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Modal Error

Edited by Anand Vaidya (San Jose State University)
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Summary Modal error is that area of modal epistemology where philosophers debate what the best explanation is for why a subject believes that a proposition is possible or necessary when in fact the proposition has the opposite modal valence. In the epistemology of modality it is important for one to be able to give a coherent account of why it is that we fall into modal error.
Key works One key work in the area of modal error is Bealer 2004. In this work Bealer gives a complete account of modal error consistent with his own view of how we acquire knowledge of metaphysical modality. In addition, he discusses the view proposed in Yablo 1993. Other key works in this area are Van Inwagen 1998 and Hawke 2011.
Introductions A key introduction is Vaidya 2007
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  1. George Bealer (2008). Intuition and Modal Error. In Quentin Smith (ed.), Epistemology: New Essays. Oxford University Press
    Modal intuitions are not only the primary source of modal knowledge but also the primary source of modal error. An explanation of how modal error arises — and, in particular, how erroneous modal intuitions arise — is an essential part of a comprehensive theory of knowledge and evidence. This chapter begins with a summary of certain preliminaries: the phenomenology of intuitions, their fallibility, the nature of concept-understanding and its relationship to the reliability of intuitions, and so forth. It then identifies (...)
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  2. George Bealer (2004). The Origins of Modal Error. Dialectica 58 (1):11-42.
    Modal intuitions are the primary source of modal knowledge but also of modal error. According to the theory of modal error in this paper, modal intuitions retain their evidential force in spite of their fallibility, and erroneous modal intuitions are in principle identifiable and eliminable by subjecting our intuitions to a priori dialectic. After an inventory of standard sources of modal error, two further sources are examined in detail. The first source - namely, the failure to distinguish between metaphysical possibility (...)
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  3. Robert William Fischer & Felipe Leon (forthcoming). The Modal-Knowno Problem. Southwest Philosophy Review.
  4. Janine Jones (2004). Illusory Possibilities and Imagining Counterparts. Acta Analytica 19 (32):19-43.
    Given Kripke’s semantic views, a statement, such as ‘Water is H 2 O’, expresses a necessary a posteriori truth. Yet it seems that we can conceive that this statement could have been false; hence, it appears that we can conceive impossible states of affairs as holding. Kripke used a de dicto strategy and a de re strategy to address three illusions that arise with respect to necessary a posteriori truths: (1) the illusion that a statement such as ‘Water is H (...)
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  5. T. Parent, The Modal Ontological Argument Meets Modal Fictionalism.
    This paper attacks the modal ontological argument, as advocated by Plantinga among others. Whereas other criticisms in the literature reject one of its premises, the present line is that the argument is invalid. This becomes apparent once we run the argument assuming fictionalism about possible worlds. Broadly speaking, the problem is that if one defines “x” as something that exists, it does not follow that there is anything satisfying the definition. Yet unlike non-modal ontological arguments, the modal argument commits this (...)
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  6. 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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  7. Stephen Yablo (1990). The Real Distinction Between Mind and Body. In David Copp (ed.), Canadian Journal of Philosophy. 149-201.
    Descartes's "conceivability argument" for substance-dualism is defended against Arnauld's criticism that, for all he knows, Descartes can conceive himself without a body only because he underestimates his true essence; one could suggest with equal plausibility that it is only for ignorance of his essential hairiness that Descartes can conceive himself as bald. Conceivability intuitions are defeasible but special reasons are required; a model for such defeat is offered, and various potential defeaters of Descartes's intuition are considered and rejected. At best (...)
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