Ways a World Might Be collects, and adds to, Robert Stalnaker's published papers on metaphysical issues. The central theme that runs throughout the book is the role of possible worlds in articulating our various metaphysical commitments. The essays contain both reflections on the general idea of a space of possibilities and attempts to use the framework of possible worlds to formulate and clarify semantic and metaphysical questions about properties and individuals, supervenience and essentialism, reference, thought and experience. The essays also reflect on the nature of metaphysics, and on the relation between metaphysical and semantic questions - questions about what there is and questions about how we talk and think about what there is. The book begins by asking what possible worlds are, and how we are able to represent and know about them. Stalnaker argues that we can take possibilities seriously without embracing the kind of modal realism that David Lewis defended, and can take them as fundamental without purporting to offer a reductive account of modality.
He then turns to questions about the nature of properties and relations and their role in carving up a space of possibilities, and to questions about the nature of individuals, and the way they are identified across time and possible worlds. The essays in the last two sections of the book are concerned with the interaction of metaphysical and semantic issues, and with the place of subjective experience in our conception of an objective world as it is in itself. Two of the fourteen essays, plus an extensive introduction that sets the papers in context and makes explicit some of the essays' common threads, are published here for the first time.