Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter May 2, 2015

Natural Properties and Atomicity in Modal Realism

Andrea Borghini EMAIL logo and Giorgio Lando
From the journal Metaphysica


The paper pinpoints certain unrecognized difficulties that surface for recombination and duplication in modal realism when we ask whether the following inter-world fixity claims hold true: 1) A property is perfectly natural in a world iff it is perfectly natural in every world where it is instantiated; 2) Something is mereologically atomic in a world iff all of its duplicates in every world are atomic. In connection to 1), the hypothesis of idlers prompts four variants of Lewis’s doctrine of perfectly natural properties, all deemed unsatisfactory for the purposes of duplication and recombination. By means of 2), instead, we show that the principle of recombination does not countenance the atomicity or non-atomicity of duplicates; but it should, because it is genuinely possible that: a) something, which is atomic, is non-atomic; and b) something, which is non-atomic, is atomic. In discussing 1) and 2), the paper substantiates a tension in Lewis’s metaphysics between modal intuitions and the reliance on the natural sciences.


Chisholm, R. 1973. “Parts as Essential to Their Wholes.” Review of Metaphysics25:581603.Search in Google Scholar

Chisholm, R. 1976. Person and Object: A Metaphysical Study. La Salle, IL: Open Court.Search in Google Scholar

Darby, G., and D.Watson. 2010. “Lewis’s Principle of Recombination.” dialectica64:43545.10.1111/j.1746-8361.2010.01242.xSearch in Google Scholar

Divers, J. 2013. “The Analysis of Possibility and the Extent of Possibility.” dialectica67:183200.10.1111/1746-8361.12017Search in Google Scholar

Divers, J., and J.Melia. 2002. “The Analytic Limit of Genuine Modal Realism.” Mind111:1536.10.1093/mind/111.441.15Search in Google Scholar

Efird, D., and T.Stoneham. 2008. “What Is the Principle of Recombination?.” dialectica62:48394.10.1111/j.1746-8361.2008.01159.xSearch in Google Scholar

Kelly, A. 2013. “Ramseyan Humility, Scepticism, and Grasp.” Philosophical Studies164:70526.10.1007/s11098-012-9871-1Search in Google Scholar

Langton, R. 1998. Kantian Humility: Our Ignorance of Things in Themselves. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Search in Google Scholar

Langton, R., and D. K.Lewis. 1998. “Defining “Intrinsic.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research58:33345.10.2307/2653512Search in Google Scholar

Leuenberger, S. 2010. “Humility and Constraints on O-Language.” Philosophical Studies149:32754.10.1007/s11098-009-9352-3Search in Google Scholar

Lewis, D. K. 1968. “Counterpart Theory and Quantified Modal Logic.” Journal of Philosophy65:11326.10.2307/2024555Search in Google Scholar

Lewis, D. K. 1983a. “New Work for a Theory of Universals.” Australasian Journal of Philosophy61:34377.10.1080/00048408312341131Search in Google Scholar

Lewis, D. K. 1983b. “Extrinsic Properties.” Philosophical Studies44:197200.10.1007/BF00354100Search in Google Scholar

Lewis, D. K. 1986a. On the Plurality of Worlds. Oxford: Blackwell.Search in Google Scholar

Lewis, D. K. 1986b. Philosophical Papers Vol. II. New York: Oxford University Press.10.1093/0195036468.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Lewis, D. K. 1991. Parts of Classes. Oxford: Blackwell.Search in Google Scholar

Lewis, D. K. 1994. “Humean Supervenience Debugged.” Mind103:47390.10.1093/mind/103.412.473Search in Google Scholar

Lewis, D. K. 2001. “Redefining “Intrinsic.” ” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research63:38198.Search in Google Scholar

Lewis, D. K. 2009. “Ramseyan Humility.” In Conceptual Analysis and Philosophical Naturalism, edited by D. Braddon-Mitchell, R. Nola, 20322. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.10.7551/mitpress/9780262012560.003.0009Search in Google Scholar

McDaniel, K. 2006. “Modal Realisms.” Philosophical Perspectives20:30331.10.1111/j.1520-8583.2006.00109.xSearch in Google Scholar

Nolan, D. 1996. “Recombination Unbound.” Philosophical Studies84:23962.10.1007/BF00354489Search in Google Scholar

Taylor, B. 1993. “On Natural Properties in Metaphysics.” Mind102:81100.10.1093/mind/102.405.81Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2015-5-2
Published in Print: 2015-5-25

©2015 by De Gruyter

Downloaded on 9.12.2022 from
Scroll Up Arrow