Possible Worlds I: Modal Realism



It is difficult to wander far in contemporary metaphysics without bumping into talk of possible worlds. And reference to possible worlds is not confined to metaphysics. It can be found in contemporary epistemology and ethics, and has even made its way into linguistics and decision theory. What are those possible worlds, the entities to which theorists in these disciplines all appeal? This paper sets out and evaluates a leading contemporary theory of possible worlds, David Lewis’s Modal Realism. I note two competing ambitions for a theory of possible worlds: that it be reductive and user-friendly. I then outline Modal Realism and consider objections to the effect that it cannot satisfy these ambitions. I conclude that there is some reason to believe that Modal Realism is not reductive and overwhelming reason to believe that it is not user-friendly.