David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Grazer Philosophische Studien 86 (1):93–115 (2012)
What is our epistemic access to metaphysical modality? Timothy Williamson suggests that the epistemology of counterfactuals will provide the answer. This paper challenges Williamson's account and argues that certain elements of the epistemology of counterfactuals that he discusses, namely so called background knowledge and constitutive facts, are already saturated with modal content which his account fails to explain. Williamson's account will first be outlined and the role of background knowledge and constitutive facts analysed. Their key role is to restrict our imagination to rule out irrelevant counterfactual suppositions. However, background knowledge turns out to be problematic in cases where we are dealing with metaphysically possible counterfactual suppositions that violate the actual laws of physics. As we will see, unless Williamson assumes that background knowledge corresponds with the actual, true laws of physics and that these laws are metaphysically necessary, it will be difficult to address this problem. Furthermore, Williamson's account fails to accommodate the distinction between conceivable yet metaphysically impossible scenarios, and conceivable and metaphysically possible scenarios. This is because background knowledge and constitutive facts are based strictly on our knowledge of the actual world. Williamson does attempt to address this concern with regard to metaphysical necessities – as they hold across all possible worlds – but we will see that even in this case the explanation is questionable. These problems, it will be suggested, cannot be addressed in a counterfactual account of the epistemology of modality. The paper finishes with an analysis of Williamson's possible rejoinders and some discussion about the prospects of an alternative account of modal epistemology.
|Keywords||metaphysical modality Timothy Williamson metaphysical necessity physical necessity essence constitutive facts|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
Mark McEvoy (2013). Does The Necessity of Mathematical Truths Imply Their Apriority? Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 94 (4):431-445.
Similar books and articles
Sonia Roca-Royes (2011). Modal Knowledge and Counterfactual Knowledge. Logique Et Analyse 54 (216):537-552.
Timothy Williamson (2007). Philosophical Knowledge and Knowledge of Counterfactuals. Grazer Philosophische Studien 74 (1):89-123.
C. S. Jenkins (2008). Modal Knowledge, Counterfactual Knowledge and the Role of Experience. Philosophical Quarterly 58 (233):693-701.
Thomas Kroedel (2012). Counterfactuals and the Epistemology of Modality. Philosophers' Imprint 12 (12).
Anand Jayprakash Vaidya (2010). Understanding and Essence. Philosophia 38 (4):811-833.
Andrea Sauchelli (2010). Concrete Possible Worlds and Counterfactual Conditionals: Lewis Versus Williamson on Modal Knowledge. Synthese 176 (3):345-359.
E. J. Lowe (2012). What is the Source of Our Knowledge of Modal Truths? Mind 121 (484):919-950.
Juhani Yli-Vakkuri (2013). Modal Skepticism and Counterfactual Knowledge. Philosophical Studies 162 (3):605-623.
Tuomas E. Tahko (2008). A New Definition of A Priori Knowledge: In Search of a Modal Basis. Metaphysica 9 (2):57-68.
Timothy Williamson (2005). The Presidential Address: Armchair Philosophy, Metaphysical Modality and Counterfactual Thinking. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 105:1 - 23.
Timothy Williamson (2005). I *-Armchair Philosophy, Metaphysical Modality and Counterfactual Thinking. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 105 (1):1-23.
Sonia Roca-Royes (2012). Essentialist Blindness Would Not Preclude Counterfactual Knowledge. Philosophia Scientiae 16 (2):149-172.
Dylan Dodd (2007). Why Williamson Should Be a Sceptic. Philosophical Quarterly 57 (229):635–649.
Frank Hindriks (2007). The Status of the Knowledge Account of Assertion. Linguistics and Philosophy 30 (3):393-406.
Added to index2011-09-17
Total downloads156 ( #4,891 of 1,102,993 )
Recent downloads (6 months)18 ( #9,675 of 1,102,993 )
How can I increase my downloads?