Advertisement

Erkenntnis

, Volume 79, Issue 2, pp 327–349 | Cite as

Explanation and Modality: On the Contingency Horn of Blackburn’s Dilemma

  • Vittorio Morato
Original Article

Abstract

Can we explain why some propositions are necessary? Blackburn (Fact, science, and value. Blackwell, Oxford, 1987) has presented a dilemma aimed at showing that the necessity of a proposition cannot be explained either in the case where the explanans is another necessary proposition (necessity horn) or in the case where the explanans is a contingent proposition (contingency horn). Blackburn’s dilemma is intended to show that necessary truth is an explanatorily irreducible kind of truth: there is nothing that explains why propositions are necessary, nothing that makes necessary necessary truths. In this paper, I criticize the contingency horn of Blackburn’s dilemma. On the one hand, I show that the official reconstruction of the horn uses a principle that is incompatible with the notion of explanation plausibly needed to explain why propositions are necessary; on the other, I show that a simpler formulation of the horn, which does not make use of such a controversial principle, makes essential use of principles that are incompatible with the idea that possibilities can have explanatory roles. I then defend the view that possibilities can have explanatory roles, and that the explanatory role of possibilities is best represented, within possible worlds, as the existence of trans-world relations of explanation.

Keywords

Higgs Boson Actual World Contingent Proposition True Proposition Actual Truth 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgments

Earlier versions of this paper have been presented at the 6th Latin Meeting in Analytic Philosophy (University of Lisbon) and at the COGITO Seminar (University of Bologna). I would like to thank these two audiences for very stimulating comments and discussions. Special thanks go to Andrea Bianchi, Massimiliano Carrara, Giuseppe Spolaore and two anonymous referees.

References

  1. Blackburn, S. (1987). Morals and modals. In C. Wright & C. McDonald, (Eds.), Fact, science, and value. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  2. Cameron, R. (2010). On the source of necessity. In B. Hale & A. Hoffmann (Eds.), Modality (pp. 137–153). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. deRosset, L. (2013). Grounding explanations. Philosopher’s Imprint, 13(7), 1–26.Google Scholar
  4. Divers, J. (2002). Possible worlds. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Fine, K. (2003). The non-identity of a thing and its matter. Mind, 112, 195–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Fodor, J. A. (1974). Special sciences (or the disunity of science as a working hypothesis). Synthese, 28(1), 97–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Frankfurt, H. (1969). Alternate possibilities and responsability. The Journal of Philosophy, 66(23), 829–839.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hale, B. (2002). The source of necessity. Philosophical Perspectives, 16, 299–319.Google Scholar
  9. Hanks, P. W. (2008). A dilemma about necessity. Erkenntnis, 68(1), 129–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kripke, S. A. (1963). Semantical considerations on modal logic. Acta Philsophica Fennica, 16, 83–94.Google Scholar
  11. Lange, M. (2008). Why contingent facts cannot necessities make. Logic and Analysis, 62(2), 120–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Lewis, D. K. (1973a). Causation. Journal of Philosophy, 70, 556–567 (Reprinted with a postscript in Lewis (1986, Ch. 21, pp. 159–213)).Google Scholar
  13. Lewis D. K. (1973b). Counterfactuals. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  14. Lewis D. K. (1986). Philosophical papers (Vol. II). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Lewis D. K. (2000). Causation as influence. Journal of Philosophy, 97, 182–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Salmon, N. (1986). Modal paradox: Parts and counterparts, points and counterpoints. Midwest Studies in Philosophy, Xi, 75–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Salmon, N. (1989). The logic of what might have been. Philosophical Review, 98(1), 3–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Sartorio, C. (2011). Actuality and responsability. Mind, 120(480), 1071–1097.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Stalnaker, R. (1976). Possible worlds. Nous, 10, 65–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Williamson, T. (2000). Knowledge and its limits. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of PaduaPaduaItaly

Personalised recommendations