions to Quine’s objections that have been discussed in this essay, the first one is from Arthur Smullyan and F.B. Fitch showing that the apparent paradox of reference failure generated in a modal context is due to the scope of ambiguity of the descriptive phrases occurring in a modal context; the second solution suggested by Ruth Barcan Marcus in drawing attention to the distinction between an extensional context and modal context in interpreting the relation of identity. The third solution that has been proposed suggests existential generalization is possible in a modal context, by showing the different kinds of positions that a singular term may occupy in a sentence. The fourth solution provides cue for keeping the reference of a singular term fixed as we pass from this actual world to other possible world. This solution is provided by Jaakko Hintikka.

In Chapter Two ‘The De Re Modality and Essentialism’ I take up the second issue regarding possibility of quantified modal logic on the ground of its metaphysical feasibility. The summary of the argument is as follows: Quantification into a modal context is possible only if necessity is de re. But there cannot be any de re necessity unless a thing can be said to possess a property necessarily. To say that a thing possesses a property necessarily or essentially is to be involved in essentialism. There is another angle from which again the change of essentialism may be brought against the possibility of quantified modal logic, but that has not been discussed in the present article. In this article, I have discussed only the first type of essentialism that is involved in de re modality and try to defend it against Quine’s attacks. One of Quine’s main arguments against essentialism is that it is full of contradictions and, therefore, it is a philosophically unaccepted doctrine. Here attempts are made to show how de re modality can be defended against Quine’s objections. One way that has been explored is by showing that a thing can be said to be necessarily so-and-so independently of any specification without raising any problem. Another alternative option has also been explored by showing that even if a thing is necessarily so-and-so only under some specification, the modality may still be de re. These two essays are very much outcome of my Ph D dissertation entitled ‘Some Philosophical Problems of Quantified Modal Logic’ which I did under the supervision of Professor Pranab Kumar Sen.

As a member of the Logic Group under the leadership of Professor Sen, I continued to work with issues surrounding modal logic as such. The result of my research was published under the title, Modality and Possible Worlds (Chapter Three). The semantical representation of modal calculi usually involves reference to possible worlds other than our own world and requires postulation of possible objects not found in the actual world. To name a few pioneers in this direction were Saul Kripke, Jaakko Hintikka and Stig Kanger, all working independently of one another, invoked possible worlds models for the explication of modal notions. The framework of possible worlds has proved to be of immense explanatory value. But it cannot be denied that the notion of possible worlds has given rise to lots of debates and doubts in philosophy. Possible worlds are supposed to be fraught with contradiction, the talk of possible worlds violates the Occam’s principle by leading to needless multiplication of entities. In this paper, I have tried to elucidate and explain the ontological status of so-called possible worlds. The thorough discussion about the views of the semanticists, who upheld the model of possible worlds, reveals that these logicians very much differed from one another in representing their views on the subject. In this paper, I have tried to elaborate their views in a definite order by drawing a distinction between the ‘modalists’ who consider modality as primitive and the ‘non-modalists’ who do not believe in primitive modality; for them there are no modal entities whatsoever. Now, under the ‘modalists’ there are two sub-groups, viz. Modal possibilists, who consider possible worlds as primitive and modal actualists, who do not consider possible worlds primitive. The group which considers modality to be primitive, but does not consider possible worlds to be primitive is further sub-divided into (1) realists, (2) conceptualists, and (3) linguists. The realists, in this scheme of division, are those who think that possible worlds exist independently of our knowledge, belief as certain derived entities of the actual world. The conceptualists regard possible worlds as conceptual constructions and the linguists, on the other hand, take possible world as certain kinds of linguistic entities. All these alternative proposals adopted for accounting possible worlds have been taken up in this essay. In his connection, I have attempted to clear one confusion: the decision to treat modality as primitive should not be confused with the notion of possible worlds as primitive. In the context of modality its primitiveness implies its being non-reductive and non-derivative. This establishes the difference of my approach from that of others who subject modal notions to further analysis to decipher their physical basis. There is a significant sense in which possible worlds are devices or aids to imagination which help in explaining the notions of possibility, necessity, etc. also, this paper very strongly refutes possibilism as an alternative account of possible worlds.

‘A Transcendental Argument for Essentialism’ (Chapter Four) appeared in the Festschrift volume of Amita Chatterjee entitled Mind and Cognition: An Inter-Disciplinary Sharing. Since the days of my Ph D dissertation on ‘Some Philosophical Problems of Quantified Modal Logic’, I always felt against Quinean stricture that essentialism is a strong philosophical position. Relentlessly arguing for the possibility of quantified modal logic, more attention was paid in reclaiming its logical feasibility. But gradually it occurred to me that metaphysics of essence is a defensible, respectable philosophical position with immense practical consequences. The logical feasibility for quantified modal logic if substantiated that may be considered as providing a sound argument in defence of essentialism. But we may develop or look for other arguments as well to substantiate the essentialist claims. In course of supervising the PhD dissertation of Dr Karabi Das Mahapatra, presently Associate Professor of Jiagunj College, Murshidabad, on ‘ The Nature of Identity: The Relativist vs. The Absolutist’ , myself and Karabi had spent years reading and discussing Sameness and Substance of David Wiggins along with the writings of many other philosophers to bring out the best possible viewpoint about the nature of identity. In my later publication On Essentialist Claims. I worked in detail on elaborating and analysing different arguments in favour of essentialism nicknaming these as (1) metaphysical argument of Aristotle, (2) epistemological argument of David Wiggins, and (3) semantical argument of Saul Kripke. However, I had still some feeling of incompleteness and the publication of Sameness and Substance Renewed by David Wiggins rekindled my imagination to rework on Wiggins’s argument. This Festschrift volume gave me an opportunity to revisit Wiggins‘s argument and to relocate myself in the essentialist vs. Non-essentialist debate.




  Introduction 1
1 How Is (?x) (x Is Necessarily Greater than 7 Possible? 21
2 The De Re Modality and Essentialism 65
3 Modality and Possible Worlds 74
4 A Transcendental Argument for Essentialism 132
5 Sen's Views on Reference and Quantification and their Implications in a Modal Contxt 169
6 Pragmatic Ambiguity 187
7 The Logical Space 197
8 The Limits of Language and the Unlimited Beyond 224
9 Some Observations on Builder's Language 245
10 The Structural Universals: Arguments For and Against 260
  Bibliography 270
  Index 278


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