ALVIN PLANTINGA. Calvin College. Search for more papers by this author. First published: April Full publication history; DOI. I then develop an actualist conception of possible worlds, properties, and essences. In particular, I Alvin Plantinga and Matthew Davidson. Print publication. (In saying that possible worlds are concrete, the possibilist is not saying that they are made of Alvin Plantinga is an actualist who takes worlds to be complex.

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As an example of actualistically acceptable abstract worlds, we draw chiefly upon Plantinga’s account. In this account, we replace the possibilist idea of merely possible worlds with that of a certain type of state of affairs alternatively, a certain type of proposition which exists but fails to obtain alternatively, fails to be true.

Where propositions are said to be true or false, states of affairs are said to obtain or not.

Actualism and Possible Worlds

Importantly, note that a state of affairs can exist without obtaining, just as a proposition can exist without being true. States of affairs, like propositions, are taken to be necessary beings on this account. This theory is then to be applied anx follows. If there are no Aliens, then no such world obtains.

Alvin Plantinga, Actualism and possible worlds – PhilPapers

Thus, in this first stage of the actualist treatment of modality, ordinary possibility claims are analyzed in terms of actually existing states of affairs. This step is, therefore, consistent with Thesis A. So far, no possible-but-nonactual objects have been introduced for the analysis of modal claims. In putting forward this theory, the actualist takes herself to be replacing an obscure distinction between two modes of being — possible existence and actual existence — with an intelligible distinction.


This distinction is replaced by an allegedly clear distinction between two kinds of existing states of affairs — those that obtain and those that don’t.

That the latter distinction is more intelligible than the former ones is often just assumed by the actualist without argument.

This invites the question whether there are cogent arguments for this assumption. However, again, we will not pursue this question here.

Furthermore, in putting forward this theory, the actualist has not invoked any objects which worldd such modal properties as being a possible million carat diamond, being a possible talking donkey, being a possible Alien, etc.

A possible world is a state of affairs that could be such that it includes all and only states of affairs that obtain. Postulating objects with modal properties such as this seems less objectionable to the actualist than postulating objects with poossible modal properties described at the beginning of this paragraph. This of course invites a certain question, namely, just why is it less objectionable to have objects with the latter modal properties than the former one. But, again, we will not pursue this question here.


This latter point about the actualist theory of worlds brings us to the second step of their treatment of modality, namely, how to analyze ordinary modal claims that seem to require such possible individuals as possible million carat diamonds, possible talking donkeys, possible Aliens, etc. For the remainder of this essay, then, we assume that some actualist theory of worlds is viable and therefore concentrate our energies solely on the problems that arise in connection possible individuals rather than possible worlds.

Supplement to Actualism An Account of Abstract Possihle Worlds As an example of actualistically acceptable abstract worlds, we draw chiefly upon Plantinga’s account.

We can now define several critical notions: A state of affairs w is a world just in case it is possible that w includes all and only states of affairs that obtain.

For any state of affairs s and world ws obtains at w just in case plantigna includes s. A world w is actual just in case w obtains.

An individual x exists in world w just in case the state of affairs x’s existing obtains at w. Open access to the SEP is made possible by a world-wide funding initiative.

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