, Volume 68, Issue 1, pp 129-148
Date: 21 Sep 2007

A Dilemma About Necessity

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The problem of the source of necessity is the problem of explaining what makes necessary truths necessarily true. Simon Blackburn has presented a dilemma intended to show that any reductive, realist account of the source of necessity is bound to fail. Although Blackburn's dilemma faces serious problems, reflection on the form of explanations of necessities reveals that a revised dilemma succeeds in defeating any reductive account of the source of necessity. The lesson is that necessity is metaphysically primitive and irreducible.

Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the Northwest Philosophy Conference at Reed College in Oct. 2003, the Central Division APA in April 2004, the Joint Session of the Mind/Aristotelian Society in July 2004, and Dorit Bar-On’s seminar on realism and anti-realism at UNC Chapel Hill in Oct. 2006. I am grateful to the audiences at these presentations. Special thanks to Simon Blackburn, Barry Stroud, two anonymous referees, and Maria Francisca Reines.