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Grant number like: FA-54195-08

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Boris Christian Kment
Regents of the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1382)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2008 – 6/30/2009

A Philosophic Anaylsis of the Concept of Possibility

Much of human thought is concerned, not with the way things actually are, but with the question of how things could have been (e.g., how else we could have acted, how otherwise history could have unfolded). The notion of a possibility (of a way things could have been) is indispensable both for common-sense thought and in the human and natural sciences. It has been studied intensively by philosophers, but an understanding of its nature has proven elusive. I attempt to provide a new analysis of the concept. Unlike most others, I begin with the question of why creatures with our concerns have developed the notion of possibility. I argue that it originated in such practices as making decisions and providing explanations, where we need to reason about what would be true if such-and-such had been the case. The purpose of the concept is to facilitate such reasoning. I plan to present my view in a book, as this seems to be the best way of doing justice to the systematic nature of the project.