NB: this question is a reference request.
I have already read countless introductions to modal logic (the latest one being Chapter 10 of @PeterSmith's Beginning Mathematical Logic: A Study Guide1).
In all cases, I have not being able to get past the very beginning, because I just cannot stomach the whole idea of "a set of possible worlds," which is foundational to much of modern work on modal logic.
I wholeheartedly agree with Hans Blumenberg's inclusion of "the world" among what he called mankind's "absolute metaphors." As such, the breezy talk about not just "possible worlds", but even "sets of possible worlds", let alone "the set (or class, if you prefer) of all sets of possible worlds", strikes me as an utterly outrageous example of "fools rush[ing] where angels fear to tread."
From this point on, everything else I read about modal logic theory has for me a ring similar to that of doing elaborate computations based on the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin: i.e. a highly technical exercise on an entirely fictitious subject. Sure, this can be an amusing parlor game for some, but outside of a handful of enthusiast, why would anyone care?
Granted, I understand that the machinery of modal logic can be applied to areas in which the "possible worlds" are replaced with concepts that are entirely unproblematic, such as "states of a computer program's execution." I have no problem with this.
Similarly, I understand that one can replace "set of possible worlds" with an arbitrary graph, so that each of the graph's nodes is now a "world". In this case, the resulting theory is entirely unproblematic.
Indeed it is, but it is also much less interesting.
After all, one point all treatments I have read on modal logic agree on is that the original interest in modal logic is as a guide for human reasoning. Smith's introductory paragraph (p. 120) is entirely representative of this (my emphasis):
A deduction, Aristotle tells us, requires a conclusion which ‘comes about by necessity’ given some premisses. So it is no surprise that, from the very beginning, logicians have been interested in the modal notions of necessity and possibility. Modern modal logics aim, at least in the first place, to regiment reasoning about such notions.
If this is so, the whole apparatus of modal logic is a mere technical triviality that is entirely insignificant in comparison to the problem of specifying a notion of "possible worlds" that is at once sufficiently precise and coherent to allow for unambiguous computation and also sufficiently representative of human experience to serve as a useful guide to human reasoning in actual practice.
What I find most disturbing, by far, about the idea of "possible worlds" is that, so far, I have not yet found an exposition of modal logic that even hints at the possibility that there could be any philosophical objection to the concept. The idea is always introduced as a simple, straightforward, unproblematic one. Something that everyone understands perfectly.
In light of this, I find myself doubting my sanity. How can anyone discuss in such a banal way something that I find so far beyond the reach of formalization?
Therefore, I am looking for an introduction1 to modal logic that gives "possible worlds" its philosophical due. In particular, this treatment should show how one can make the notion of possible worlds sufficiently sharp and coherent to allow for computation and sufficiently rich to be useful as a real, effective guide to human thought. This treatment should also address the question of consistency: how do we know that something analogous to Russell paradox does not lurk inside our definition of "possible worlds."
1 I hasten to add that, even though BML's treatment of modal logic does not address the issues I have with "possible worlds", the rest of the book has been for me a godsend. This is the only book I know of its kind, a (new?) genre of guides to the advanced literature aimed at those interested in serious independent learning. I wish there were more books like this one. A lot more. In fact, I think there is a widespread and urgent need for such book for statistics, but I digress.
2 Here I mean a book, or one or more chapters in a book, or a review article. I.e., I am looking for something far more extensive and thoroughly fleshed out than what can be expected from even the most expansive Philosophy StackExchange answer. In other words, please do not attempt to provide such an introduction here, as an answer to my question; this is not what my question asks for. This question is, as tagged, a reference-request.