The Megarian and the Aristotelian Concept of Possibility: A Contribution to the History of the Ontological Problem of Modality
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This is a translation of Nicolai Hartmann’s article “Der Megarische und der Aristotelische Möglichkeitsbegriff: ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des ontologischen Modalitätsproblems,” first published in 1937. In this article, Hartmann defends an interpretation of the Megarian conception of possibility, which found its clearest form in Diodorus Cronus’ expression of it and according to which “only what is actual is possible” or “something is possible only if it is actual.” Hartmann defends this interpretation against the then dominant Aristotelian conception of possibility, based on the opposition between dynamis and energeia, and according to which there is always an open multiplicity of simultaneous “possibilities,” the outcome of which remains undetermined. Since, according to Hartmann, reality suffers no indetermination, the Megarian conception of possibility is an account of real possibility, whereas the Aristotelian one is merely an account of epistemic possibility (Frédéric Tremblay).