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.".
There is a long tradition in philosophy of using a priori methods to draw conclusions about what is possible and what is necessary, and often in turn to draw conclusions about matters of substantive metaphysics. Arguments like this typically have three steps: first an epistemic claim (about what can be known or conceived), from there to a modal claim (about what is possible or necessary), and from there to a metaphysical claim (about the nature of things in the world).
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.
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 conceivability is per se a source of evidence for metaphysical possibility, and thus to doubt the underdetermination argument. (shrink)
The notion of conceivability has traditionally been regarded as crucial to an account of modal knowledge. Despite its importance to modal epistemology, there is no received explication of conceivability. In recent discussions, some have attempted to explicate the notion in terms of epistemic possibility. There are, however, two notions of epistemic possibility, a more familiar one and a novel one. I argue that these two notions are independent of one another. Both are irrelevant to an account of modal (...) knowledge on the predominant view of modal reality. Only the novel notion is relevant and apt on the competing view of modal reality; but this latter view is problematic in light of compelling counterexamples. Insufficient care regarding the independent notions of epistemic possibility can lead to two problems: a gross problem of conflation and a more subtle problem of obscuring a crucial fact of modal epistemology. Either problem needlessly hampers efforts to develop an adequate account of modal knowledge. I conclude that the familiar notion of epistemic possibility (and the very term ‘epistemic possibility’) should be eschewed in the context of modal epistemology. (shrink)
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 interest in it was, to a large extent, prompted by Kripke's utilization of modal intuitions in the course of propounding certain influential theses in the philosophy of language and mind. The interest has been given a further boost by the recent two-dimensional approach to the Kripkean framework. In this paper, I begin by providing a detailed examination of a most recent attempt (due to Chalmers) to defend the thesis and argue that it is unsuccessful. This is followed by presenting my own gloss on Kripke's explanation of the illusions of contingency and I close by raising a general problem intended to undermine the prospects for a successful defense of the thesis. (shrink)
Chalmers argues that zombies are possible and that therefore consciousness does not supervene on physical facts, which shows the falsity of materialism. The crucial step in this argument – that zombies are possible – follows from their conceivability and hence depends on assuming that conceivability implies possibility. But while Chalmers’s defense of this assumption – call it the conceivability principle – is the key part of his argument, it has not been well understood. As I see it, Chalmers’s defense (...) of the conceivability principle comes in his response to the so-called objection from a posteriori necessity. The defense aims at showing that there is no gap between conceivability and possibility since no such gap can be generated by necessary a posteriori truths. I will argue that while Chalmers is right to the extent that there is no gap between conceivability and possibility within the standard Kripkean model of a posteriori necessity, his general conclusion is not justified. This is because the conceivability principle might be inconsistent with a posteriori necessity understood in some non-Kripkean way and Chalmers has not shown that no such alternative understanding of a posteriori necessity is available. (shrink)
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 to do so. (shrink)
Possibility offers a new analysis of the metaphysical concepts of possibility and necessity, one that does not rely on any sort of "possible worlds." The analysis proceeds from an account of the notion of a physical object and from the positing of properties and relations. It is motivated by considerations about how we actually speak of and think of objects. Michael Jubien discusses several closely related topics, including different purported varieties of possible worlds, the doctrine of "essentialism," natural (...) kind terms and alleged examples of necessity a posteriori. The book also offers a new theory of the functioning of proper names, both actual and fictional, and the discussion of natural kind terms and necessity a posteriori depends in part on this theory. (shrink)
Michael Huemer (2007) has articulated a provocative account of the concept of "epistemic possibility" which he hopes will explicate the explanatory value of the concept while also lending support to a broader anti-skeptical strategy. While I think his account has a number of advantages, many of which Huemer himself identifies, there are also significant disadvantages which should prompt us to seek an alternative. In this paper I describe an alternative which builds on some of the better features of Huemer's (...) account, while avoiding its shortcomings. After having explained why this alternative avoids the problems I attribute to Huemer's position, I will conclude by presenting some independent considerations in favor of my account, which recommends that epistemic possibility claims be subjected to the same evidentialist standards to which belief and assertion are usually held accountable. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the usefulness of the concept of possibility , and not merely that of actuality , for an inquiry into the bodily constitution of experience. The paper will study how the possibilities of action that may (or may not) be available to the subject help to shape the meaning attributed to perceived objects and to the situation occupied by the subject within her environment. This view will be supported by reference to empirical (...) evidence provided by recent and current research on the perceptual estimation of distances and the effects brought about by the use of a tool on the organisation of our perceived immediate space. (shrink)
In this paper I argue against Armstrong’s recent truthmaking account of possibility. I show that the truthmaking account presupposes modality in a number of different ways, and consequently that it is incapable of underwriting a genuine reduction of modality. I also argue that Armstrong’s account faces serious difficulties irrespective of the question of reduction; in particular, I argue that his Entailment and Possibility Principles are both false.
