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Summary Modal Rationalism in general refers to any attempt to explain modal knowledge through a rationalist program. However, 'modal rationalism' specifically refers to the a thesis advocated by David Chalmers. The thesis maintains that primary positive ideal conceivability entails primary possibility. Rationalist approaches are opposed to empiricist approaches, and to approaches that maintain that modal knowledge is a species of armchair knowledge, knowledge that is not clearly a priori or a posteriori. The key questions concerning modal rationalism are: how best should we specify the mechanism by which we acquire modal knowledge? What is the appropriate range of modal beliefs that are correctly captured by the rationalist approach?
Key works The key modal rationalist approaches are given by Peacocke 1999,Bealer 2002, and Chalmers 2002. Peacocke argues for an approach on which we come to have modal knowledge because we have implicit knowledge of Principles of Possibility that determine whether a given state of affairs is possible just as we rely on principles of grammaticality that determine whether a given set of sentences are grammatical. Bealer argues for an approach on which our intuitions about modality are reliable because of the nature of what it means to possesses a concept with competence. And Chalmers argues for an approach on which we have knowledge of modality based on conceivability. The key move on his approach is to explain the link between conceivability and possibility via two-dimensional semantics. 
Introductions For an introduction seeVaidya 2007
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  1. George Bealer (2002). Modal Epistemology and the Rationalist Renaissance. In Tamar S. Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Conceivability and Possibility. Oxford University Press. 71--125.
    The paper begins with a clarification of the notions of intuition (and, in particular, modal intuition), modal error, conceivability, metaphysical possibility, and epistemic possibility. It is argued that two-dimensionalism is the wrong framework for modal epistemology and that a certain nonreductionist approach to the theory of concepts and propositions is required instead. Finally, there is an examination of moderate rationalism.
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  2. George Bealer (2000). A Priori Knowledge. The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy 5:1-12.
    This paper has three parts. First, a discussion of our use of intuitions as evidence (reasons) in logic, mathematics, philosophy (hereafter, “the a priori disciplines”). Second, an explanation of why intuitions are evidence. The explanation is provided by modal reliabilism—the doctrine that there is a certain kind of qualified modal tie between intuitions and the truth. Third, an explanation of why there should be such a tie between intuitions and the truth. This tie is a consequence of what, by definition, (...)
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  3. George Bealer (1996). A Priori Knowledge and the Scope of Philosophy. Philosophical Studies 81 (2-3):121-142.
    This paper provides a defense of two traditional theses: the Autonomy of Philosophy and the Authority of Philosophy. The first step is a defense of the evidential status of intuitions (intellectual seemings). Rival views (such as radical empiricism), which reject the evidential status of intuitions, are shown to be epistemically self-defeating. It is then argued that the only way to explain the evidential status of intuitions is to invoke modal reliabilism. This theory requires that intuitions have a certain qualified modal (...)
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  4. George Bealer (1987). The Philosophical Limits of Scientific Essentialism. Philosophical Perspectives 1:289-365.
    Scientific essentialism is the view that some necessities (e.g., water = H2O) can be known only with the aid of empirical science. The thesis of the paper is that scientific essentialism does not extend to the central questions of philosophy and that these questions can be answered a priori. The argument is that the evidence required for the defense of scientific essentialism (e.g., twin earth intuitions) is reliable only if the intuitions required by philosophy to answer its central questions is (...)
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  5. Richard Brown (2013). Chalmers' “Unholy Stew”: Review of 'Constructing the World' by David Chalmers. [REVIEW] The Philosophers' Magazine 61 (61):115-118.
    This highly technical book is densely packed with arguments and is an important addition to the literature. Even if one ultimately disagrees with Chalmers there is much to be gained in his exhaustive study, and he goes out of his way to show how one can accept limited or modified versions of scrutability. It is impossible for me to do justice to his argumentative rigor and comprehensive coverage of possible views in the space I have here. In the end I (...)
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  6. Otavio Bueno & Scott A. Shalkowski (2000). A Plea for a Modal Realist Epistemology. Acta Analytica 24 (24):175--194.
    In this paper we examine Lewis's attempts to provide an epistemology of modality and we argue that he fails to provide an account that properly weds his metaphysics with an epistemology that explains the knowledge of modality that both he and his critics grant. We argue that neither the appeals to acceptable paraphrases of ordinary modal discourse nor parallels with Platonistic theories of mathematics suffice. We conclude that no proper epistemology for modal realism has been provided and that one is (...)
