, Volume 188, Issue 3, pp 459-467

Prior’s Fable and the limits of de re possibility

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Abstract

Prior’s hitherto unpublished “Fable of the Four Preachers” illuminates the connection of the metaphysical issues of trans-world identity with moral trans-world continuity. The paper shows Prior’s position with regard to genuine de re temporal possibility of individuals on the basis of chapter VIII of his Papers on Time and Tense. His position is that radical coming-into-being is not a genuine de re temporal possibility of individuals since there is no identifiable individual, before birth, who could be the subject of such possibility. The paper strengthens Prior’s claim by showing how an uncomfortable consequence of this intuitively appealing position can be avoided. As a result, the proper claim would be that the possibility of origin is general or de dicto: it is possible that someone be born to such and parents, but it is not possible of someone that he should be born to these or other parents.