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Journal of Philosophy, Inc.

Counterpart-Theoretic Semantics for Modal Logic

Author(s): Allen Hazen
Reviewed work(s):
Source: The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 76, No. 6 (Jun., 1979), pp. 319-338
Published by: Journal of Philosophy, Inc.
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although the existence of particular theorems of logic may be ex-

plained in terms of rules that define individual constants, the notion
of logical truth depends on the notion of truth for a language. If a
nonstandard logic is possible, in a way that is not parasitic upon
classical logic, then a nonclassical notion of truth and consequence
is possible. But if a nonstandard logic must ultimately be explained
using classical logic, then indeed we would have found something
that "our thought can overflow, but never displace."
Stanford University

LEWIS'sproposals1 for the analysis of de re modal
locutions 2 represent a major advance in thinking on the
subject, but have not had the amount of critical study they
deserve. In this paper I will inquire whether they constitute an ade-
quate semantic theory of de re modality. In doing so I will not dis-
cuss Lewis's notorious metaphysical realism with respect to possible
worlds. The semantic theory embodied in his postulates for counter-
part theory and his schema for translating a modal language into a
counterpart-theoretic one are compatible with any of a wide range
of metaphysical theories about possible worlds and the nature of
possibility; arguments about which of these metaphysical theories is
correct are therefore irrelevant to the semantic issue. In particular,
adoption of a counterpart-theoretic semantics is compatible with
taking possible worlds to be purely abstract structures, with the
* This paper is a counterpart of a portion of my dissertation (University of
Pittsburgh, 1977), but has benefited from comments on an earlier version. I
wvould like to thank my advisor, Joseph Camp, and also David Lewis, Robert
Purdy, and Jay Hartman Hazen for their various kinds of help and encourage-
I In "Counterpart Theory and Quantified Modal Logic," this JOURNAL, LXV, 5
(Mlarch 7, 1968): 113-126. Acquaintance with this paper is presupposed; refer-
ences to Lewis, unless otherwise noted, are to it. Cf. also his "Counterparts of
Persons and Their Bodies," this JOURNAL, LXVIiI, 7 (April 8, 1971): 203-211.
2 This paper considers only the first-order logic of necessity and possibility,
treated by Lewis in the papers cited, with the addition of an actuality operator.
Counterpart-theoretic semantics have also beeni proposed for other (more often
employed?) intensional locutions, such as counterfactuals. Cf. LeNvis, Couinter-
factuals (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard, 1973), pp. 36-43.

0022-362X/79/7606/0319$02.00 ?) 1979 'Ihe Journal of Philosophy, Inc.

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same ontological status, whatever it may be, as the structures studied

in pure mathematics. (There is, of course, no reason why all pos-
sible worlds have to have the same ontological status: one might,
for example, hold that the possible worlds corresponding to merely
logical possibility are merely abstract structures, but that those
corresponding to some kind of physical possibility have a more
concrete kind of existence. Certainly the radical treatments of the
problem of future contingents don't seem to regard alternative
futures as merely abstract structures.3)
There are arguments purporting to show that the central idea
of counterpart-theoretic semantics-allowing an entity in the domain
of one world to represent an entity distinct from itself in the domain
of another world-is misguided. Thus Saul Kripke 4 has written:
Strictlyspeaking,Lewis'sview is not a view of 'transworldidentifica-
tion.' Rather, he thinks that similaritiesacrosspossible worlds deter-
mine a counterpart relation which need be neither symmetricnor
transitive. The counterpartof something in another possible world
is never identical with the thing itself. Thus if we say "Humphrey
might have won the election (if only he had done such-and-such)."
we are not talking about something that might have happened to
Humphrey but to someone else, a 'counterpart'.Probably, however,
Humphrey could not care less whether someone else, no matter how
much resemblinghim, would have been victoriousin another possible

This passage is an attempt to mobilize our intuitions (and, in the

last sentence, Hubert Humphrey's putative intuitions) against
Lewis's semantic theory. In judging it we must first be clear about
the way in which linguistic intuition is relevant to semantic theory.
The prime requirement on a semantic theory is that it assign truth
conditions to sentences of our natural language (or to those of some
language whose sentences are taken as translations of the sentences
of our natural language) that are in accord with our intuitions.
Our intuitive judgments, made "upon reflection," after we have as-
sured ourselves of the nonlinguistic facts, of what is true and what
implies what, are the appearances that a semantic theory must save.
It is, however, important to distinguish just what the subjects of
these intuitive judgments are. The judgments are about sentences of

3 Cf. Richmond H. Thomason, "Indeterminist Time and Truth-value Gaps,"

Theoria, xxxvi, 3 (1970): 264-281.
4In a footnote to "Naming and Necessity," in D. Davidson and G. Harman,
eds, Semantics of Natural Language (Boston: Reidel, 1972), p. 344. Unless other-
wise noted, references to Kripke will be to "Naming and Necessity."

