Williamson on Modality

williamson on modality cover


Modality Interview

Williamson on Modality (Routledge, 2017)
Timothy Williamson

Timothy Williamson is one of the most influential living philosophers working in the areas of logic and metaphysics. His work in these areas has been particularly influential in shaping debates about metaphysical modality, which is the topic of his recent provocative and closely-argued book Modal Logic as Metaphysics (2013). This book comprises ten essays by metaphysicians and logicians responding to Williamson’s work on metaphysical modality, as well as replies by Williamson to each essay. In addition, it contains an original essay by Williamson, ‘Modal science,’ concerning the role of modal claims in natural science. This book was originally published as a special issue of the Canadian Journal of Philosophy.

Juhani Yli-Vakkuri interviews Timothy Williamson on themes from the new book, Williamson on Modality (Routledge, 2017), edited by J. Yli-Vakkuri and M. McCullagh.

  1. What is metaphysical modality?
  2. Do you think it’s generally important for theoretical concepts used in philosophy to be definable in vernacular terms?
  3. Could you give us a brief sketch of your own conception of logic?
  4. What, in your view, does logic have to do with rationality?
  5. In Modal Logic as Metaphysics you defend a view you call ‘necessitism’. What do you say to someone who just says: ‘This consequence of necessitism is obviously false’ and just rejects necessitism on that basis, without bothering to read your book or any of the exchanges in Williamson on Modality?
  6. Do you take yourself to know that necessitism is true? 
  7. What do you think is the main unfinished business of your book, Modal Logic as Metaphysics
  8. Some philosophers hold the view that facts about metaphysical modality are grounded in facts about essence. What do you think of this view?
  9. Another fashionable topic related to the topics we’ve been talking about is metametaphysics. Do you think there’s anything particularly interesting to be learned from reading that literature? 
  10. What do you think is particularly good about metaphysics right now? 
  11. What worries you most about the current state of metaphysics? 
  12. What are the main issues you’ve changed your mind about over the course of your career? 
  13. Do you think this country would be better run if the government consulted philosophers more? 
  14. If you were asked to give a single piece of advice to a first-year graduate student in philosophy what would it be?