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Summary Modal epistemology is a wide area in which philosophers explore questions about the nature of possibility and necessity, the ultimate grounds or sources of necessity, the correct logic of necessity, and how best to explain our knowledge of necessity. 
Key works Key works in the metaphysics of modality that are important for modal epistemology include: Kripke 1980, in which Kripke argues for the existence of a posteriori necessities; Fine 1994, in which Fine argues that essences is the ground of modality; and Blackburn 1993, in which Blackburn argues that there can be no truth-conditional realist account of metaphysical modality. 
Introductions A key introduction is Vaidya 2007
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  1. J. Almog (2001). What Am I?: Descartes and the Mind-Body Problem. Oxford University Press.
    In his Meditations, Rene Descartes asks, "what am I?" His initial answer is "a man." But he soon discards it: "But what is a man? Shall I say 'a rational animal'? No: for then I should inquire what an animal is, what rationality is, and in this way one question would lead down the slope to harder ones." Instead of understanding what a man is, Descartes shifts to two new questions: "What is Mind?" and "What is Body?" These questions develop (...)
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  2. Matthew J. Barker (2010). From Cognition's Location to the Epistemology of its Nature. Cognitive Systems Research 11 (357):366.
    One of the liveliest debates about cognition concerns whether our cognition sometimes extends beyond our brains and bodies. One party says Yes, another No. This paper shows that debate between these parties has been epistemologically confused and requires reorienting. Both parties frequently appeal to empirical considerations and to extra-empirical theoretical virtues to support claims about where cognition is. These things should constrain their claims, but cannot do all the work hoped. This is because of the overlooked fact, uncovered in this (...)
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  3. Gregor Betz (2010). What’s the Worst Case? The Methodology of Possibilistic Prediction. Analyse and Kritik 32 (1):87-106.
    Frank Knight (1921) famously distinguished the epistemic modes of certainty, risk, and uncertainty in order to characterize situations where deterministic, probabilistic or possibilistic foreknowledge is available. Because our probabilistic knowledge is limited, i.e. because many systems, e.g. the global climate, cannot be described and predicted probabilistically in a reliable way, Knight's third category, possibilistic foreknowledge, is not simply swept by the probabilistic mode. This raises the question how to justify possibilistic predictionsincluding the identication of the worst case. The development of (...)
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  4. Stephen Biggs (2011). Abduction and Modality. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83 (2):283-326.
    This paper introduces a modal epistemology that centers on inference to the best explanation (i.e. abduction). In introducing this abduction-centered modal epistemology, the paper has two main goals. First, it seeks to provide reasons for pursuing an abduction-centered modal epistemology by showing that this epistemology aids a popular stance on the mind-body problem and allows an appealing approach to modality. Second, the paper seeks to show that an abduction-centered modal epistemology can work by showing that abduction can establish claims about (...)
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  5. Gunnar Björnsson (2004). A Naturalist's Approach to Modal Intuitions. In Erik Weber Tim De Mey (ed.), Modal Epistemology.
    Modal inquiry is plagued by methodological problems. The best-developed views on modal semantics and modal ontology take modalstatements to be true in virtue of relations between possible worlds. Unfortunately, such views turn modal epistemology into a mystery, and this paper is about ways to avoid that problem. It looks at different remedies suggested by Quine, Blackburn and Peacocke and finds them all wanting. But although Peacocke’s version of the popular conceptualist approach fails to give a normative account of correct modal (...)
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  6. Otávio Bueno & Scott Shalkowski (2004). Modal Realism and Modal Epistemology: A Huge Gap. In Erik Weber Tim De Mey (ed.), Modal Epistemology. Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie van Belgie Vor Wetenschappen En Kunsten. 93--106.
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  7. John P. Burgess (2010). Review of B. Hale and A. Hoffmann (Eds.), Modality: Metaphysics, Logic, and Epistemology. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2010 (10).