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our natural language. Kripke's argument confuses sentences of the

technical language of Lewis's semantic theory, which are outside
our natural language or at least constitute an extension of it, with
sentences of our ordinary language, and so misapplies intuitive
judgments about sentences of ordinary language to the technical
ones. On Lewis's theory, to say that Humphrey might have won the
election-a modal claim, made in our ordinary language-is to say
something that is true just in case, to put the conditions in his
technical language, Humphrey's counterpart in some world where
Humphrey himself does not exist, did win. To put Lewis's claim
in the form "Not Humphrey himself, but someone resembling him,
might have won the election," which is essentially what Kripke
does, can only create confusion. It incorporates a modal locution
('might'), and so appears to be a sentence of ordinary language. As
such, it is one our intuition rebels against, for it directly contradicts
the intuitively acceptable claim that Humphrey might have won
("if only he had done such-and-such"). Intuitively, then, this sen-
tence is false; but its falsity, as a sentence of our ordinary modal
language, in no way counts against Lewis's theory. To make our
rejection of this sentence into a rejection of Lewis's theory, we must
confuse it with the sentence "Humphrey himself does not exist out-
side the actual world, but a counterpart of Humphrey won in some
world." This last is, on Lewis's view, true, but, mentioning as it
does possible worlds and counterparts, is a sentence not of our
ordinary modal language but of the technical language of counter-
part theory. As such it is not a sentence that we, qua speakers of
our particular natural language, are entitled to have intuitions
about.5 Similarly, Humphrey's regrets about the (supposed) fact that
(had he done such-and-such) he might have won the election would
lead him to express regrets about the electoral successes of people in
other possible worlds only if he was in the habit of expressing the
propositional content of his regrets in the language of Lewis's
Similar confusions lurk in Kripke's use of the phrase "we are
not talking about something that might have happened to Hum-
phrey." Clearly if we say "Humphrey might have won," we are

5 All of which is not to deny that Lewis and others who accept his frame-
work can argue within it, and so can be said to have logical intuitions about its
sentences. The arguments carried on within the framework of counterpart theory
are ordinary, nonmodal, arguments; the logical intuitions they reflect are not
intuitions about the particular content of counterpart theory, but only the
ordinary intuitions about the validity of arguments involving quantifiers and

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talking about Humphrey, and so the fact that Humphrey might

have won is a fact about Humphrey. What Lewis does is to offer
an analysis of this fact: on his account it is a relational fact about
Humphrey, consisting of his bearing certain relations to possible
worlds and election winners in them. It is agreed that winning the
election is something that might have happened to Humphrey, but
what is agreed upon is here expressed with the aid of an unanalyzed
modal locution. Our intuitive acceptance of this modal claim gives
us no reason to reject the claim, made in an artificial, nonmodal,
language, that Humphrey is not identical with his counterpart in
the domains of non-actual possible worlds.
Alvin Plantinga 6 has offered a similar criticism of Lewis's posi-

. . . take any property Socrates has accidentally-wisdom, perhaps.

Accordingto CounterpartTheory, Socrates-the person who actually
is Socrates,the Socratesof @, if you wish-exists in just one world:
the actual world. In that world he is wise. Accordinglythere is no
world in which he is unwise. There is no possible state of affairssuch
that if it lhadbeen actual, this very person would have been unwise.
Accordingly,it is impossible that lhe should have been unwise. But
then he has the propertyof being wise essentially.

The confusion is obvious. After stating certain consequences of

Lewis's metaphysical theory, expressed in counterpart-theoretic
language, Plantinga draws conclusions from them in our ordinary
modal language-that Socrates could not have been unwise, and
so that he was wise essentially. In drawing these conclusions he is,
of course, presupposing certain equivalences between sentences of
a nonmodal language describing possible worlds and things in them
and sentences of our ordinary modal language. The equivalences he
presupposes, however, are not those of Lewis's schema for trans-
lating modal into counterpart-theoretic language, but are those sug-
gested by earlier versions of possible-worlds semantics for modal
logic. Plantinga's argument against Lewis, tlhen, slhows only thiat
Lewis's theory must be taken whole: you can't combine Lewis's
metaphysical claim that an individual exists in only one world with
the pre-Lewis explication of 'x has F essentially' as 'x has F in every
world in which x exists' and get acceptable results.
6 The Natuire of Necessity (New York: Oxford, 1974), pp. 115/6. I lhave sib-
stituted Lewis's symbol for the actual world, @, for Plantinga's.

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On the next page, Plantinga comes close to recognizing the con-


We may imagine [the counterpart theorist] replying as follows. "When

I say that Socrates could have been unwise I do not mean that tlhere
is a possible world in which Socrates-our Socrates-in the strict and
literal sense is unwise; I mean only that there is a world in which in
the new and looser sense he has that property. I so use the sentence
'Socrates could have been unwise' that what it expresses is entailed
by the truth that Socrates has foolish counterparts." Thus perhaps he
speaks with the vulgar and thinks with the learned. He genially agrees
that there is a world in which Socrates is unwise and concludes that
Socrates could have been unwise. By adopting this course he preserves
verbal agreement with the rest of us who do not look upon Socrates
as a world-bound individual.

But the recognition is stillborn, for he continues:

But of course the agreement is only verbal. For it is only in this loose
and Pickwickian sense that he concedes the existence of a world in
which Socrates is unwise; and his use of 'Socrates could have been
unwise' is therefore similarly loose and Pickwickian. If in his use the
sentence 'Socrates could have been unwise' expresses a proposition
entailed by the fact that Socrates has unwise counterparts, then the
Counterpart Theorist is using that sentence to express a proposition
different from the one the rest of us express by it. While he assents to
our sentence, he denies the proposition we take it to express.

