Possibility and Necessity: An Introduction to Modality

1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology

Author: Andre Leo Rusavuk
Category: Metaphysics
Word count: 991

We frequently say things like, ‘This seems possible,’ ‘That can’t be done,’ ‘This must happen,’ ‘She might be able to . . ,’ ‘This is necessary for . .’ and so on.[1]

Claims like these are modal claims. They involve the modal concepts of actuality, possibility, and necessity. Modality concerns the mode or way in which a claim is true or false, and how something exists or does not exist.

This essay explains basic modal concepts, illustrates some different kinds of possibility and necessity, and briefly explains how we try to identify whether a modal claim is true or false.

“Imagine The Possibilities” by Carol Groenen.

1. Modal Concepts

Modal concepts apply to claims and beings, at least.[2] Here are some basic definitions concerning claims, beliefs or sentences:

  • a claim is possibly true if it could…

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