Louis deRosset – Overcoming Inconstancy

Abstract: According to skeptics about de re modality, the answers to de re modal questions depend on how we think of the individual in question. No individual bears simpliciter the sorts of modal properties apparently attributed by de re modal constructions. Realists about de re modality defend the view that individuals bear modal properties simpliciter, independently of how they are described. One major argument for skepticism highlights the phenomenon of inconstancy: sometimes de re modal attributions differ in truth value despite involving the same individual and modal predicate. Skepticism offers a plausible diagnosis: we get differences in truth value without differences in referent or predicate because there is a hidden third factor on which the truth of the utterance depends: the manner in which the individual in question is represented or described. This third factor is supplied somehow by context. In this paper, I argue that inconstancy does not motivate scepticism about de re modality. I claim that (i) skepticism has a difficult time explaining related linguistic data; and (ii) the best explanation of all of the linguistic data, including inconstancy, supports realism.

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