But what Plantinga disparages as a merely verbal agreement about

the truth value of the sentence 'Socrates could have been unwise' is
the only agreement that can be demanded from the counterpart
theorist: it is the only agreement that matters. Our logical intuitions
about such sentences of our ordinary modal language are the evi-
dence that both Plantinga and the counterpart theorist must appeal
to and explain. What proposition is expressed by such a sentence,
or, less tendentiously, how to state what is expressed by such a
sentence in terms of possible worlds and objects in them, is a mat-
ter of theory, and the counterpart theorist has proposed a theory at
variance with Plantinga's. The counterpart theorist claims that the
proposition he, and we, express by the sentence 'Socrates could have
been unwise' has been mischaracterized by the semantic theory
Plantinga uses, with its underlying ontology of objects that exist in
more than one world. Plantinga has demanded agreement on the
theoretical sentences of that theory, as if they were as binding on

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responsible semantic theory as the "observational" truth that the

sentence 'Socrates could have been unwise' expresses a truth.
Although the objections to the principle of interpreting de re
modalities in terms of individuals being represented by other ob-
jects in the domains of worlds other than their own are misguided,
there are problems with Lewis's account, to which I wish to devote
the rest of this paper. The modal logic generated by Lewis's ac-
count (i.e., the set of object-language arguments it validates) is dif-
ferent from that generated by more conventional possible-worlds
semantics and less plausible. In some cases it assigns truth values to
garden-variety modal assertions that are at variance with clear in-
tuitions. Some of these problems can be eliminated by changing
the way in which truth conditions for modal statements are speci-
fied in terms of the counterpart relation; others necessitate modifi-
cations in the definition of the counterpart relation itself. In the
end I shall argue that a simple counterpart relation is not a suffi-
ciently discriminating way of choosing representatives in one world
for objects in another.
A methodological comment before we begin: perhaps because of
his literal belief in possible worlds, Lewis does not present his
theory as a model theory for modal language. Such a model theory
is, however, easily extracted from his work. Let a Lewis model
structure be an ordinary structure, in the sense of the conventional
model theory of (nonmodal) predicate logic, satisfying Lewis's first-
order axiomatization of counterpart theory. A formula of modal
predicate logic, then, may be said to be Lewis-satisfiable just in case
its translation into the nonmodal counterpart-theoretic language
(as given by Lewis's translation schema) is true on some assignment
in some Lewis model structure. This much is fairly straightforward;
claims about the truth or falsity of particular statements on Lewis's
view present additional methodological problems, which I shall
comment upon as occasion arises. The purely model-theoretic and
logical points could be discussed simply in terms of the formal con-
straints placed on the counterpart relations of Lewis model structures
by Lewis's axiomatization, without reference to his informal char-
acterization of counterparthood in terms of similarity. However,
the interest of Lewis's theory lies in its grounding of questions of
"transworld identification" in less "mysterious" considerations of
similarity,7 and it is reflection on the sort of similarity involved
7 The kind of similarity involved in making one object a counterpart of an-
other need not be exactly what we would have in mind if we said they were
very similar. Compare Lewis's theory of counterfactuals (in Counterfactuals),

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that motivates our choice of what formal constraints to place (and

to refrain from placing) on the counterpart relation. Thus, though
I hope it will be clear which of my claims are mathematical and
model-theoretic and which are not, I shall intermingle my points
about the nature of counterparthood and its relation to similarity
with my more strictly model-theoretic points.
One of the simplest problems has to do with identity. Lewis's
semantics allows it to be true that although an object x is identical
with an object y, it is possible for x and y to exist and not be
identical with each other. In terms of the first-order modal pred-
icate language (terms which are interesting insofar as some of our
ordinary modal language can be translated into that formalism),

(1) 3x 3y(x = y& 0 Qzx = z& 3zy = z&x 5 y))

is Lewis-satisfiable. This, as Kripke 8 has argued, is very implausible.
The problem arises because one object may have more than one
counterpart in some world, and because a formula beginning with
a possibility operator is true [i.e., true at the actual world-for the
purpose of informal exposition we may ignore the fact that similar
problems arise when formulas like (1) occur within the scope of a
modal operator] if the formula within the scope of the possibility
sign is true at some world on some assignment 9 assigning to each
variable occurring free in it some counterpart in that world of the
object in the actual world it is assigned by whatever assignment we
are evaluating the whole formula on. Suppose we have an object
in the actual world with two counterparts in some other world.

where the model theory can be discussed without reference to similarity, but
is motivated in terms of it. Here again, what makes one world closer to an-
other than to a third need not be what would make us say that the over-all
history of events in the first resembled that in the second more than that in
the third (cf. Lewis's "Counterfactual Dependence and Time's Arrow," forth-
coming in Nous). Still, the use of the word 'similarity' is justified in both cases:
an object (world) is a counterpart of (close to) another in virtue of their sim-
ilarities in certain respects.
8 In "Identity and Necessity," in Milton Munitz, ed., Identity and Individua-
tion (New York: NYU Press, 1971).
9A formula of the modal language is true at a world and on an assignment
in a Lewis model structure if and only if (a) the assignment assigns objects in
the domain of (i.e., bearing the relation I to) the world to all the variables free
in the formula, and (b) the translation of the formula into the modal language
in accordance with a translation schema like that given on p. 118 of "Counter-
part Theory and Quantified Modal Logic" except for replacing '@' with an
arbitrary variable 'w' in TI is true in the structure on an assignment like the
given assignment except for assigning the world in question to 'w'.

