Lewis's Principle of Recombination: Reply to Efird and Stoneham
Article first published online: 19 OCT 2010
© 2010 The Authors. dialectica© 2010 Editorial Board of dialectica
Volume 64, Issue 3, pages 435–445, September 2010
How to Cite
Darby, G. and Watson, D. (2010), Lewis's Principle of Recombination: Reply to Efird and Stoneham. Dialectica, 64: 435–445. doi: 10.1111/j.1746-8361.2010.01242.x
- Issue published online: 19 OCT 2010
- Article first published online: 19 OCT 2010
According to Lewis's modal realism, all ways the world could be are represented by possible worlds, and all possible worlds represent some way the world could be. That there are just the right possible worlds to represent all and only the ways the world could be is to be guaranteed by the principle of recombination. Lewis sketches the principle (put roughly: anything can co-exist with anything else), but does not spell out a precise version that generates just the right possibilities. David Efird and Tom Stoneham have offered a principle that aims to do just that.
In this paper, we argue that Efird's and Stoneham's principle of recombination is not successful – it fails to generate the right possibilities – but we also suggest ways that their account might be improved to solve the problem we raise. We also argue against Efird's and Stoneham's claim that the correct principle of recombination demonstrates the possibility of nothing concrete – it is true that their principle of recombination has models consistent with the existence of an empty world, but we only get the possibility of nothing if mereologically null individuals are possible. The Lewisian should only think mereologically null individuals are possible if he or she has some independent reason for believing in the possibility of an empty world, so the principle of recombination provides no new evidence for that possibility. We draw some morals from this for the correct way to formulate the principle of recombination.