Chapter 1 surveys the main elements of the theory of modality defended in the book: possibility and necessity are matters of degree, and the degree of possibility of a claim P depends on how close (overall similar) the closest P-worlds are to actuality. Closeness to actuality can in turn be analyzed in terms of causation and explanation. Human beings developed the notions of closeness and of possibility and necessity in part because of the utility of these concepts in investigating explanatory relationships by counterfactual reasoning. This cognitive routine is an extension of a procedure for studying causation known as the “method of difference,” which is widely applied in everyday life as well as in scientific experiments. Contrary to a widespread view, modal facts aren’t of much metaphysical interest in their own right, but are important to philosophy mostly because they can serve as evidence about explanatory relationships.
Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.
If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.