A Quirk of Non-​​Actual Possibilities

Or “On the Non-​​Actualizability of Non-​​Actual Meta­phys­i­cal Possibilities”.

On my view there are three major cat­e­gories of pos­si­bil­ity: log­i­cal, meta­phys­i­cal, and actual. Log­i­cal pos­si­bil­i­ties are those per­mit­ted by logic, meta­phys­i­cal pos­si­bil­i­ties are those per­mit­ted by logic and the laws of meta­physics, and actual pos­si­bil­i­ties are those per­mit­ted by logic, the laws of meta­physics, and actuality.

As a con­se­quence of my def­i­n­i­tions, actual alter­nate pos­si­bil­i­ties do not exist. This is true sim­ply because “actual” describes every­thing true of the actual world, and noth­ing more. If some­thing is pos­si­ble, but not “actual”, then it is not “actu­ally” pos­si­ble*, by def­i­n­i­tion. This is admit­tedly an unin­tu­itive, spe­cific, or tech­ni­cal use of the term “actual”, but it is how I’ve defined it here to facil­i­tate more pre­cise discussion.

Another con­se­quence of my set of def­i­n­i­tions is that non-​​actual meta­phys­i­cal pos­si­bil­i­ties can­not be actu­al­ized, sim­ply because they are not actual. Or more clearly:

Non-​​actualized pos­si­bil­i­ties are con­se­quently not actual.

So we live in one world: the actual one.

*One might ask how some­thing can be actu­ally “pos­si­ble”, with­out being “actu­ally pos­si­ble”. But keep in mind that on my view there are mul­ti­ple types of pos­si­bil­ity, of which “actual” is only one. In this way I am using “actual” to refer to propo­si­tions that con­cern the actual world, rather than as a syn­onym for “gen­uine”. In this way there can actu­ally be “log­i­cal pos­si­bil­i­ties”, there can actu­ally be “meta­phys­i­cal pos­si­bil­i­ties”, and there can actu­ally be “actual pos­si­bil­i­ties”. So if some­thing is actu­ally “pos­si­ble”, but not “actu­ally pos­si­ble”, it must be either actu­ally “meta­phys­i­cally pos­si­ble” or actu­ally “log­i­cally pos­si­ble”. But some­thing can­not be “actu­ally pos­si­ble” and there­fore actual, and non-​​actual at the same time, for such would be a contradiction.

5 thoughts on “A Quirk of Non-​​Actual Possibilities

  1. Derek

    okay OKAY! Where are we going with all of this? If we end here I’d be stuck with a feel­ing that one would be stuck with after read­ing ch. 1 of Plantinga’s NN in the pos­si­ble world where that was the last chap­ter of the book.

  2. Derek

    Maybe you should use fac­tual pos­si­bil­ity instead of actual pos­si­bil­ity. So ‘fac­tual pos­si­bil­i­ties’ denote the set of propo­si­tions that actu­ally true.

  3. Jonathan Charles Wright

    I agree with Derek that you should rename ‘actual pos­si­bil­ity’. You intend for pre­ci­sion, but it’s sim­i­lar­ity to closely related but dis­tinct con­cepts engen­der con­fu­sion more than clar­ity. See all the com­ments I made tonight on pre­vi­ous posts (includ­ing the ones that haven’t been ‘approved’ yet!)

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