Saturday, 17 December 2016

What Was My Problem?

From notes made early in my PhD research:
The central flaw in much of what I have written is that it has the unintended appearance of giving a kind of unexpected grounding for modal discourse. Perhaps it also might look as though what I'm saying might change our evaluative criteria, cast doubt on earlier beliefs about what's possible, etc. All of this has to be avoided. But it isn't satisfactory to simply insist 'No no no, that's not what I'm doing at all' - this has to be made evident. And the way to do that is to be better (more effective) at what I'm really doing. Very often, my problem is that I don't know what my problem is. I have to take it easy about that, and just look for frontiers where they arise.
I think I ended up avoiding this flaw. It gradually became clear that the problem to which I had a solution in inchoate form (now it's hopefully in a clear form) was not about the grounds of modality in general, but rather about the particular, partly-themselves-modal grounds, of the modal notion of subjunctive or metaphysical necessity as it applies to propositions. More specifically, about whether and how semantics comes into the picture. (A proposition is necessary iff it is or is implied by a proposition which is both inherently counterfactually invariant and true, and it makes sense to think of inherent counterfactual invariance as a broadly semantic property.)

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