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  8. Albert Casullo (2012). Analyticity, Apriority, Modality. In Manuel García-Carpintero & Max Kölbel (eds.), The Continuum Companion to the Philosophy of Language. Continuum International Pub.. 228.
  9. Albert Casullo (2000). Modal Epistemology: Fortune or Virtue? Southern Journal of Philosophy 38 (S1):17--25.
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  10. Daniel Cohnitz (2012). The Logic(s) of Modal Knowledge. In Greg Restall & Gillian Russell (eds.), New Waves in Philosophical Logic. MacMillan.
  11. David A. Denby (2008). Generating Possibilities. Philosophical Studies 141 (2):191 - 207.
    Our knowledge of the most basic alternative possibilities can be thought of as generated recursively from what we know about the actual world. But what are the generating principles? According to one view, they are recombinational: roughly, alternative possibilities are generated by “patching together” parts of distinct worlds or “blotting out” parts of worlds to yield new worlds. I argue that this view is inadequate. It is difficult to state in a way that is true and non-trivial, and anyway fails (...)
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  12. John Divers (1999). Kant's Criteria of the a Priori. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 80 (1):17–45.
  13. John Divers & José Edgar González‐Varela (2013). Belief in Absolute Necessity. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 87 (2):358-391.
    We outline a theory of the cognitive role of belief in absolute necessity that is normative and intended to be metaphysically neutral. We take this theory to be unique in scope since it addresses simultaneously the questions of how such belief is (properly) acquired and of how it is (properly) manifest. The acquisition and manifestation conditions for belief in absolute necessity are given univocally, in terms of complex higher-order attitudes involving two distinct kinds of supposition (A-supposing and C-supposing). It is (...)
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  14. Simon Evnine (2008). Modal Epistemology: Our Knowledge of Necessity and Possibility. Philosophy Compass 3 (4):664-684.
    I survey a number of views about how we can obtain knowledge of modal propositions, propositions about necessity and possibility. One major approach is that whether a proposition or state of affairs is conceivable tells us something about whether it is possible. I examine two quite different positions that fall under this rubric, those of Yablo and Chalmers. One problem for this approach is the existence of necessary a posteriori truths and I deal with some of the ways in which (...)
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  15. Robert William Fischer (forthcoming). Theory Selection in Modal Epistemology. American Philosophical Quarterly.
    Accounts of modal knowledge are many and varied. How should we choose between them? I propose that we employ inference to the best explanation, and I suggest that there are three desiderata that we should use to rank hypotheses: conservatism, simplicity, and the ability to handle disagreement. After examining these desiderata, I contend that they can’t be used to justify belief in the modal epistemology that fares best, but that they can justify our accepting it in an epistemically significant sense. (...)
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  16. M. J. Garcia-Encinas (2012). On Categories and A Posteriori Necessity: A Phenomenological Echo. Metaphilosophy 43 (1-2):147-164.
    This article argues for two related theses. First, it defends a general thesis: any kind of necessity, including metaphysical necessity, can only be known a priori. Second, however, it also argues that the sort of a priori involved in modal metaphysical knowledge is not related to imagination or any sort of so-called epistemic possibility. Imagination is neither a proof of possibility nor a limit to necessity. Rather, modal metaphysical knowledge is built on intuition of philosophical categories and the structures they (...)
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  17. Tamar Szabó Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.) (2002). Conceivability and Possibility. Oxford University Press.
    The capacity to represent things to ourselves as possible plays a crucial role both in everyday thinking and in philosophical reasoning; this volume offers much-needed philosophical illumination of conceivability, possibility, and the relations between them.
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  18. Tamar Szabó Gendler & John Hawthorne (2002). Introduction: Conceivability and Possibility. In T. Genler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Conceivability and Possibility. Oxford University Press. 1--70.
    To what extent and how is conceivability a guide to possibility? This essay explores general philosophical issues raised by this question, and critically surveys responses to it by Descartes, Hume, Kripke and "two-dimensionalists.".
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  19. Dominic Gregory (2011). Iterated Modalities, Meaning and A Priori Knowledge. Philosophers' Imprint 11 (3).