ABSTRACT: Recently the discussion surrounding the conceivability thesis has been less about the link between conceivability and possibility per se and more about the requirements of a successful physicalist program. But before entering this debate it is necessary to consider whether conceivability provides us with even prima facie justification for our modal beliefs. I argue that two methods of conceiving—imagining that p and telling a story about p—can provide us with such justification, but only if certain requirements are met. (...) To make these arguments, I consider those of Paul Tidman, whose position I use as a foil.RÉSUMÉ: Dernièrement, le débat sur la thèse de la concevabilité a peu porté sur le lien entre la concevabilité et la possibilité per se et s’est plutôt intéressé aux conditions requises pour la réalisation du programme physicaliste. Toutefois, avant d’entrer dans ce débat, il est nécessaire de se demander si la concevabilité offre une justification même élémentaire des croyances modales. Je soutiens que deux méthodesde concevoir — imaginer que p et raconter une histoire à propos de p — sont susceptibles de nous fournir cette justification, mais seulement dans la limite de certaines conditions. À l’appui de mon propos, j’envisage la position de Paul Tidman, qui me sert de repoussoir. (shrink)
Although epistemic possibility figures in several debates, those debates have had relatively little contact with one another. G. E. Moore focused squarely upon analyzing epistemic uses of the phrase, ‘It’s possible that p’, and in doing so he made two fundamental assumptions. First, he assumed that epistemic possibility statements always express the epistemic position of a community, as opposed to that of an individual speaker. Second, he assumed that all epistemic uses of ‘It’s possible that p’ are analyzable (...) in terms of knowledge, not belief. A number of later theorists, including Keith DeRose, provide alternative accounts of epistemic possibility, while retaining Moore’s two assumptions. Neither assumption has been explicitly challenged, but Jaakko Hintikka’s analysis provides a basis for doing so. Drawing upon Hintikka’s analysis, I argue that some epistemic possibility statements express only the speaker’s individual epistemic state, and that contra DeRose, they are not degenerate community statements but a class in their own right. I further argue that some linguistic contexts are belief- rather than knowledge-based, and in such contexts, what is possible for a speaker depends not upon what she knows, but upon what she believes. (shrink)
Sider (2011, 2013) proposes a reductive analysis of metaphysical modality —‘(modal) Humeanism’—and goes on to argue that it has interesting epistemological and methodological implications. In particular, Humeanism is supposed to undermine a class of ‘arguments from possibility’, which includes Sider’s (1993) own argument against mereological nihilism and Chalmers’s (1996) argument against physicalism. I argue that Sider’s arguments do not go through, and moreover that we should instead expect Humeanism to be compatible with the practice of arguing from possibility (...) in philosophy. (shrink)
In this paper I present a model of receptivity that is composed of ontological and normative dimensions, which I argue answer to the critical-diagnostic and to the possibility-disclosing needs of democratic politics. I distinguish between ‘pre-reflective receptivity,’ understood ontologically as a condition of intelligibility, and ‘reflective receptivity,’ understood normatively as a condition of disclosing new possibilities. Keywords: receptivity; change; possibility; critique; reflective disclosure (Published: 23 December 2011) Citation: Ethics & Global Politics, Vol. 4 , No. 4, 2011, pp. (...) 255-272. DOI: 10.3402/egp.v4i4.14829. (shrink)
My aim in this paper is to give a philosophical analysis of the relationship between contingently available technology and the knowledge that it makes possible. My concern is with what specific subjects can know in practice, given their particular conditions, especially available technology, rather than what can be known “in principle” by a hypothetical entity like Laplace’s Demon. The argument has two parts. In the first, I’ll construct a novel account of epistemic possibility that incorporates two pragmatic conditions: responsibility (...) and practicability. For example, whether subjects can gain knowledge depends in some circumstances on whether they have the capability of gathering relevant evidence. In turn, the possibility of undertaking such investigative activities depends in part on factors like ethical constraints, economical realities, and available technology. In the second part of the paper, I’ll introduce “technological possibility” to analyze the set of actions made possible by available technology. To help motivate the problem and later test my proposal, I’ll focus on a specific historical case, one of the earliest uses of digital electronic computers in a scientific investigation. I conclude that the epistemic possibility of gaining access to scientific knowledge about certain subjects depends (in some cases) on the technological possibility for making responsible investigations. (shrink)
