Tuesday, December 20, 2011

... because the world is not in the world

Yesterday, I overheard my six-year-old son Dominic saying in another room "... because the world is not in the world."  In later conversation, he told me what the conclusion of the argument was: "The world isn't the biggest thing in the world."

If Dominic is right that the world is not in the world, then on Lewis's semantics the worlds are not possible entities and in particular are not possible worlds.  For on Lewis's semantics, something is possible provided it exists in some world.


Unknown said...

Sounds like we have a budding young philosopher!

Anonymous said...

Hi professor Pruss,

I would appreciate it if you could take a look at the following arguments against the existence of the Christian god and let me know what you think:





Alexander R Pruss said...

In argument 1, at least premise 21 is plausibly false. B contains a world where one human is damned but there are a googol angels who are saved and no other created persons, and that world is not worse than every world in A. In particular, it's not worse than the world in A where the only person is one human who dies painlessly after living a morally vicious but pleasant life that he deserves to be punished for but never is.

Moreover, 22 assumes that there are possible worlds where God does not exist. Further, if one grants that there are possible worlds where God does not exist, then immediately any world with God in it is more valuable than any world without God in it since God has an absolutely infinite value (greater than any created infinity), and so premise 21 becomes dubious if A contains worlds without God

It is not clear that 19 is true. It might be that if everyone were going to be damned, God would have do something radical to ensure someone is saved, such as overriding someone's free will or becoming incarnate (in which case at least one human being, namely God incarnate, would be saved).

For the same reason, 18-20 in argument 3 are dubious.

In argument 2, it seems arbitrary to exempt from the requirement of explicit faith two classes of people who through no fault of their own cannot come to faith--namely, those who haven't heard the Gospel and small children--without exempting others. Once one exempts these two classes, one needs to exempt all who cannot come to faith through no fault of their own. Scripture teaches that faith is required, but not that explicit faith is required.

Mike Almeida said...

It is hard to know whether this is right. If you mean to say that the only things that *exist* are in worlds, then I think that is false. Lewis does acknowledge that transworld objects exist and they are not in any world (though their parts are parts of two or more worlds). So the object composed of my nose and the possible city of X exists, though that object is in no world at all. But what you might be denying is not that such an object exists, but that it is possible. But Lewis denies that there exist impossible objects. Further, unless Lewis contradicts himself somewhere (or changes his mind), he says in CTQML that every counterpart is in a world. Since worlds are counterparts of other worlds, they must be in worlds too. The simplest way, I guess, as an improper part.

James Bejon said...

I've never been clear on what, on Lewis's view, separates different possible worlds. Suppose, for instance, God exists. Then, God is a transworld object, and there's only one of him, right? So, he's the same being in all possible worlds, meaning every possible world end ups collapsing in some respect. Are theism and Lewisianism incompatible then, or have I just misunderstood his view? (I strongly suspect the latter).

Marc Belcastro said...

Dr. Pruss:

It seems to me that a plausible interpretation of “the world is in the world” is “the world contains the world.” If so, then “world W is in W” means “W contains W.” But I wonder whether it’s coherent to say that something contains itself, so perhaps your son is right.

If W contains W, then not only does the “first” W contain the “second,” but the “second” also contains the “first,” and so forth ad infinitum. But how could something contain itself while also being contained by itself?

Would you mind further expounding why the conjunction of Lewis’s semantics and the claim that the world isn’t in the world commits one to saying that worlds are neither possible entities nor possible worlds? It appears that some world W can exist in some other world W* even if W doesn’t exist within, or contain, itself.

Alexander R Pruss said...


But as I remember on the official story an object is possible iff it exists in some world. And then he handles abstracta by making them count as existing in every world.

Let X be the mereological sum of A in one world and B in another. At what world does X exist? Unlike abstracta, it's not true that X exists at all worlds. Does X exist at A's world? No, only a part of it does. Does X exist at B's world? No, only a part of it does.

Maybe, though, Lewis can say that there is some world that contains both a counterpart of A and a counterpart of B, and such a world counts as containing a counterpart of X? And maybe likewise he could say that our world, though it does not exist in our world, has a counterpart that exists (properly) in another world?

Anonymous said...

Thank you Professor Pruss for your comments. I have posted a response on my blog.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Professor Pruss for your further comments. I have posted a response on my blog:


Anonymous said...

Professor Pruss, I posted a new version at PhilPapers. Your comments are appreciated.