    Recent work on the philosophy of modality has tended to pass over questions about iterated modalities in favour of constructing ambitious metaphysical theories of possibility and necessity, despite the central importance of iterated modalities to modal logic. Yet there are numerous unresolved but fundamental issues involving iterated modalities: Chandler and Salmon have provided forceful arguments against the widespread assumption that all necessary truths are necessarily necessary, for example. The current paper examines a range of ways in which one might seek (...)
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  20. Bob Hale (2002). Knowledge of Possibility and of Necessity. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 103 (1):1–20.
    I investigate two asymmetrical approaches to knowledge of absolute possibility and of necessity--one which treats knowledge of possibility as more fundamental, the other according epistemological priority to necessity. Two necessary conditions for the success of an asymmetrical approach are proposed. I argue that a possibility-based approach seems unable to meet my second condition, but that on certain assumptions--including, pivotally, the assumption that logical and conceptual necessities, while absolute, do not exhaust the class of absolute necessities--a necessity-based approach may be able (...)
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  21. Nicolai Hartmann (2013). Possibility and Actuality. Walter de Gruyter.
    From a different perspective, “essential actuality” is related to logical actuality. It means plain existence in the ideal sphere of being. One is familiar with this, for example, in “mathematical existence.” This does not merge with validity, but implies ...
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  22. Joachim Horvath (2009). The Modal Argument for a Priori Justification. Ratio 22 (2):191-205.
    Kant famously argued that, from experience, we can only learn how something actually is, but not that it must be so. In this paper, I defend an improved version of Kant's argument for the existence of a priori knowledge, the Modal Argument , against recent objections by Casullo and Kitcher. For the sake of the argument, I concede Casullo's claim that we may know certain counterfactuals in an empirical way and thereby gain epistemic access to some nearby, nomologically possible worlds. (...)
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  23. Andrea Iacona (2012). TxW Epistemic Modality. Logic and Philosophy of Science 10:3-14.
    So far, T×W frames have been employed to provide a semantics for a language of tense logic that includes a modal operator that expresses historical necessity. The operator is defined in terms of quantification over possible courses of events that satisfy a certain constraint, namely, that of being alike up to a given point. However, a modal operator can as well be defined without placing that constraint. This paper outlines a T×W logic where an operator of the latter kind is (...)
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  24. David Lewis (2002). Tharp’s Third Theorem. Analysis 62 (274):95–97.
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  25. Shen-yi Liao & Tamar Szabó Gendler (forthcoming). The Problem of Imaginative Resistance: An Overview. In John Gibson & Nöel Carroll (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Literature. Routledge.
    The problem of imaginative resistance holds interest for aestheticians, literary theorists, ethicists, philosophers of mind, and epistemologists. We present a somewhat opinionated overview of the philosophical discussion to date. We begin by introducing the phenomenon of imaginative resistance. We then review existing responses to the problem, giving special attention to recent research directions. Finally, we consider the philosophical significance that imaginative resistance has—or, at least, is alleged to have—for issues in moral psychology, theories of cognitive architecture, and modal epistemology.
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  26. E. J. Lowe (2012). What is the Source of Our Knowledge of Modal Truths? Mind 121 (484):919-950.
    There is currently intense interest in the question of the source of our presumed knowledge of truths concerning what is, or is not, metaphysically possible or necessary. Some philosophers locate this source in our capacities to conceive or imagine various actual or non-actual states of affairs, but this approach is open to certain familiar and seemingly powerful objections. A different and ostensibly more promising approach has been developed by Timothy Williamson, according to which our capacity for modal knowledge is just (...)
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  27. Stephen K. McLeod (2009). Rationalism and Modal Knowledge. Critica 41 (122):29-42.
    The article argues against attempts to combine ontological realism about modality with the rejection of modal rationalism and it suggests that modal realism requires (at least a weak form of) modal rationalism. /// El artículo da argumentos en contra de que se intente combinar el realismo ontológico sobre la modalidad con el rechazo del racionalismo modal y sugiere que el realismo modal exige (por lo menos una forma débil de) racionalismo modal.