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  7. 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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  8. 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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  9. Keith Hossack (2007). Actuality and Modal Rationalism. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 107 (1pt3):433-456.
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  10. Keith Hossack (2007). The Metaphysics of Knowledge. Oxford University Press.
    The Metaphysics of Knowledge presents the thesis that knowledge is an absolutely fundamental relation, with an indispensable role to play in metaphysics, philosophical logic, and philosophy of mind and language. Knowledge has been generally assumed to be a propositional attitude like belief. But Keith Hossack argues that knowledge is not a relation to a content; rather, it a relation to a fact. This point of view allows us to explain many of the concepts of philosophical logic in terms of knowledge. (...)
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  11. Jonathan Ichikawa & Benjamin Jarvis (2012). Rational Imagination and Modal Knowledge. Noûs 46 (1):127 - 158.
    How do we know what's (metaphysically) possible and impossible? Arguments from Kripke and Putnam suggest that possibility is not merely a matter of (coherent) conceivability/imaginability. For example, we can coherently imagine that Hesperus and Phosphorus are distinct objects even though they are not possibly distinct. Despite this apparent problem, we suggest, nevertheless, that imagination plays an important role in an adequate modal epistemology. When we discover what is possible or what is impossible, we generally exploit important connections between what is (...)
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  12. Frank Jackson (2004). Why We Need A-Intensions. Philosophical Studies 118 (1-2):257-277.
    I think recent discussions of content and reference have not paid enough attention to the role of language as a convention-governed system of communication. With this as a background theme, I explain the role of A-intensions in elucidating one important notion of content and correlative notions of reference.
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  13. Frank Jackson (1998). From Metaphysics to Ethics. Oxford University Press.
    Frank Jackson champions the cause of conceptual analysis as central to philosophical inquiry. In recent years conceptual analysis has been undervalued and widely misunderstood, suggests Jackson. He argues that such analysis is mistakenly clouded in mystery, preventing a whole range of important questions from being productively addressed. He anchors his argument in discussions of specific philosophical issues, starting with the metaphysical doctrine of physicalism and moving on, via free will, meaning, personal identity, motion, and change, to ethics and the philosophy (...)
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  14. Jessica Leech (2011). Modal Rationalism. Dialectica 65 (1):103-115.
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  15. C. Legg (2012). The Hardness of the Iconic Must: Can Peirce's Existential Graphs Assist Modal Epistemology? Philosophia Mathematica 20 (1):1-24.
    Charles Peirce's diagrammatic logic — the Existential Graphs — is presented as a tool for illuminating how we know necessity, in answer to Benacerraf's famous challenge that most ‘semantics for mathematics’ do not ‘fit an acceptable epistemology’. It is suggested that necessary reasoning is in essence a recognition that a certain structure has the particular structure that it has. This means that, contra Hume and his contemporary heirs, necessity is observable. One just needs to pay attention, not merely to individual (...)
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  16. Joseph Levine (2010). The Q Factor: Modal Rationalism Versus Modal Autonomism. Philosophical Review 119 (3):365-380.
    Type-B materialists (to use David Chalmers's jargon) claim that though zombies are conceivable, they are not metaphysically possible. This article calls this position regarding the relation between metaphysical and epistemic modality “modal autonomism,” as opposed to the “modal rationalism” endorsed by David Chalmers and Frank Jackson, who insist on a deep link between the two forms of modality. This article argues that the defense of modal rationalism presented in Chalmers and Jackson (2001) begs the question against the type-B materialist/modal autonomist. (...)
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  17. Maja Malec (2004). A Priori Knowledge Contextualised and Benacerraf's Dilemma. Acta Analytica 19 (33):31-44.
    In this article, I discuss Hawthorne'€™s contextualist solution to Benacerraf'€™s dilemma. He wants to find a satisfactory epistemology to go with realist ontology, namely with causally inaccessible mathematical and modal entities. I claim that he is unsuccessful. The contextualist theories of knowledge attributions were primarily developed as a response to the skeptical argument based on the deductive closure principle. Hawthorne uses the same strategy in his attempt to solve the epistemologist puzzle facing the proponents of mathematical and modal realism, but (...)
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  18. Anna-Sara Malmgren (2011). Rationalism and the Content of Intuitive Judgements. Mind 120 (478):263-327.