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Assign both the variable 'x' and the variable 'y' to that object, so
that 'x = y' is true.
x & 3z y = z & x 0 y
x =

is true at the world with the two counterparts of the object on an

assignment assigning one counterpart to 'x' and the other to 'y'.
The problem, then, could be eliminated either by somehow mo-
tivating a constraint on counterparthood to the effect that an object
can have at most one counterpart in any world (I shall argue that
this cannot plausibly be done) or by changing the satisfaction con-
ditions of modal formulas.10
A more serious failing, because less easily mended, is that Lewis's
account does not validate the inference 11from
(2) o Rab
(3) oj 3x Rax
(2) is true if, in every world containing counterparts of both a and
b, every counterpart of a bears the relation R to every counterpart
of b. This, however, is consistent with there being worlds in which
a has a counterpart but b doesn't, and in which the counterpart of
a doesn't bear R to anything. Such a world would falsify (3).
Since theorems of first-order logic are necessary if anything is, the
inference from (2) to (3) may be seen as a special case of the plaus-
ible inference from

(4) o Fa
(5) nVx (FxDGx)
(6) z Ga
Lewis's semantics validates some special cases of this pattern, such
as that in which 'F' and 'G' are monadic predicate letters. With such
special cases the failing is more subtle: Lewis's semantics may vali-
date the inference, but it leaves in limbo the argument we would
10The first way corresponds to a clhange in the class of model structures coii-
sidered, or, in the context of Lewis's original exposition, a strengthening of the
axioms of counterpart theory. The second remedy could be effected very
simply, by adding a couple of clauses to Lewis's translation schema. I have
omitted the details of this minor "fix" because other problems require much
more radical changes in Lewis's theory (and, incidentally, solve this problem).
11 To simplify the example I have used individual constants. Lewis uses no
primitive constants in his examples, but his translation schema can accommodate
formulas containing them.

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naturally appeal to if we were asked to defend the inference. In our

informal reasoning we make extensive use of what Van Fraassen has
dubbed epitheoretic arguments, corresponding to the rules of a Fitcl-
style natural-deduction system that involve subordinate proofs.12One
such pattern in modal reasoning consists of concluding that a con-
clusion, validly derived from premises that are themselves asserted
to be necessarily true, is necessary. Thus, for example, since (4) and
(5) tell us that

(7) Fa
(8) Vx (Fx D Gx)
are both necessarily true, and since the argument from (7) and (8) to
(9) Ga
is valid, we may conclude that (9) is necessarily true: in other words,
we may conclude that (6) is true. But if we accepted Lewis's seman-
tics, we would have to reject this epitheoretic argument, for this
mode of reasoning would also allow us to derive (3) from (2). In fact,
when a natural-deduction system that is sound relative to Lewis's
semantics is constructed, the derivation of (6) from (4) and (5), even
where 'F' and 'G' are atomic predicates, turns out to involve a
detour through the negation rules.13
In order to see what has gone wrong, it will be illuminating to
ask what the intuitive content of the square is on Lewis's semantics.
One obvious candidate is necessity. When no singular terms occur
in the formula governed by the square, it is quite plausible to take
it as meaning 'it is necessary that'. Another plausible candidate is
essentiality. Where necessity can be thought of as a property of
propositions, essentiality is more of a relation between individuals
and propositions: it is essential to an individual that a proposition
be true if and only if it is necessary that that proposition be true if
the individual exists. Suppose, as is not altogether implausible,
12 It is this correspondence between the method of subordinate proofs and
our modes of informal reasoning that makes natural deduction natural. A
natural-deduction system for quantified modal logic is developed in my
dissertation. It is similar to and inspired by Frederic Fitch's system in his
Symbolic Logic (New York: Ronald Press, 1952), which, however, is not based on
S5 and does not contain an actuality operator. The propositional fragment is
described in my "The Eliminability of the Actuality Operator in Propositional
Modal Logic," Notre Dame Journial of Formal Logic, xix, 4 (October 1978): 617-
13A detour corresponding to the informal mode of reasoning known as in-
direct proof (I have studied a natural-deduction system corresponding to
Lewvis'smiodel theory in unpublished work).

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given Lewis's informal account of counterparthood, that all of my

counterparts are human. Then, on Lewis's semantics (extended to
cover personal pronouns in the obvious way), it would be correct for
me to assert

(10) o (I am human)
whatever it might mean. But surely it is more plausible to hold that
I, a human being, am essentially human, than that the proposition
saying of me that I am human is a necessary truth; for it might be
false if I didn't exist. Since essentiality can be thought of as a re-
lation, however, this leads to the question: essential to what? If one
singular term occurs in the scope of the square, it is reasonable to
take the square as expressing essentiality to the denotatum of that
term. If there are two singular terms involved, however, Lewis's
semantics makes the square represent essentiality to the two together:
it is necessary that if the denotata of both terms exist, then the
proposition expressed by the sentence in the scope of the square
is true. In general we can say that, on Lewis's interpretation, pre-
fixing a square to a sentence says that the proposition it expresses
is essential to precisely those individuals mentioned in the sentence
(taken together). The counterintuitive results detailed above stem
from the fact that this is an unnatural operator: there are various
locutions of ordinary English that can be taken as necessity opera-
tors, and various ways of expressing essentiality to one or more
objects, but nothing that can plausibly be taken as an operator of
the sort Lewis's semantics makes the square out to be.
If a formal language, interpreted counterpart-theoretically, is to
be useful for representing the sorts of things we say in our ordinary
language, we must give a counterpart-theoretic account of some
better-behaved operator. We must, that is, try to make the square
represent some less mercurial concept than that of essentiality-to-
the-mentioned-objects: preferably necessity, since essentiality can be
defined in terms of it. I have tried. Lewis also considers alternatives
to his translation schema. I have found that a definition that meets
one objection tends to have unpleasant consequences elsewhere.14
The next objection is of a different kind. It is often held that,
for at least some kinds of modality, some relations hold necessarily
or essentially. For example, taking events as a special kind of in-
dividual, one might hold that the death of Caesar was essentially of
Caesar: that it could not have occurred without being the death of
14 In the general case. Somewhat better results are obtainable if the assump-
tion is made that an object has at most one counterpart in any world.

