Journal of Philosophical Logic

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 643–678 | Cite as

Modal Ontology and Generalized Quantifiers



Timothy Williamson has argued that in the debate on modal ontology, the familiar distinction between actualism and possibilism should be replaced by a distinction between positions he calls contingentism and necessitism. He has also argued in favor of necessitism, using results on quantified modal logic with plurally interpreted second-order quantifiers showing that necessitists can draw distinctions contingentists cannot draw. Some of these results are similar to well-known results on the relative expressivity of quantified modal logics with so-called inner and outer quantifiers. The present paper deals with these issues in the context of quantified modal logics with generalized quantifiers. Its main aim is to establish two results for such a logic: Firstly, contingentists can draw the distinctions necessitists can draw if and only if the logic with inner quantifiers is at least as expressive as the logic with outer quantifiers, and necessitists can draw the distinctions contingentists can draw if and only if the logic with outer quantifiers is at least as expressive as the logic with inner quantifiers. Secondly, the former two items are the case if and only if all of the generalized quantifiers are first-order definable, and the latter two items are the case if and only if first-order logic with these generalized quantifiers relativizes.


Modality Ontology Generalized quantifiers Quantified modal logic Contingentism Necessitism Actualism Possibilism 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of PhilosophyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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