Philosophical Issues from Kripke’s ‘Semantical Considerations on Modal Logic’


  • John Divers School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science University of Leeds Leeds, ENGLAND LS2 9JT



In ‘Semantical Considerations on Modal Logic’, Kripke articulates his project in the discourse of “possible worlds”. There has been much philosophical discussion of whether endorsement of the Kripke semantics brings ontological commitment to possible worlds. However, that discussion is less than satisfactory because it has been conducted without the necessary investigation of the surrounding philosophical issues that are raised by the Kripke semantics. My aim in this paper is to map out the surrounding territory and to commence that investigation. Among the surrounding issues, and my attitudes to them, are these: (1) the potential of the standard distinction between pure and impure versions of the semantic theory has been under-exploited; (2) there has been under-estimation of what is achieved by the pure semantic theory alone; (3) there is a methodological imperative to co-ordinate a clear conception of the purposes of the impure theory with an equally clear conception of the content the theory; (4) there is a need to support by argument claims about how such a semantic theory, even in an impure state, can fund explanations in the theory of meaning and metaphysics; (5) greater attention needs to be paid to the crucial advance that Kripke makes on the precursors of possible-worlds semantics proper (e.g. Carnap 1947) in clearly distinguishing variation across the worlds within a model of modal space from variation across such models and, finally, (6) the normative nature of the concept of applicability, of the pure semantic theory, is both of crucial importance and largely ignored.

Author Biography

John Divers, School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science University of Leeds Leeds, ENGLAND LS2 9JT

John Divers works on modality and is finalizing a new monograph (Necessity After Quine, OUP) to add to a body of work that includes his earlier Possible Worlds (Routledge, 2002) and some 30 research articles

Director of the Leverhulme Research Project Thinking Counterfactually

Co-founder of the European Non-Categorical Thinking Project (partners in the Universities of Amsterdam,   Cambridge and Turin)



Co-Editor (with Asa Wikforss and Crispin Wright)  of the journal Thought (Wiley Blackwell)