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Title: Intensional type theory for higher-order contingentism
Author: Fritz, Peter
ISNI:       0000 0004 5366 0862
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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Things could have been different, but could it also have been different what things there are? It is natural to think so, since I could have failed to be born, and it is natural to think that I would then not have been anything. But what about entities like propositions, properties and relations? Had I not been anything, would there have been the property of being me? In this thesis, I formally develop and assess views according to which it is both contingent what individuals there are and contingent what propositions, properties and relations there are. I end up rejecting these views, and conclude that even if it is contingent what individuals there are, it is necessary what propositions, properties and relations there are. Call the view that it is contingent what individuals there are first-order contingentism, and the view that it is contingent what propositions, properties and relations there are higher-order contingentism. I bring together the three major contributions to the literature on higher-order contingentism, which have been developed largely independently of each other, by Kit Fine, Robert Stalnaker, and Timothy Williamson. I show that a version of Stalnaker's approach to higher-order contingentism was already explored in much more technical detail by Fine, and that it stands up well to the major challenges against higher-order contingentism posed by Williamson. I further show that once a mistake in Stalnaker's development is corrected, each of his models of contingently existing propositions corresponds to the propositional fragment of one of Fine's more general models of contingently existing propositions, properties and relations, and vice versa. I also show that Stalnaker's theory of contingently existing propositions is in tension with his own theory of counterfactuals, but not with one of the main competing theories, proposed by David Lewis. Finally, I connect higher-order contingentism to expressive power arguments against first-order contingentism. I argue that there are intelligible distinctions we draw with talk about "possible things", such as the claim that there are uncountably many possible stars. Since first-order contingentists hold that there are no possible stars apart from the actual stars, they face the challenge of paraphrasing such talk. I show that even in an infinitary higher-order modal logic, the claim that there are uncountably many possible stars can only be paraphrased if higher-order contingentism is false. I therefore conclude that even if first-order contingentism is true, higher-order contingentism is false.
Supervisor: Williamson, Timothy; Dorr, Cian Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council ; German Academic Exchange Service ; Scatcherd European Scholarship ; Hanfling Scholarship
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Metaphysics ; Logic ; Contingentism ; Modal Logic ; Type Theory