In the past few decades, modality has always been a central topic in the area of analytic metaphysics, which is inextricably intertwined with a lot of metaphysical theories, such as the theory of laws of nature, the theory of causation, the theory of dispositional properties. Moreover, it seems to be embedded in the core of every attempt of the construction of a theory of ontology. Theorists have been devoting effort to providing a comprehensive and coherent understanding of the concept of modality, and expecting it would contribute to a solution of a lot of problems in analytic metaphysics, for example, the puzzle of causation.
However, the prospect of it is not bright, since the currently prevailing theories of modality seem not to be a problem solver, but the cause of more problems. It has been shown by the development of analytic metaphysics, these theories were not clarifying concepts related to it, or at least we can say when clarifying certain issues, they created more obscure ones.
My plan is to review several threads and trends in analytic metaphysics (for example Kripke, Lewis, Armstrong, Essentialists), with an aim to provide a diagnose of the origin and evolvement of the problem of modality. And I deem, while exposing the blind spots of the current theories about modality, a more justified theory of modality will emerge, which can preserve the existing functions and roles of modality, for example, a clear and systematic semantics, while comprehensively incorporates crucial characteristics of a sufficiently explanatory ontology, for example, the combinative nature of entities, and the heterogeneity and potentiality of dispositional properties. I anticipate it would partly resolve the puzzles that the previous notions of modality caused, and provide insights into the areas in analytic metaphysics intertwined with it, such as the theory of laws of nature, the puzzle of causation. Finally, I will explore possible applications of this new notion of modality on related areas of analytic philosophy, such as philosophy of mathematics.
Jing Yu is a Ph.D. candidate at the Institute for Philosophy at Leiden University since the December 2016. She was studying at Fudan University, Nanjing University, and Ghent University with an interdisciplinary background including philosophy, literature, and medical science. The current project she is working on “The Generation in Necessity——Or the Other Way Around？” is funded by the CSC scholarship.