Invention is the mother of necessity

Modal logic is a well-established field, and the possible worlds semantics of modal logics has proved invaluable to our understanding of the logical features of the modal concepts such as possibility and necessity. However, the significance of possible worlds models for a genuine theory of meaning--let alone for metaphysics--is less clear. In this paper I shall explain how and why the use of the concepts of necessity and possibility could arise (and why they have the logical behaviour charted out by standard modal logics) without either taking the notions of necessity or possibility as primitive, and without starting with possible worlds. Once we give an account of modal logic we can then go on to give an account of possible worlds, and explain why possible worlds semantics is a natural fit for modal logic without being the source of modal concepts.

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