Strong Necessitarianism: the Nomological Identity of Possible Worlds

ALEXANDER BIRD

Ratio forthcoming

Abstract

Dispositional essentialism, a plausible view about the natures of (sparse or natural) properties, yields a satisfying explanation of the nature of laws also. The resulting necessitarian conception of laws comes in a weaker version, which allows differences between possible worlds as regards which laws hold in those worlds and a stronger version that does not. The main aim of this paper is to articulate what is involved in accepting the stronger version, most especially the consequence that all possible properties exist in all worlds. I also suggest that there is no particularly strong reason for preferring the weaker to the stronger version. For example, Armstrong's instantiation condition on universals entails that according to strong necessitarianism every property is instantiated in all possible worlds. But first we do not need to accept Armstrong's instantiation condition, in part because his arguments for it are forceful only for a contingentist about laws and properties. Secondly, even if we do accept the condition, the consequence that all properties are instantiated is not itself contradictory, so long as any form of necessitarianism holds. Strong necessitarianism is prima facie counter-intuitive. But for that matter so is weak necessitarianism. Accepting either weak or strong necessitarianism requires denying the force of intuition in this area. And indeed we have every reason to deny the force of intuition and its primary source, imagination, concerning modal facts.