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  28. Stephen K. McLeod (2008). Knowledge of Necessity: Logical Positivism and Kripkean Essentialism. Philosophy 83 (324):179-191.
    By the lights of a central logical positivist thesis in modal epistemology, for every necessary truth that we know, we know it a priori and for every contingent truth that we know, we know it a posteriori. Kripke attacks on both flanks, arguing that we know necessary a posteriori truths and that we probably know contingent a priori truths. In a reflection of Kripke's confidence in his own arguments, the first of these Kripkean claims is far more widely accepted than (...)
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  29. Stephen K. McLeod (2005). Modal Epistemology. Philosophical Books 46 (3):235-245.
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  30. Andrew Melnyk (2010). What Do Philosophers Know? [REVIEW] Grazer Philosophische Studien 80 (1):297-307.
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  31. Nenad Miscevic, A Telescope for Modal Landscapes.
    How do we know what is metaphysically possible? Many philosophers agree that conceivability is our main, if not the only, guide to possibility. And attempts at conceiving various philosophically relevant scenarios lie at the heart of much of philosophical method. No wonder that the link between the epistemic and the modal has attracted a lot of attention. The present collection documents it on more than five hundred pages of densely argued text authored by some of the most creative philosophers in (...)
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  32. Moti Mizrahi & David R. Morrow (2014). Does Conceivability Entail Metaphysical Possibility? Ratio 26 (4).
    In this paper, we argue that ‘Weak Modal Rationalism’, which is the view that ideal primary positive conceivability entails primary metaphysical possibility, is self-defeating. To this end, we outline two reductio arguments against ‘Weak Modal Rationalism’. The first reductio shows that, from supposing that ‘Weak Modal Rationalism’ is true, it follows that conceivability both is and is not conclusive evidence for possibility. The second reductio shows that, from supposing that ‘Weak Modal Rationalism’ is true, it follows that it is possible (...)
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  33. Luca Moretti (2014). Global Scepticism, Underdetermination and Metaphysical Possibility. Erkenntnis 79 (2):381-403.
    I focus on a key argument for global external world scepticism resting on the underdetermination thesis: the argument according to which we cannot know any proposition about our physical environment because sense evidence for it equally justifies some sceptical alternative (e.g. the Cartesian demon conjecture). I contend that the underdetermination argument can go through only if the controversial thesis that conceivability is per se a source of evidence for metaphysical possibility is true. I also suggest a reason to doubt that (...)
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  34. Daniel Nolan (2009). Modality. In John Shand (ed.), Central Issues of Philosophy. Wiley-Blackwell. 95--106.
  35. Alik Pelman (2007). Reference and Modality: A Theory of Intensions. Dissertation, University of London, UCL
    The study of reference often leads to addressing fundamental issues in semantics, metaphysics and epistemology; this suggests that reference is closely linked to the three realms. The overall purpose of this study is to elucidate the structure of some of these links, through a close examination of the “mechanism” of reference. As in many other enquiries, considering the possible (i.e., the modal,) in addition to the actual proves very helpful in clarifying and explicating insights. The reference of a term with (...)
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  36. Joel Pust (2004). On Explaining Knowledge of Necessity. Dialectica 58 (1):71–87.
    Moderate rationalists maintain that our rational intuitions provide us with prima facie justification for believing various necessary propositions. Such a claim is often criticized on the grounds that our having reliable rational intuitions about domains in which the truths are necessary is inexplicable in some epistemically objectionable sense. In this paper, I defend moderate rationalism against such criticism. I argue that if the reliability of our rational intuitions is taken to be contingent, then there is no reason to think that (...)
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  37. Sonia Roca, The (a)(B)(C) of Modal Epistemology: A Further Attempt to Meet the Epistemic Challenge.