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Caesar. If that were so, however, Lewis's semantics would have the
consequence that Caesar and his death could have at most one
counterpart apiece in any world. On Lewis's account, a sentence of
the form 'EIRab' is true only if, in every world in which they both
have counterparts, every counterpart of a bears R to every counter-
part of b. Suppose in some possible world there were two counter-
parts of Caesar, living in opposite hemispheres of the globe. Each
might be related appropriately-by dying it-to some counterpart
of the death of Caesar, but neither could be related appropriately
to the other's death. Thus neither counterpart of the death of
Caesar is of all the counterparts of Caesar; so, if Lewis were right,
the death of Caesar could not be essentially of Caesar.
Note that this objection, unlike the earlier ones, does not concern
the formal logic of the modal language, but is rather to the effect
that a particular intuitively true (or, at least: intuitively not ob-
viously false) statement of the modal language comes out false on
Lewis's theory. The methodological status of the objection is per-
haps worth commenting on. Lewis's semantic theory, embodied in
his informal comments about similarity and counterparthood as
well as in the more formal material, has consequences for modal
logic broadly construed-for the entailment relations holding be-
tween de dicto and de re modal sentences-which go beyond what
can be extracted from his model theory for first-order modal logic.
In formulating the objection just given, we first note that according
to Lewis's theory there must be possible worlds verifying any de
dicto modal truth: in particular, there must be a world verifying
the intuitively plausible de dicto claim that there might have been
two soldier/politicians, living in widely separated countries, with
careers and characters closely resembling that of Caesar. We then,
guided not by any explicit definition of counterparthood in terms
of similarity but by our judgment as to what kind of similarities it
is plausible to think ought to contribute toward counterparthood,
draw the consequence that Caesar would probably, if Lewis were
right, have more than one counterpart in some possible world,
from which, together with the truism that a death is the death of
at most one person, follows the unacceptable de re conclusion that
Caesar's death could have occurred without being the death of
Caesar. The whole argument lacks the mathematical rigor of our
model-theoretic objections to Lewis, but it is, in its reliance on auxil-
iary hypotheses that may not be fully explicit, typical of the way in
which, in practice, "observational" consequences are drawn from
theories in semantics and in the natural sciences generally.

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On a less elevated plane of methodological i-dotting, it must be

admitted that whether or not there are internal relations is a ques-
tion that has exercised the metaphysicians for years, and that we
can hardly expect universal assent to our suggestions about the
essences of such event-tokens as deaths. So be it. Readers with
different opinions about internal relations are invited to construct
their own examples. At least when we turn from the logical or
metaphysical modalities to physical or causal ones, I think almost
everyone will admit that some relations hold unavoidably. Thus, in
the absence of a definition of counterparthood that will guarantee
unique counterparts, Lewis's theory fails to explain the truth of
some true modal assertions.
Returning to model theory, Lewis considers a language whose
only modal operators are the possibility and necessity operators.
It is clear, however, that something like an actuality operator is an
essential part of the conceptual mechanism of our ordinary modal
language.15 The failure of the counterpart relation to associate
unique representatives in other worlds with objects puts insuperable
difficulties in the way of a counterpart-theoretic interpretation of
an actuality operator. Suppose we tried to add a clause to Lewis's
schema for translating modal into counterpart-theoretic language
to cover formulas beginning with an actuality operator. If we
imitate Lewis's clause for the necessity operator and stipulate that
a possible object actually has a property just in case all its counter-
parts (or, all the things having it as a counterpart) in the actual
world have that property, we will get a sort of failure of excluded
middle-we will have to admit as satisfiable things like (using a
circle for the actuality operator)

(11) ? 3x (o 3y x = y &- (o Fx v 0 - Fx))

which we might read as 'There could have been an object which,
though it actually exists, is neither actually F nor actually non-F'.
If, on the other hand, we follow Lewis's clause for possibility, and
require only that at least one counterpart (or converse counterpart)
in the actual world have the property, we get something at least
equally repellent:

(12) ? 3x (o 3yx = y &o Fx & O'.Fx)

or 'There could have been an object such that not only does it ac-
tually exist and is it actually F, but it is also actually non-F'.
15 Cf. my "Expressive Completeness in Modal Languages," Journal of Philo-
sophical Logic, v, 1 (Fall 1976): 25-46.

