Haecceitism, chance, and counterfactuals

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Antihaecceitists believe that all facts about specific individuals-such as the fact that Fred exists, or that Katie is tall-globally supervene on purely qualitative facts. Haecceitists deny that. The issue is not only of interest in itself, but receives additional importance from its intimate connection to the question of whether all fundamental facts are qualitative or whether they include facts about which specific individuals there are and how qualitative properties and relations are distributed over them. Those who think that all fundamental facts are qualitative are arguably committed to antihaecceitism. The goal of this paper is to point out some problems for antihaecceitism (and therefore for the thesis that all fundamental facts are qualitative). The article focuses on two common assumptions about possible worlds: (i) Sets of possible worlds are the bearers of objective physical chance. (ii) Counterfactual conditionals can be defined by appeal to a relation of closeness between possible worlds. The essay tries to show that absurd consequences ensue if either of these assumptions is combined with antihaecceitism. Then it considers a natural response by the antihaecceitist, which is to deny that worlds play the role described in (i) and (ii). Instead, the reply continues, we can introduce a new set of entities that are defined in terms of worlds and that behave the way worlds do on the haecceitist position. That allows the antihaecceitist to formulate antihaecceitist friendly versions of (i) and (ii) by replacing the appeal to possible worlds with reference to the newly introduced entities. This maneuver invites an obvious reply, however. If the new entities are the things that play the role we typically associate with worlds, as partially described by (i) and (ii), then it is natural to conclude that they really are the entities we talk about when we speak of worlds, so that haecceitism is true after all.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)573-609
Number of pages37
JournalThe Philosophical Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 4 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy


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