    This paper is about the epistemic challenge for mind-independence approaches of modality. The challenge is to elucidate the possibility conditions for modal knowledge, and arises from acceptance of the following three premises: (a) We have modal knowledge (which, for a mind-independence theorist is knowledge of the extra-mental world); (b) Any knowledge of the extra-mental world is grounded on causal affection; and (c) Any knowledge grounded on causal affection cannot outrun knowledge of mere truths (as opposed to modal truths). Most attempts (...)
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  38. Andrea Sauchelli (2013). Modal Fictionalism, Possible Worlds, and Artificiality. Acta Analytica 28 (4):411-21.
    Accounts of modality in terms of fictional possible worlds face an objection based on the idea that when modal claims are analysed in terms of fictions, the connection between analysans and analysandum seems artificial. Strong modal fictionalism, the theory according to which modal claims are analysed in terms of a fiction, has been defended by, among others, Seahwa Kim, who has recently claimed that the philosophical objection that the connection between modality and fictions is artificial can be met. I propose (...)
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  39. Andrea Sauchelli (2012). Modal Scepticism, Unqualified Modality, and Modal Kinds. Philosophia 40 (2):403-409.
    I formulate and defend two sceptical theses on specific parts of our modal knowledge (unqualified and absolute modalities). My main point is that unqualified modal sentences are defective in that they fail to belong unambiguously to specific modal kinds and thus cannot be evaluated; hence, we must be sceptical of beliefs involving them.
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  40. Andrea Sauchelli (2010). Concrete Possible Worlds and Counterfactual Conditionals: Lewis Versus Williamson on Modal Knowledge. Synthese 176 (3):345-359.
    The epistemology of modality is gradually coming to play a central role in general discussions about modality. This paper is a contribution in this direction, in particular I draw a comparison between Lewis’s Modal realism and Timothy Williamson’s recent account of modality in terms of counterfactual thinking. In order to have criteria of evaluation, I also formulate four requirements which are supposed to be met by any theory of modality to be epistemologically adequate.
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  41. Ori Simchen (2004). On the Impossibility of Nonactual Epistemic Possibilities. Journal of Philosophy 101 (10):527-554.
    A problem inherited from Kripke is the reconciliation of commitments to various necessities with conflicting intuitions of contingency, intuitions that things "might have turned out otherwise." Kripke's reconciliation strategy is to say that while it is necessary that X is Y, and so impossible for X not to be Y, it is nevertheless epistemically possible for X not to be Y. But what are nonactual epistemic possibilities? Several answers are considered and it is concluded that scenarios adduced to explain away (...)
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  42. Dustin Stokes (2006). Art and Modal Knowledge. In Dominic Lopes & Matthew Kieran (eds.), Knowing Art: Essays in Epistemology and Aesthetics. Springer.
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  43. Bradley Strawser (2011). Rea's Revenge and the Persistent Problem of Persistence for Realism. Philosophia 39 (2):375-391.
    Realism about material objects faces a variety of epistemological objections. Recently, however, some realists have offered new accounts in response to these long-standing objections; many of which seem plausible. In this paper, I raise a new objection against realism vis-à-vis how we could empirically come to know mind-independent essential properties for objects. Traditionally, realists hold kind-membership and persistence as bound together for purposes of tracing out an object’s essential existence conditions. But I propose kind-membership and persistence for objects can conceptually (...)
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  44. Anand Vaidya, The Epistemology of Modality. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  45. Anand Jayprakash Vaidya (2010). Understanding and Essence. Philosophia 38 (4):811-833.
    Modal epistemology has been dominated by a focus on establishing an account either of how we have modal knowledge or how we have justified beliefs about modality. One component of this focus has been that necessity and possibility are basic access points for modal reasoning. For example, knowing that P is necessary plays a role in deducing that P is essential, and knowing that both P and ¬P are possible plays a role in knowing that P is accidental. Chalmers (2002) (...)
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  46. Alastair Wilson (2011). Modality: Metaphysics, Logic and Epistemology. [REVIEW] Australasian Journal of Philosophy 89 (4):755 - 756.