Prior's hitherto unpublished "Fable of the Four Preachers" illuminates the connection of the metaphysical issues of trans-world identity with moral trans-world continuity. The paper shows Prior's position with regard to genuine de re temporal possibility of individuals on the basis of chapter VIII of his Papers on Time and Tense. His position is that radical coming-into-being is not a genuine de re temporal possibility of individuals since there is no identifiable individual, before birth, who could be the subject (...) of such possibility. The paper strengthens Prior's claim by showing how an uncomfortable consequence of this intuitively appealing position can be avoided. As a result, the proper claim would be that the possibility of origin is general or de dicto: it is possible that someone be born to such and parents, but it is not possible of someone that he should be born to these or other parents. (shrink)
Presenting twelve breakthrough practices for bringing creativity into all human endeavors, The Art of Possibility is the dynamic product of an extraordinary partnership. The Art of Possibility combines Benjamin Zander's experience as conductor of the Boston Philharmonic and his talent as a teacher and communicator with psychotherapist Rosamund Stone Zander's genius for designing innovative paradigms for personal and professional fulfillment. The authors' harmoniously interwoven perspectives provide a deep sense of the powerful role that the notion of possibility (...) can play in every aspect of life. Through uplifting stories, parables, and personal anecdotes, the Zanders invite us to become passionate communicators, leaders, and performers whose lives radiate possibility into the world. (shrink)
Handling exceptions in a knowledge-based system is an important issue in many application domains, such as medical domain. Recently, there is an increasing interest in nonmonotonic extension of description logics to handle exceptions in ontologies. In this paper, we propose three preferential semantics for plausible subsumption to deal with exceptions in description logic-based knowledge bases. Our preferential semantics are defined in the framework of possibility theory, which is an uncertainty theory devoted to handling incomplete information. We consider the properties (...) of these semantics and their relationships. We also discuss the relationship between two of our preferential semantics and two existing preferential semantics. We extend a description logic-based knowledge base by adding preferential subsumptions. Entailment of plausible subsumptions relative to an extended knowledge base is defined. Properties of the preferential subsumption relations relative to an extended description logic-based knowledge base are discussed. Finally, we show that our semantics for plausible subsumption can be reduced to standard semantics of an expressive description logic. Thus, the problem of plausible subsumption checking under our semantics can be reduced to the problem of subsumption checking under the classical semantics. (shrink)
The paper first introduces a cube of opposition that associates the traditional square of opposition with the dual square obtained by Piaget’s reciprocation. It is then pointed out that Blanché’s extension of the square-of-opposition structure into an conceptual hexagonal structure always relies on an abstract tripartition. Considering quadripartitions leads to organize the 16 binary connectives into a regular tetrahedron. Lastly, the cube of opposition, once interpreted in modal terms, is shown to account for a recent generalization of formal concept analysis, (...) where noticeable hexagons are also laid bare. This generalization of formal concept analysis is motivated by a parallel with bipolar possibility theory. The latter, albeit graded, is indeed based on four graded set functions that can be organized in a similar structure. (shrink)
A. Collins once argued that time travel is only imaginable if we relate the "event" out of context. John Hospers argues that it is logically possible for an iron bar to float in water even if it is actually (empirically) impossible. My point in this piece is that Hospers relies on viewing the floating out of context, in Walt Disney fashion; but that is no way to establish any kind of possibility. I also discuss "conceivability", a term frequently used (...) either to clarify logical possibility or to interchange for the same. I argue that it cannot do either. (shrink)
