Annual Alvin Plantinga Fellow Lecture

This year's Alvin Plantinga Fellow Lecture was held on October 28 at 3:00pm in DeBartolo Hall, Room 140.

Christopher Menzel

The 2016-2017 Alvin Plantinga Fellow, Christopher Menzel, Professor of Philosophy at Texas A&M University, delivered a lecture titled "In Defense of the Possibilism-Actualism Distinction". A reception followed in Malloy Hall.

Abstract: In his important book Modal Logic as Metaphysics, Timothy Williamson claims that there is a widespread feeling of dissatisfaction with the possibilism-actualism [P-A] distinction” and, indeed, that usage of the terms 'possibilism' and 'actualism' "has become badly confused". To rectify the situation, Williamson introduces a distinction between necessitism and contingentism that he argues is free of the confusions that allegedly plague the P-A distinction. In this talk, after a brief discussion of its significant historical antecedents, I will first argue that the modern P-A distinction can be made entirely clear, that it does not fall prey to Williamson's objections, and that the necessitism-contingentism distinction, if it is to do the philosophical work that Williamson needs, marks no significant advance over the P-A distinction. However, second, I will show that Williamson's preferred distinctiondoespoint to a genuine problem at the heart of the P-A distinction, namely, that, as currently formulated, it cannot force Williamson and his fellow necessitists into the possibilist category where they belong, despite their commitment to such classical possibilia as Wittgenstein's merely possible children. I close by proposing an entirely new definition of the P-A distinction that avoids this problem.

For an archive of past lectures, please visit the Previous Alvin Plantinga Fellow Lecture subpage.