On the Expressivity of First-Order Modal Logic with “Actually”

Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 9394)


Many authors have noted that a number of English modal sentences cannot be formalized into standard first-order modal logic. Some widely discussed examples include “There could have been things other than there actually are” and “Everyone who’s actually rich could have been poor.” In response, many authors have introduced an “actually” operator @ into the language of first-order modal logic. It is occasionally noted that some of the example sentences still cannot be formalized with @ if one allows only actualist quantifiers, and embedded versions of these example sentences cannot be formalized even with possibilist quantifiers and @. The typical justification for these claims is to observe that none of the most plausible candidate formalizations succeed. In this paper, we prove these inexpressibility results by using a modular notion of bisimulation for first-order modal logic with “actually” and other operators. In doing so, we will explain in what ways these results do or do not generalize to more expressive modal languages.


first-order modal logic actually two-dimensional semantics actualist and possibilist quantification expressivity bisimulation 


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Group in Logic and the Methodology of ScienceUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUnited States

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