In the history of modern philosophy systematic connections were assumed to hold between the modal concepts of logical possibility and necessity and the concept of conceivability. However, in the eyes of many contemporary philosophers, insuperable objections face any attempt to analyze the modal concepts in terms of conceivability. It is important to keep in mind that a philosophical explanation of modality does not have to take the form of a reductive analysis. In this paper I attempt to provide a (...) response-dependent account of the modal concepts in terms of conceivability along the lines of a nonreductive model of explanation. (shrink)
It is often supposed that in order to refute the view that laws of nature are necessary truths it is sufficient to appeal to Hume's argument from the conceivability of to the possibility of their being false. But while Hume's argument does present the necessitarian with insuperable difficulties it needs to be made clear just what these are. The mere appeal to Hume is quite insufficient for what he says can be interpreted in more than one way. And if (...) it constitutes an argument rather than a mere assertion Kneale has given reason to suppose that it is at least not obviously valid. The upshot of this article is that Hume's argument may be seen as a direct challenge to the notion that there could be propositions whose modal value is necessarily "opaque to the human intellect". (shrink)
This paper was chosen by The Philosopher’s Annual as one of the ten best articles appearing in print in 2000. Reprinted in Volume XXIII of The Philosopher’s Annual. In his very influential book David Chalmers argues that if physicalism is true then every positive truth is a priori entailed by the full physical description – this is called “the a priori entailment thesis – but ascriptions of phenomenal consciousness are not so entailed and he concludes that Physicalism is false. As (...) he puts it, “zombies” are metaphysically possible. I attempt to show (I think successfully) that this argument is refuted by considering an analogous argument in the mouth of a zombie. The conclusion of this argument is false so one of the premises is false. I argue at length that this shows that the original conceivability argument also has a false premise and so is invalid. -/- . (shrink)
This paper argues for a possible worlds theory of the content of pictures, with three complications: depictive content is centred, two-dimensional and structured. The paper argues that this theory supports a strong analogy between depictive and other kinds of representation and the platitude that depiction is mediated by resemblance.
Lewisian Genuine Realism (GR) about possible worlds is often deemed unable to accommodate impossible worlds and reap the benefits that these bestow to rival theories. This thesis explores two alternative extensions of GR into the terrain of impossible worlds. It is divided in six chapters. Chapter I outlines Lewis’ theory, the motivations for impossible worlds, and the central problem that such worlds present for GR: How can GR even understand the notion of an impossible world, given Lewis’ reductive theoretical framework? (...) Since the desideratum is to incorporate impossible worlds into GR without compromising Lewis’ reductive analysis of modality, Chapter II defends that analysis against (old and new) objections. The rest of the thesis is devoted to incorporating impossible worlds into GR. Chapter III explores GR-friendly impossible worlds in the form of set-theoretic constructions out of genuine possibilia. Then, Chapters IV-VI venture into concrete impossible worlds. Chapter IV addresses Lewis’ objection against such worlds, to the effect that contradictions true at impossible worlds amount to true contradictions tout court. I argue that even if so, the relevant contradictions are only ever about the non-actual, and that Lewis’ argument relies on a premise that cannot be nonquestion- beggingly upheld in the face of genuine impossible worlds in any case. Chapter V proposes that Lewis’ reductive analysis can be preserved, even in the face of genuine impossibilia, if we differentiate the impossible from the possible by means of accessibility relations, understood non-modally in terms of similarity. Finally, Chapter VI counters objections to the effect that there are certain impossibilities, formulated in Lewis’ theoretical language, which genuine impossibilia should, but cannot, represent. I conclude that Genuine Realism is still very much in the running when the discussion turns to impossible worlds. (shrink)
A powerful challenge to some highly influential theories, this book offers a thorough critical exposition of modal realism, the philosophical doctrine that many possible worlds exist of which our own universe is just one. Chihara challenges this claim and offers a new argument for modality without worlds.
