How Many Pure Possibilities Are There? Or Contra Actualism

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Independently or regardless of any actualization, possibilities are pure. Are such possibilities real? Actualism excludes the existence of individual pure possibilities, altogether or, at least, as existing independently of actual reality. In contrast, possibilism emphatically acknowledges the existence of mind-independent, non-actual (pure) possibilities, which are entirely independent of actual reality. Possibilism, thus, is realist about the existence of such possibilities. Challenging the views of Nicholas Rescher and other actualists, beginning with Quine, I attempt to defend a realism of individual pure possibilities. For this purpose, I suggest some counterexamples that appear to render such views groundless. Indeed, no answer can be given to the question: How many pure possibilities are there? Yet, notwithstanding Rescher’s critique, such non-answerability does not endanger or challenge realism of pure possibilities or any possibilist realism. Such non-answerability is also valid for genuine literary works of art, in which only what makes a difference is necessarily there and subject to our questions. Such works of art maintain a sort of necessity, exclusively pertaining to individual pure possibilities and their relations, which are necessarily within these works. Individual pure possibilities are as real as actualities, albeit in a different sense.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSynthese Library
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages15
StatePublished - 2020

Publication series

NameSynthese Library
ISSN (Print)0166-6991
ISSN (Electronic)2542-8292

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer Nature Switzerland AG.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • History
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Logic


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