About this topic
Summary There are several things that we do not know about the world. Currently, for instance, I do not know whether it is raining in Canberra or not. So it is possible for me, epistemically speaking, that it rains in Canberra, and it is possible for me, epistemically speaking, that it does not. Most agree that epistemic possibilities are somehow related to knowledge: roughly, a possibility is an epistemic possibility just in case it is not known that it does not obtain. There are three central questions that philosophers ask about epistemic possibilities. First, what are epistemic possibilities? Some argue that they are akin to metaphysically possible worlds, others that they are akin to a priori consistent ways the world might be, and others again that at least some epistemic possibilities are akin to impossible worlds. Second, whose knowledge matters for determining what is epistemically possible and not? Some hold that it is the knowledge of a single subject that matters, while others hold that it is the knowledge of a group that matters. Third, what is the semantic analysis of epistemic modals? In natural language, epistemic possibilities are often expressed by sentences such as "It might be that P" and "For all I know, P", and people have proposed contextualist, relativist, contrastive, and non-truth-conditional analysis of such epistemic modals. 
Key works For issues concerning the nature of epistemic possibilities, see in particular Chalmers 2011 and Soames 2011. For issues concerning the knowledge-based analysis of epistemic possibility, see in particular DeRose 1991. For issues concerning the semantics of epistemic modals, see the entry on "Epistemic Modals" for details. 
Introductions Egan & Weatherson 2011 contains a collection of recent essays on epistemic possibility. Egan and Weatherson's introduction to the collection is very useful for gaining an overview of the main issues discussed in the literature. 
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  1. Fallibilism and the Flexibility of Epistemic Modals.Charity Anderson - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 167 (3):597-606.
    It is widely acknowledged that epistemic modals admit of inter-subjective flexibility. This paper introduces intra-subjective flexibility for epistemic modals and draws on this flexibility to argue that fallibilism is consistent with the standard account of epistemic modals.
  2. Perspectives on Possibilities: Contextualism, Relativism, or What?Kent Bach - 2009 - In Andy Egan & B. Weatherson (eds.), Epistemic Modality. Oxford University Press.
    Epistemic possibilities are relative to bodies of information, or perspectives. To claim that something is epistemically possible is typically to claim that it is possible relative one’s own current perspective. We generally do this by using bare, unqualified epistemic possibility (EP) sentences, ones that don’t mention our perspective. The fact that epistemic possibilities are relative to perspectives suggests that these bare EP sentences fall short of fully expressing propositions, contrary to what both contextualists and relativists take for granted. Although they (...)
  3. Yalcin on 'Might'.D. Barnett - 2009 - Mind 118 (471):771-775.
    On one view about the word 'might', to say, sincerely and literally, that it might be that S is to say something about one's epistemic state (and perhaps also about the epistemic states of those around one). For convenience, I will call this the natural view about 'might' On one version of the natural view, to say that it might be that S is to say that what one is certain of is consistent with the proposition that S. Seth Yalcin (...)
  4. A Positive Evidentialist Account of Epistemic Possibility.Benjamin Bayer - manuscript
    This paper observes that in the midst of a thickening debate over the concept of “epistemic possibility,” nearly every philosopher assumes that the concept is equivalent to a mere absence of epistemic impossibility, that a proposition is epistemically possible if and only if our knowledge does not entail that it is false. I suggest that it is high time that we challenge this deeply entrenched assumption. I assemble an array of data that singles out the distinctive meaning and function of (...)
  5. Modal Epistemology and the Rationalist Renaissance.George Bealer - 2002 - In Tamar S. Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Conceivability and Possibility. Oxford University Press. pp. 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’s impact on modal arguments in the philosophy of mind -- for example, Yablo’s disembodiment argument and Chalmers’s zombie argument. A less (...)
  6. On the Pragmatic Explanation of Concessive Knowledge Attributions.Hagit Benbaji - 2009 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 47 (3):225-237.