    It is commonly held that our intuitive judgements about imaginary problem cases are justified a priori, if and when they are justified at all. In this paper I defend this view — ‘rationalism’ — against a recent objection by Timothy Williamson. I argue that his objection fails on multiple grounds, but the reasons why it fails are instructive. Williamson argues from a claim about the semantics of intuitive judgements, to a claim about their psychological underpinnings, to the denial of rationalism. (...)
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  19. 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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  20. Christopher Peacocke (1999). Being Known. Oxford University Press.
    Being Known is a response to a philosophical challenge which arises for every area of thought: to reconcile a plausible account of what is involved in the truth of statements in a given area with a credible account of how we can know those statements. Christopher Peacocke presents a framework for addressing the challenge, a framework which links both the theory of knowledge and the theory of truth with the theory of concept-possession.
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  21. Sonia Roca-Royes (2010). Modal Epistemology, Modal Concepts and the Integration Challenge. Dialectica 64 (3):335-361.
    The paper argues against Peacocke's moderate rationalism in modality. In the first part, I show, by identifying an argumentative gap in its epistemology, that Peacocke's account has not met the Integration Challenge. I then argue that we should modify the account's metaphysics of modal concepts in order to avoid implausible consequences with regards to their possession conditions. This modification generates no extra explanatory gap. Yet, once the minimal modification that avoids those implausible consequences is made, the resulting account cannot support (...)
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  22. Michael J. Shaffer (2007). Bealer on the Autonomy of Philosophical and Scientific Knowledge. Metaphilosophy 38 (1):44–54.
    In a series of influential articles, George Bealer argues for the autonomy of philosophical knowledge on the basis that philosophically known truths must be necessary truths. The main point of his argument is that the truths investigated by the sciences are contingent truths to be discovered a posteriori by observation, while the truths of philosophy are necessary truths to be discovered a priori by intuition. The project of assimilating philosophy to the sciences is supposed to be rendered illegitimate by the (...)
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  23. Tuomas E. Tahko (forthcoming). Empirically-Informed Modal Rationalism. In Robert William Fischer & Felipe Leon (eds.), Modal Epistemology After Rationalism. Synthese Library.
    In this chapter, it is suggested that our epistemic access to metaphysical modality generally involves rationalist, a priori elements. However, these a priori elements are much more subtle than ‘traditional’ modal rationalism assumes. In fact, some might even question the ‘apriority’ of these elements, but I should stress that I consider a priori and a posteriori elements especially in our modal inquiry to be so deeply intertwined that it is not easy to tell them apart. Supposed metaphysically necessary identity statements (...)
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  24. James L. Trafford (2010). Modal Rationalism and the Transference of Meaning. Croatian Journal of Philosophy 10 (2):97-107.
    The lesson is familiar. Kripke’s arguments in favor of a posteriori necessary truths annul the idea that conceivability is a guide to metaphysical possibility because determining that which is a priori is a separate issue from determining that which is necessary. Modal rationalists do not completely agree with this conclusion. Following recent work on two-dimensional semantics, David Chalmers suggests that two distinct semantic values can be assigned to a statement, depending on whether we consider possible worlds as counterfactual or counteractual. (...)
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  25. Hamid Vahid (2006). Conceivability and Possibility: Chalmers on Modal Epistemology. Philosophical Explorations 9 (3):243-260.
    We often decide whether a state of affairs is possible (impossible) by trying to mentally depict a scenario (using words, images, etc.) where the state in question obtains (or fails to obtain). These mental acts (broadly thought of as 'conceiving') seem to provide us with an epistemic route to the space of possibilities. The problem this raises is whether conceivability judgments provide justification-conferring grounds for the ensuing possibility-claims (call this the 'conceivability thesis'). Although the question has a long history, contemporary (...)
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  26. Anand Vaidya (2008). Modal Rationalism and Modal Monism. Erkenntnis 68 (2):191 - 212.
    Modal rationalism includes the thesis that ideal primary positive conceivability entails primary possibility. Modal monism is the thesis that the space of logically possible worlds is coextensive with the space of metaphysically possible worlds. In this paper I explore the relation between the two theses. My aim is to show that the former thesis implies the latter thesis, and that problems with the latter make the former implausible as a complete picture of the epistemology of modality. My argument explores the (...)
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  27. Stephen Yablo, Modal Rationalism and Logical Empiricism: Some Similarities.
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