“What is really possible” is a research group in philosophy funded by a NWO VIDI grant of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. The project is led by Thomas Müller and is hosted by the Department of Philosophy of the University of Konstanz.

For the sister project, “Indeterminism Ltd.”, see here.

Description of research

We live in a world of possibilities. Much of our practical life – planning, deciding, hoping and fearing – only makes sense before a background of options to choose from and possibilities for what the future will bring: real possibilities in concrete situations. Such real possibilities are dynamical; they vanish when they are not actualized. It makes sense to picture them via a tree of histories branching off from a single past course of events into multiple possible futures.
There are a number of philosophically interesting notions of possibility; a thorough exploration of real possibility and its relation to other notions of possibility is however still a desideratum. These other notions of possibility play a more directly visible role in philosophical argumentation, from metaphysical possibilities (e.g., of a deceiving demon) grounding sceptical arguments, to the analysis of laws of nature in terms of physical possibility. Philosophical work on real possibility has been mainly technical, e.g., in the formal-logical study of the semantics of the future tense.
The project will systematically explore the notion of branching-history-based real possibility and establish its fundamental role for the philosophy of modality. To this end, the notion of real possibility will be approached from a theoretical rather than from a practical, action-centred perspective. This methodological choice is mandated by the structural complexities of the issue: before the concept of agency and other practical notions can be tackled fruitfully, the underlying notion of real possibility needs to be better understood: its formal features need to be worked out, and its place in various discussions in metaphysics and in the philosophy of science needs to be assessed. This groundwork will then enable further work on the practical relevance of real possibilities.