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Bennett, Karen. Proxy ”Actualism”
2006, Philosophical Studies, Vol. 129, No. 2, pp. 263-294.
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Added by: Christopher James Masterman
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Bernard Linsky and Edward Zalta have recently proposed a new form of actualism. I characterize the general form of their view and the motivations behind it. I argue that it is not quite new – it bears interesting similarities to Alvin Plantinga’s view – and that it definitely isn’t actualist.

Comment: This article presupposes knowledge of actualism vs. possibilism debate, as well as some familiarity with quantified modal logic. It would be best to incorporate this text alongside Linsky and Zalta's 'In Defense of the Simplest Quantified Modal Logic' (1994). It is a perfect text for a more advanced undergraduate course on modal metaphysics or a masters course, particularly if you were wanting to spend more than a single week on actualism vs. possibilism.

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Bennett, Karen. Two Axes of Actualism
2005, The Philosophical Review, Vol. 114, No. 3, pp. 297-326
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Added by: Christopher James Masterman
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Actualists routinely characterize their view by means of the slogan, “Everything is actual.” They say that there aren’t any things that exist but do not actually exist—there aren’t any “mere possibilia.” If there are any things that deserve the label ‘possible world’, they are just actually existing entities of some kind—maximally consistent sets of sentences, or maximal uninstantiated properties, or maximal possible states of affairs, or something along those lines. Possibilists, in contrast, do think that there are mere possibilia, that there are things that are not actual. They think that more exists than what actually exists. All I have done so far, though, is rephrase the slogan in various ways. To say that everything is actual is precisely to say that there are no things that do not actually exist, which is precisely to say that there are no mere possibilia, and which is also precisely to say that we cannot sep- arately quantify over what exists and what is actual. These claims all amount to the same thing. But what is that, exactly? What on earth does it mean to say that everything is actual, that there are no mere possibilia, and so on? What does the actualist slogan really come to? I think the literature is far from clear on this point, and that people work themselves into unnecessary muddles because of it. Indeed, certain confusions that I shall discuss in the first half of this article seem to be on the rise. It is high time to lay out the issues and the choice points as clearly as possible. There are two primary choices to be made; there are two axes along which versions of actualism can vary. One choice has to do with how to treat claims about things that merely could exist. The other choice has to do with the modal status of the view and of how we should think about the “actual” in actualism. I make no claim that the positions I will eventually endorse are star- tlingly new. I think that most people will agree with the decisions I make at both choice points and will in fact find some bits of this essay obvious. But not everyone agrees with my decisions, and it has been my experience that people differ remarkably about which bits they find obvious—a fact I find rather telling. My goal, then, is to show that the two axes are there and to clarify the consequences of the choices.

Comment: Although this is not intended primarily as an overview of actualism, it serves well to introduce the topic in a focused and clear way. It would be a good alternative to the SEP entry 'The Possible-Actualism Debate', for instance. It requires very little previous knowledge of actualism, possibilism, or modal metaphysics more broadly. It would be perfect for an introductory undergraduate course on modal metaphysics, or a broader metaphysics course which included metaphysics of modality.

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Janssen-Lauret, Frederique. Ruth Barcan Marcus and quantified modal logic
2022, British Journal for the History of Philosophy 30 (2):353-383.
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Added by: Christopher Masterman
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Analytic philosophy in the mid-twentieth century underwent a major change of direction when a prior consensus in favour of extensionalism and descriptivism made way for approaches using direct reference, the necessity of identity, and modal logic. All three were first defended, in the analytic tradition, by one woman, Ruth Barcan Marcus. But analytic philosophers now tend to credit them to Kripke, or Kripke and Carnap. I argue that seeing Barcan Marcus in her historical context – one dominated by extensionalism and descriptivism – allows us to see how revolutionary she was, in her work and influence on others. I focus on her debate with Quine, who found himself retreating to softened, and more viable, versions of his anti-modal arguments as a result. I make the case that Barcan's formal logic was philosophically well-motivated, connected to her views on reference, and well-matched to her overall views on ontology. Her nominalism led her to reject posits which could not be directly observed and named, such as possibilia. She conceived of modal calculi as facilitating counterfactual discourse about actual existents. I conclude that her contributions ought to be recognized as the first of their kind. Barcan Marcus must be awarded a central place in the canon of analytic philosophy.

Comment: This would be excellent supplementary reading for a course in modal logic or metaphysics which incorporated the work of Ruth Barcan Marcus. Clearly discusses her contribution to modal logic and metaphysics and discusses the history of this period of philosophy in depth.

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