This major new work by David Armstrong is a contribution to recent philosophical discussions about possible worlds. Taking Wittgenstein's Tractatus as his point of departure, Armstrong argues that non-actual possibilities and possible worlds are recombinations of actually existing elements and as such are useful fictions. Included is an extended criticism of the alternative possible worlds approach championed by the American philosopher David Lewis.
In the first part of the paper I reconstruct Kant’s proof of the existence of a ‘most real being’ while also highlighting the theory of modality that motivates Kant’s departure from Leibniz’s version of the proof. I go on to argue that it is precisely this departure that makes the being that falls out of the pre-critical proof look more like Spinoza’s extended natura naturans than an independent, personal creator-God. In the critical period, Kant seems to think that transcendental idealism (...) allows him to avoid this conclusion, but in the last section of the paper I argue that there is still one important version of the Spinozistic threat that remains. (shrink)
Despite much discussion over the existence of moral facts, metaethicists have largely ignored the related question of their possibility. This paper addresses the issue from the moral error theorist’s perspective, and shows how the arguments that error theorists have produced against the existence of moral facts at this world, if sound, also show that moral facts are impossible, at least at worlds non-morally identical to our own and, on some versions of the error theory, at any world. So error (...) theorists’ arguments warrant a stronger conclusion than has previously been noticed. This may appear to make them vulnerable to counterarguments that take the possibility of moral facts as a premise. However, I show that any such arguments would be question-begging. (shrink)
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 these authors respond to the problem, including the use of two-dimensional modal semantics. Conventionalism about modality offers a complementary approach to modal epistemology, prompting us to identify our knowledge of modal truths with our mastery of linguistic or conceptual conventions. Finally, I discuss an approach to modal epistemology deriving from David Lewis's work that seeks to identify structural features of the modal space over which necessity and possibility are defined. (shrink)
Saul Kripke’s discussion of the necessary aposteriori in Naming and Necessity and “Identity and Necessity” -- in which he lays the foundation for distinguishing epistemic from metaphysical possibility, and explaining the relationship between the two – is, in my opinion, one of the outstanding achievements of twentieth century philosophy.1 My aim in this essay is to extract the enduring lessons of his discussion, and disentangle them from certain difficulties which, alas, can also be found there. I will argue that (...) there are, in fact, two Kripkean routes to the necessary aposteriori – one correct and philosophically far-reaching, the other incorrect and philosophically misleading. (shrink)
I defend a version of Kripke's claim that the metaphysically necessary and the knowable a priori are independent. On my version, there are two independent families of modal notions, metaphysical and epistemic, neither stronger than the other. Metaphysical possibility is constrained by the laws of nature. Logical validity, I suggest, is best understood in terms of epistemic necessity.
Seven proposed accounts of epistemic possibility are criticized, and a new account is proposed, making use of the notion of having justification for dismissing a proposition. The new account explains intuitions about otherwise puzzling cases, upholds plausible general principles about epistemic possibility, and explains the practical import of epistemic modality judgements. It is suggested that judgements about epistemic possibility function to assess which propositions are worthy of further inquiry.
