On the Philosophical Concept of Possibility

Modality, Contingency, Structure


In this essay I propose to draw out a protracted genealogy of the concept of possibility, tracing its relevance to different aspects of philosophical questioning across several key historical moments, from antiquity up to the present. In the first section, I briefly rehearse the way in which modality becomes a central topic within logic and metaphysics in Aristotle’s twofold account of possibility, elaborated in its fundamentals in the Prior Analytics. I then trace the role that modality plays within a theological register during the mediaeval period, bearing upon not only metaphysical, but also practical and moral reasoning, and leading to Leibniz’s conception of a ‘possible world’ in the context of thinking a solution to the problematic of evil.…