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What can (and what ought) to be done in the way of altering
Lewis's informal characterization of the counterpart relation? Fred
Feldmani16 has called attention to the consequences for Lewis's
position of what may be termed "there-but-for-the-grace-of-God"
cases. It is often tempting to think of two people that they could
(in some sense of 'could') have "exchanged places" in the world-
that in some sense it was accidental that Harry was a prince and
Tom a pauper rather than the other way around. But for the "ac-
cident of birth" each would have had the breaks the other actually
had and lived pretty much the life the other actually did live, and
in general had most of the properties the other actually did have.
But if we are to give a counterpart-theoretic account of the sense
of 'could' in which this is true, we must postulate a world in which
one of Tom's counterparts is more like Harry (more like what
Harry actually is) than he is like Tom, and in which one of Harry's
counterparts is more like Tom than he is like Harry. But this
Lewis explicitly forbids; for he requires of your counterparts, not
only that they must resemble you to at least some cut-off degree,
but that they must resemble you more closely than any other ob-
jects in their worlds resemble you. But in the world required by
the there-but-for-the-grace-of-Godexample, Tom's counterpart does
not resemble Tom more closely than anything else in the world
does-in particular, Tom's counterpart does not resemble Tom as
closely as Harry's counterpart does.
To accommodate the there-but-for-the-grace-of-Godexamples, we
simply drop Lewis's requirement that a counterpart resemble that
of which it is a counterpart more closely than does anything else
in its (the counterpart's) world. The new characterization of
counterparthood in terms of similarity is just that there is some
degree of similarity such that anything in another world resem-
bling you to that degree is one of your counterparts.'7 This revision
of our conception of counterparthood has two consequences for the
formal nature of the counterpart relation: first, the new conception
makes the supposition that the counterpart relation is symmetric
16 In "Counterparts," this JOURNAL, LXVIII, 13 (July 1, 1971): 4064-09.
17 If we also drop the stipulation that an object is not a counterpart of any-
thing other than itself in its own world-a restriction that demonstrably does
no work in the model theory, and has semantic consequences only on certain
theories of possible worlds-we can even say that what makes it true that Tom
and Harry could have had each other's lives is that there is a world-the actual
world-where Tom has a counterpart-Harry-with Harry's properties, and vice

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(a supposition Lewis considers and rejects) more plausible, and,

second, it makes it much less plausible to suppose that an object
will typically have a unique counterpart in most of the worlds in
which it has counterparts at all. Both of these consequences affect
formal modal logic (the effects of symmetry, however, will be some-
what recherche, involving iterated modalities), even though Feld-
man's objection, like that about internal relations, concerned truth
conditions for particular statements rather than for formal logic.
Interestingly, despite the notorious intransitivity of most sim-
ilarity relations, there is even a characterization of counterparthood,
for which there is some intuitive motivation, on which it comes out
to be an equivalence relation.'8 Suppose all objects-those in other
possible worlds as well as those in the actual world-to be parti-
tioned into kinds or sorts. Just how these sorts are to be defined,
and how many of them there will be, will vary with different senses
of possibility and necessity. Perhaps, for a very strict sense of logical
necessity, all individuals will be construed as belonging to the same
sort, and for certain kinds of causal modalities quite small differ-
ences in the physical structure of objects will be enough to put
them in different sorts. The counterparts of an object, in the sense
of counterparthood relevant to a given kind of modality, will be
all and only the possible objects belonging to its sort. Alice couldn't
reach the key on the glass table because she was too small, and she
couldn't crawl under the door to enter the garden because she was
too big. If the occurrences of 'could' here are to be given a counter-
part-theoretic treatment as possibility operators, the appropriate
counterpart relation will relate people to people of the same size.
Notice, however, what these various changes in the characteriza-
tion of counterparthood don't do. Many of the objections to Lewis's
theory turned on an object's having more than one counterpart,
and none of our suggested changes eliminate this possibility. In-
deed, on Lewis's original version there was some hope that multiple
counterparts would turn out to be the exception rather than the
rule, in which case we could avoid some of the objections by adding
the stipulation that nothing counts as a counterpart of an object if
it shares a world with something having an equally good claim to
being a counterpart of the same object. Our response to Feldman's
example, however, and even more our suggestion of basing counter-
parthood on a classification of objects into sorts, make unique
counterparts the exception. Nor is there a remedy readily available
18 Good news for those who like simple logics: this will get us all substitution
instances of theorems of S5.

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no plausible way of defining counterparthood in terms of some
kind of similarity will guarantee that an object will have at most
one counterpart in any given world.
In particular, one method of defining transworld identity that
has recently been popular will not' work. It has been suggested, with
variations of detail and with more or less hedging, that (to put it
in terms of counterparts) an object has counterparts only in worlds
whose histories, up to some time after the object has come into ex-
istence, are exactly like the history of the object's own world, and
that the unique counterpart of an object in such a world is the ob-
ject in that world that started its career in exactly the manner and
circumstances in which the object started its own. There are two
reasons for rejecting this kind of suggestion. For one thing, even if
it succeeded as an account of some sense of "metaphysical neces-
sity," 19 there are other kinds of modality it cannot handle. Any gen-
eral theory of de re modal assertions will have to account for the
likes of "He could have carried out his plans, had his ancestors not
squandered the family fortune." Secondly, it won't always give
unique counterparts. Imagine a (not quite deterministic) possible
world which, up to a certain moment of its history, is spatially
symmetrical, with the regions on the two sides of the plane of sym-
metry developing differently after that moment. Now consider an
object in such a world that comes into existence before the two sides
stop mirroring each other: in general it will have two counterparts
(or at least two objects beginning their careers in the same way it
began its career) in any world "branching off" from its world be-
tween the time it came into existence and the time its world ceased
to be symmetrical.
What is needed is some way of choosing one of an object's counter-
parts in a world, to serve as its representative and, to avoid the
internal-relations problems, to make the choice of representative for
one object depend on the choice of representatives for other objects.
But how do you make the choice? There is no ground for choosing
one of an object's counterparts over another-this is what Kripke
means when he says he sees no reason to think that similarity be-
tween objects will provide a sufficient condition for transworld
identification. Well, set theory (the set-theoretic reification of a
choice being called a function) lets us have our cake and eat it too.
First choose representatives one way, and then another. Something
19 I have argued in my dissertation that this idea doesn't even capture Kripke's
intentions in his talk of metaphysical necessity.

