»Events»The aboutness argument against the modal theory of states of affairs
The aboutness argument against the modal theory of states of affairs
Abstract: Define a state of affairs to be a way things are or a way things fail to be. The modal theory of states of affairs holds that, for any states of affairs s1 and s2, s1 = s2 iff s1 and s2 are necessarily equivalent to each other (that is, iff, necessarily, s1 obtains iff s2 obtains). A powerful argument against the modal theory is that the theory is false since two necessarily equivalent states of affairs can differ in what they are about (or concern) and hence can fail to be identical. According to one version of this argument, for example, while the states of affairs of Biden being self-identical and Trump being self-identical are necessarily equivalent to each other, and so are identical to each other according to the modal theory, this identification, is false since only the former state of affairs concerns how Biden is. I argue that defences of the modal theory against this argument fail, and hence that we should accept the argument’s conclusion and reject the modal theory.
Dan Marshall is an Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.