De Re Modality, Essentialism, and Lewis’s Humeanism

H. Beebee, Fraser Macbride

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Modality is standardly thought to come in two varieties: de dicto and de re. De re modality concerns the attribution of modal features to things or individuals, and enshrines a commitment to Aristotelian essentialism. This chapter considers how David Lewis's conception of de re modality fits into his overall metaphysics. The hypothesis is that the driving force behind his metaphysics in general, and his adherence to counterpart theory in particular, is the distinctly Humean thought that necessary connections between distinct existences are literally unintelligible. Lewis's appeal to counterpart theory in his account of truthmakers is explicitly aimed at delivering a truthmaker principle that eschews necessary connections. Lewis's attitude towards several well-rehearsed debates in contemporary ontology and the reasons underlying that attitude closely mirror Hume's incendiary verdict on "divinity and school metaphysics." Finally, de re modality is connected with his adherence to the doctrine of "Humean supervenience".
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Companion to David Lewis
EditorsBarry Loewer, Jonathan Schaffer
Place of PublicationChichester, West Sussex
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons Ltd
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9781118388181
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Publication series

NameBlackwell companions to philosophy


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