Inconsistency Without Contradiction

Varzi, Achille C.

My purpose in this paper is not to defend or attack the ersatz conception— the view that unactualized worlds are merely linguistic descriptions of the ways this world of ours might have been. Rather, I am interested in that conception insofar as it pertains to the challenge raised by Lewis. Suppose we do not treat ‘in so-and-so world’ as a restricting modifier. Suppose we take Conan Doyle to be describing a bona fide world, though a world that is impossible because of some unfortunate discrepancies. What are we to make of the truths and falsehoods in such a world? Can we distinguish its contradictory truths from contradictory falsehoods about it? I want to say that we can. If an impossible world is one in which there are discrepancies of the sort illustrated by the Watson example—a world in which certain facts both do and do not obtain— then we can keep such worlds under logical control exactly as we can keep the Holmes stories under control. There are discrepancies, but these discrepancies are local and do not force incoherence upon our discourse about them because they can be explained away by reference to an underlying set of coherent goings-on.



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Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic

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October 28, 2014