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is necessarily true just in case it comes out necessarily true no matter

which counterparts you choose as representatives.
Oversimplifying a bit, we define a set of representative functions
from the domain of one world into that of another. A representative
function maps objects into counterparts of themselves, but, to allowv
for internal relations, not every function mapping counterparts into
counterparts will be a representative function. A representative
function that maps Caesar (an inhabitant of the actual world) into
Seezer rather than Kizer (Seezer and Kizer being counterparts of
Caesar in some world) must map the death of Caesar into the death
of Seezer rather than that of Kizer, and vice versa. This aspect of
the theory can perhaps be visualized more readily in terms of a
series of counterpart relations. In addition to the single-counterpart
relation (the counterpart relation in the sense of Lewis, relating
objects to similar objects), imagine a pair-counterpart relation,
relating ordered pairs of objects to similar ordered pairs, and so on.
Then a representative function f must not only meet the condition
that f(x), for any x for which f is defined, be a single-counterpart of x,
but also the condition that the ordered pair (f(x),f(y)) be a pair-
counterpart of the pair (x,y). With the class of representative func-
tions doing the work of the counterpart relation in Lewis's seman-
tics, we define de re modal locutions along the following lines: a
formula is necessarily true just in case, for every world and every
representative function into the domain of that world, the formula
is true in that world when each singular term in it is interpreted
as denoting the image under the function of the object it actually
In a way, this semantic theory combines Lewis's approach with
some of Kripke's insights. In common with counterpart-theoretic
semantics, it defines de re modal notions in terms of some notion
which, though vague, is perhaps somewlhat more amenable to anal-
ysis than a primitive notion of transworld identification would be.
On the other hand, Kripke has said that possible worlds are "stipu-
lated" rather than discovered. The current theory allows us to ex-
plain, partially, what he meant. What takes the place, on this
theory, of the possible worlds of conventional possible-worlds seman-
tics, several of which could have the same inhabitants, are combina-
tions (ordered pairs, in a set-theoretic regimentation of the theory)
of worlds conceived of as fully specified "qualitatively," with stipu-

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lations or choices (reified as functions) of representatives for the

objects in other worlds.
Trinity College, Dublin


Consider a fairly conventional possible-worlds model theory. A model

structure comprises a set of worlds, with domains that may overlap, one
being singled out as the actual world. An n-adic predicate letter designates,
at any world, some set of n-tuples of objects from the domain of that
world; an individual constant denotes either something present in the
domain of the actual world or nothing at all; an assignment assigns to
each variable some object in the union of the domains of the worlds. An
atomic formula is true at a world and on an assignment just in case the
sequence of objects assigned to and denoted by its terms is one of the
tuples designated at the world by its predicate; any atomic formula, even
an identity, is false at a world if one or more of its terms fails to denote
(or be assigned) an object in the domain of that world. Trutlh-functional
composition has the usual results, and the truth values of quantifications
are defined in the usual way in terms of alternate assignments assigning
the variable of quantification some object in the domain of the world in
question. The result of prefixing a necessity (possibility, actuality) operator
to a formula is true at a world and on an assigniment just in case the
formula itself is true on that assignment at every (some, the actual) world.
A sentence is true in the model just in case it is true on every assignment
at the actual world.
Consider first (here comes the oversimplification) that fragment-we call
call it the first-degree fragment-of a first-order modal language consisting
of those formulas in which no modal operator other than an actuality
operator occurs within the scope of any other modal operator. This is
actually a fairly natural fragment, and perhaps the only part of first-order
modal logic with direct application in conceptual analysis and the semantic
representation of natural-language assertions. Certainly it is difficult to find
decent English sentences that can be construed as involving one modal
operator in the scope of anotlher and do not involve tensed modalities or
different kinds of modality (e.g., an alethic modality in the scope of an
epistemic one). (In philosophical usage one can find such claims as that
it is logically possible that a certain proposition be physically necessary,
etc., but then, philosophers do speak artificial dialects.)
A first-degree functional model comprises a set of worlds, with disjoint
domains, one being singled out as the actual world, and for each world
otlher than the actual, a set of (one-one, partial) functions from the doniain
of the actual world into its domain. Interpretations of predicates and in-

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dividual constants, assignments to variables are as before. A stipulational

world is either the actual world or an ordered pair of a world and a
function from the domain of the actual world to its domain. Truth at a
stipulational world on an assignment is defined in the usual way (for
atomic formulas, truth-functional compounds, and quantified formulas)
if the world is the actual world, and in the usual way, but relative to a
reinterpretation of the individual constants assigning them the images, if
any, under the function, of their usual denotata, and an assignment as-
signing to each free variable not already assigned an object in the domain
of the world the image, if any, under the function, of the object it is
assigned by the original assignment. The result of prefixing an actuality
operator to a formula is true on an assignment at the actual world just
in case the original formula is, and at any other stipulational world just
in case the original formula is true at the actual world with its constants
and free variables appropriately reinterpreted in accordance with the in-
verse of the function. The result of prefixing a necessity (possibility)
operator to a formula is true at the actual world on an assignment if and
only if the original formula is true at every (at least one) stipulational
world on that assignment. (It's not as complicated as it sounds.)
The theorem: as far as the first-degree fragment of the first-order modal
language is concerned, the conventional and first-degree functional model
theories generate the same logic: the same set of valid sentences, and the
same sentences semantically entailed by any given set of sentences.
Proof: given a model of one kind it is easy to construct a model of the
other kind satisfying exactly the same sentences.
If we consider the full first-order modal language, the functional model
theory becomes much more complicated, to deal with sentences like:

