Natural Properties and Atomicity in Modal Realism

Andrea Borghini 1  and Giorgio Lando 2
  • 1 Department of Philosophy, College of the Holy Cross, 1 College Street, Worcester, MA 01610, USA
  • 2 Scuola Normale Superiore, Piazza dei Cavalieri 7, 56126 Pisa (PI), Italia
Andrea Borghini and Giorgio Lando


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 Metaphysics 25:581603.

  • Chisholm, R. 1976. Person and Object: A Metaphysical Study. La Salle, IL: Open Court.

  • Darby, G., and D. Watson. 2010. “Lewis’s Principle of Recombination.” dialectica 64:43545.

  • Divers, J. 2013. “The Analysis of Possibility and the Extent of Possibility.” dialectica 67:183200.

  • Divers, J., and J. Melia. 2002. “The Analytic Limit of Genuine Modal Realism.” Mind 111:1536.

  • Efird, D., and T. Stoneham. 2008. “What Is the Principle of Recombination?.” dialectica 62:48394.

  • Kelly, A. 2013. “Ramseyan Humility, Scepticism, and Grasp.” Philosophical Studies 164:70526.

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

  • Langton, R., and D. K. Lewis. 1998. “Defining “Intrinsic.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 58:33345.

  • Leuenberger, S. 2010. “Humility and Constraints on O-Language.” Philosophical Studies 149:32754.

  • Lewis, D. K. 1968. “Counterpart Theory and Quantified Modal Logic.” Journal of Philosophy 65:11326.

  • Lewis, D. K. 1983a. “New Work for a Theory of Universals.” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61:34377.

  • Lewis, D. K. 1983b. “Extrinsic Properties.” Philosophical Studies 44:197200.

  • Lewis, D. K. 1986a. On the Plurality of Worlds. Oxford: Blackwell.

  • Lewis, D. K. 1986b. Philosophical Papers Vol. II. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Lewis, D. K. 1991. Parts of Classes. Oxford: Blackwell.

  • Lewis, D. K. 1994. “Humean Supervenience Debugged.” Mind 103:47390.

  • Lewis, D. K. 2001. “Redefining “Intrinsic.” ” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63:38198.

  • Lewis, D. K. 2009. “Ramseyan Humility.” In Conceptual Analysis and Philosophical Naturalism, edited by D. Braddon-Mitchell, R. Nola, 20322. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    • Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McDaniel, K. 2006. “Modal Realisms.” Philosophical Perspectives 20:30331.

  • Nolan, D. 1996. “Recombination Unbound.” Philosophical Studies 84:23962.

  • Taylor, B. 1993. “On Natural Properties in Metaphysics.” Mind 102:81100.

Purchase article
Get instant unlimited access to the article.
Log in
Already have access? Please log in.

Log in with your institution

Journal + Issues