The course offers an overview of this interesting but complex topic. We will first familiarize ourselves with different types of modalities (alethic, epistemic, and deontic) and then limit our attention to alethic modalities (metaphysical, natural, conceptual, logical, and so forth). How are they connected, and can they be unified? Finally, we will focus on metaphysical modality and its source. We will critically discuss several interpretations representative of various approaches (reductive and non-reductive, realist and anti-realist, and so forth). Interpretations from the second half of the previous century are usually set within the framework of possible worlds, so the fundamental question becomes the nature of possible worlds. Recent interpretations tend to tackle the issue of the source of metaphysical modality directly, and of special importance here is the relationship between metaphysical necessity and essence. Is essence reducible to necessity or is necessity grounded in essence?
By the end of this course students will be able to recognize different types of modalities and their connections. They will have a good grasp of the issues concerning metaphysical modality and of the main interpretations of its source. They will be able to clearly state the advantages and disadvantages of each and argue for their preferred interpretation.
For audit and grade
Students are expected to attend classes, read the required reading for each week, and participate in discussions (a good starting point would be to prepare answers to discussion questions posted beforehand on Moodle).
Background readings are optional, but they are supposed to help students better understand the required reading.
Students will once during the term prepare a presentation on one of the required readings and a handout. The specifics will be explained at the introductory class and posted on Moodle.
Students will write a final essay of approx. 2,000 words due on April 15; until March 10 they will submit a short description of the paper (max. 500 words). The specifics will be explained in the introductory class and posted on Moodle.
Should the final essay receive a borderline mark, the student’s overall mark will be adjusted
according to the student’s in-class performance and participation.
In-class presentation with handout: 20% Final essay: 80%