3xO (P&-3yx= y& (Q&3yx=y))

We must now consider not only functions from the domain of the actual
world into the domains of other worlds, but functions from the unions of
the domains of arbitrary finite sets of worlds into the domain of some
world, and the analogue of a stipulational world is now a finite sequence
of worlds with a companion sequence of functions uniting the objects in
their domains.
The functions of such a sequence must then fulfill certain conditions
(intuitively, that they be consistent in what they "say" about what objects
in the domain of one world are "the same" as what objects in the domains
of others), and the whole set of functions in the model structure must
fulfill certain closure conditions. Dotting the i's and crossing the t's is
time-consuming, but in the end it can be proved that the logic generated
for the whole first-order modal language is the same as that generated
by the conventional model theory. The proof is tedious, but involves no
conceptual novelties; details may be found in my dissertation.

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Why, if it's all so complicated, bother? Well, there are at least two areas
where a functional model theory can, I think, provide illumination. It is
always possible to provide a functional model satisfying the same sentences
as a given conventional structure [very easily: replace the objects in the
domains of the worlds with ordered pairs (original object, world) to en-
sure that the worlds have disjoint domains, and allow as functions precisely
those which would, in terms of the original objects, have been identity
mappings]. In many cases, however, the functions of the new model struc-
ture will not be based on similarity in the way representative functions are
supposed to be - at least, not similarity with respect to the predicates
true of the objects in the different worlds. Suppose, now, that we have
formulated some condition of similarity-basedness on functional model
structures that partially embodies the idea that representative functions
ought to reflect similarities between objects in different worlds. (For ex-
ample, we might require that in a similarity-based structure any isomor-
phism, with regard to the extensions of the predicates, between the do-
mains of two worlds should be a representative function.) Then we can
define a class of theories which, though consistent-satisfiable in some
functional model structure-are incoherent-they are not satisfiable in a
similarity-based model structure interpreting just the predicates appearing
in the theory. The sort of incoherence involved can perhaps be best il-
lustrated with an example from nonmodal logic. Consider a definition
of identity in terms of the descriptive predicates of a language with a
finite set of descriptive predicates. The negation of any such definition is
a consistent formula of predicate logic; but one might well hold that if
the stock of descriptive predicates involved included all those used in your
total theory of the world, it would be incoherent of you to reject the
definition of identity in terms of them.20 The notion that representative
functions should be based on similarities, where the relevant similarities
are those defined in terms of the structures defined over the domains of
the different worlds by the predicates of our language, allows us to formu-
late broadly logical constraints on acceptable theories of the essences of
things, much as the definition of identity in terms of descriptive predicates
allows us to formulate a constraint on an acceptable theory of identity.
The otlher area where the functional approach may be more illumi-
nating than the conventional possible-worlds semantics concerns non-
denoting singular terms. Notice that, as I have specified the model theories,
no name not denoting an object in the domain of the actual world de-
notes anything at all:

3x a = xD C-
3x a = x
is valid. It would be very easy to add constants denoting unactualized pos-
sibilia to the language, if we thought solely in terms of the conventional
20 Cf. W. V. Quine, Word and Object (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1960),
sec. 47.

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model theory.It is much more difficultto formulatesatisfactionconditions

for formulas containing such terms within the functional model theory.
I regardthis not as a conceptualweaknessof my approachbut as a positive
strength, for there are grave difficultieswith the notion of naming the
nonexistent. The argumentsKripke gives in the addendum to "Naming
and Necessity"against construing 'SherlockHolmes' as the name of an
unactualizedpossibile correspondexactly to the difficultiesthat must be
overcome if constants denoting possible beings are to be accommodated
within the frameworkof the functional model theory. I take this as an
indication that my formal approachreflectsthe conceptual situation more
accuratelythan does the conventionalpossible-worldsapproach.


Methodological Pragnmatism. NICHOLAS RESCHER. New York: NYU

Press, 1977. xv, 315 p. $18.00.
Systematic philosophy is no longer dead. In a series of books, most
especially a trilogy 1 which includes the subject of this review as a
member, Nicholas Rescher makes a self-confessed attempt to re-
vitalize philosophical system building. The two earlier essays in-
troduced the metaphysical elements of his system and sketched in
the leading elements of a corresponding epistemology and its justi-
fication. Methodological Pragmatism continues (and perhaps roughly
finishes) this latter task. Although Rescher's project might sound
old-fashioned in style, its content on the other hand is completely
Rescher calls his system "pragmatic idealism." In its epistemolog-
ical elements, his position "recognizes the shaping of our knowledge
as subject to mind-external constraints, but takes these constraints
to manifest themselves wholly or predominantly on the side of
praxis" (xiv). The role of methodological pragmatism is to reveal
how praxis works against the metaphysical constraints. Although
this review is obviously neither the time nor the place to go into
Rescher's conceptualistic metaphysics, a metaphysics of fundamen-
tally mind-involved objectivity, let me at least mention that the
present book is consistent with-indeed necessitated by-the meta-
physical viewpoint developed in Conceptual Idealism.
1 Conceptual Idealism (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1973); Primacy of Practice
(Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1973); and the book under review.

0022-362X/79/7606/0338$00.50 ( 1979 The Journal of Philosophy, Inc.

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