In this paper I argue against the stronger of the two views concerning the right and wrong kind of reasons for belief, i.e. the view that the only genuine normative reasons for belief are evidential. The project in this paper is primarily negative, but with an ultimately positive aim. That aim is to leave room for the possibility that there are genuine pragmatic reasons for belief. Work is required to make room for this view, because evidentialism of a strict (...) variety remains the default view in much of the debate concerning normative reasons for belief. Strict versions of evidentialism are inconsistent with the view that there are genuine pragmatic reasons for belief. (shrink)
If knowing requires believing on the basis of evidence that entails what’s believed, we have hardly any knowledge at all. Hence the near-universal acceptance of fallibilism in epistemology: if it's true that "we are all fallibilists now" (Siegel 1997: 164), that's because denying that one can know on the basis of non-entailing evidence1is, it seems, not an option if we're to preserve the very strong appearance that we do know many things (Cohen 1988: 91). Hence the significance of concessive knowledge (...) attributions (CKAs) (Rysiew 2001)—i.e., sentences of the form 'S knows that p, but it's possible that q' (where q entails not-p). To many, utterances of such sentences sound very odd indeed. According to David Lewis (1996: 550), however, such sentences are merely "overt, explicit" statements of fallibilism; if so, their seeming incoherence suggests that, contrary to our everyday epistemic pretensions, "knowledge must be by definition infallible" after all (ibid.: 549). -/- Recently Jason Stanley (2005) has defended fallibilism against the Lewisian worry that overtly fallibilistic speech is incoherent. According yo Stanley, CKAs are not just odd-sounding: in most cases, they are simply false. But this doesn't impugn fallibilism. Insofar as the odd-sounding utterances Lewis cites state the fallibilist idea, the latter portion thereof ('S cannot eliminate a certain possibility in which not-p', e.g.) expresses the idea that the subject's evidence doesn't entail what's (allegedly) known (hence, the negation of any contrary propositions). According to Stanley, however, this is not the best reading of the possibility clauses CKAs contain. On the correct account of the latter, while the sentences Lewis cites are almost always self-contradictory, they don't capture the fallibilist idea after all. Here, we argue that the sentences in question do express precisely the fallibilist idea, but argue that Lewis has nonetheless failed to raise a problem for the latter. In addition, we respond to worries that the resulting view of the semantics of epistemic possibility statements has certain unacceptable consequences. (shrink)
Cosmological arguments attempt to prove the existence of God by appeal to the necessity of a first cause. Schematically, a cosmological argument will thus appear as: (1) All contingent beings have a cause of existence. (2) There can be no infinite causal chains. (3) Therefore, there must be some non-contingent First Cause. Cosmological arguments come in two species, depending on their justification of the second premiss. Non-temporal cosmological arguments, such as those of Aristotle and Aquinas, view causation as requiring explanatory (...) or conceptual priority, and thus insist that there can be no infinite regresses in such priority. Temporal cosmological arguments, also called kalam cosmological arguments due to their historical roots in Islamic kalam philosophers such as Abu Yusuf Ya'qub b. Ishaq al-Kindi and Abu Ali al-Hussain ibn Sina, view causation as requiring temporal priority, and thus insist that there can be no infinite temporal regresses.1 The kalam cosmological argument thus requires some supporting argument showing the incoherence of an infinite temporal regress of causally related events. William Lane Craig, in "The Finitude of the Past and the Existence of God"2, attempts to provide such an argument: (4) An actual infinite cannot exist. (5) An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite. (6) Therefore an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist. (9) I will not be concerned here with the general status of cosmological arguments, kalam or otherwise, or with contesting Craig's assumption that an infinite past would (unlike an infinite future) constitute a problematic actual infinity. I am rather concerned with Craig's general working principle, embodied in (4) above, that actual infinities are impossible. Craig, of course, is not alone in denying the possibility of the actually infinite. Resistance to such infinities is at least as old as Aristotle (Physics 3.5.204b1 – 206a8), and, as Craig rightly points out, persists through much of modern (i.e., post-scholastic, pre-twentieth-century) philosophy.. (shrink)
I argue that free will and determinism are compatible, even when we take free will to require the ability to do otherwise and even when we interpret that ability modally, as the possibility of doing otherwise, and not just conditionally or dispositionally. My argument draws on a distinction between physical and agential possibility. Although in a deterministic world only one future sequence of events is physically possible for each state of the world, the more coarsely defined state of (...) an agent and his or her environment can be consistent with more than one such sequence, and thus different actions can be “agentially possible”. The agential perspective is supported by our best theories of human behaviour, and so we should take it at face value when we refer to what an agent can and cannot do. On the picture I defend, free will is not a physical phenomenon, but a higher-level one on a par with other higher-level phenomena such as agency and intentionality. (shrink)
Since its original publication in 1979, The Possibility of Naturalism has been one of the most influential works in contemporary philosophy of science and social science. It is a cornerstone of the critical realist position, which is now widely seen as offering a viable alternative to move positivism and postmodernism. This revised edition includes a new foreword.