    On Lewis’s reading, fallibilism is the contradictory view that it is possible that S knows that p, even though S cannot eliminate some remote scenarios in which not-p. The pragmatic strategy is to make the alleged contradiction a mere pragmatic implicature, which is explained by false conversational expectations. I argue that the pragmatic strategy fails.
  7. Impossible Worlds and Logical Omniscience: An Impossibility Result.Jens Christian Bjerring - 2013 - Synthese 190 (13):2505-2524.
    In this paper, I investigate whether we can use a world-involving framework to model the epistemic states of non-ideal agents. The standard possible-world framework falters in this respect because of a commitment to logical omniscience. A familiar attempt to overcome this problem centers around the use of impossible worlds where the truths of logic can be false. As we shall see, if we admit impossible worlds where “anything goes” in modal space, it is easy to model extremely non-ideal agents that (...)
  8. Problems in Epistemic Space.Jens Christian Bjerring - 2012 - Journal of Philosophical Logic (1):1-18.
    When a proposition might be the case, for all an agent knows, we can say that the proposition is epistemically possible for the agent. In the standard possible worlds framework, we analyze modal claims using quantification over possible worlds. It is natural to expect that something similar can be done for modal claims involving epistemic possibility. The main aim of this paper is to investigate the prospects of constructing a space of worlds—epistemic space—that allows us to model what is epistemically (...)
  9. Non-Ideal Epistemic Spaces.Jens Christian Bjerring - 2010 - Dissertation, Australian National University
    In a possible world framework, an agent can be said to know a proposition just in case the proposition is true at all worlds that are epistemically possible for the agent. Roughly, a world is epistemically possible for an agent just in case the world is not ruled out by anything the agent knows. If a proposition is true at some epistemically possible world for an agent, the proposition is epistemically possible for the agent. If a proposition is true at (...)
  10. Bad Intensions.Alex Byrne & James Pryor - 2006 - In Manuel Garcia-Carpintero & Maci (eds.), Two-Dimensional Semantics: Foundations and Applications. Oxford University Press. pp. 38--54.
    _the a priori role_ (for word T). For instance, perhaps anyone who understands the word _water_ is able to know, without appeal to any further a posteriori information, that _water_ refers to the clear, drinkable natural kind whose instances are predominant in our oceans and lakes (if _water_ refers at all.
  11. Epistemic and Deontic Should.Fabrizio Cariani - 2013 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 2 (1):73-84.
    Probabilistic theories of “should” and “ought” face a predicament. At first blush, it seems that such theories must provide different lexical entries for the epistemic and the deontic interpretations of these modals. I show that there is a new style of premise semantics that can avoid this consequence in an attractively conservative way.
  12. The Nature of Epistemic Space.David J. Chalmers - 2011 - In Andy Egan & Brian Weatherson (eds.), Epistemic Modality. Oxford University Press.
    There are many ways the world might be, for all I know. For all I know, it might be that there is life on Jupiter, and it might be that there is not. It might be that Australia will win the next Ashes series, and it might be that they will not. It might be that my great-grandfather was my great-grandmother's second cousin, and it might be that he was not. It might be that copper is a compound, and it (...)
  13. Does Conceivability Entail Possibility?David J. Chalmers - 2002 - In Tamar S. Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Conceivability and Possibility. Oxford University Press. pp. 145--200.
    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 , from there to a modal claim , and from there to a metaphysical claim.
  14. Hawthorne’s Might-y Failure: A Reply to “Knowledge and Epistemic Necessity”.Nick Colgrove & Trent Dougherty - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (5):1165-1177.
    In “Knowledge and epistemic necessity,” John Hawthorne gives a defense of what he rightly calls the “standard approach” to epistemic possibility against what he calls a new “competing idea” presented by Dougherty and Rysiew which he notes has been “endorsed and elaborated upon” by Fantl and McGrath. According to the standard approach, roughly, p is epistemically possible for S if S doesn’t know that not-p. The new approach has it that p is epistemically possible if p has a non-zero epistemic (...)
  15. Combining Possibility and Knowledge.Alexandre Costa-Leite - manuscript
    This paper is an attempt to define a new modality with philosophical interest by combining the basic modal ingredients of possibility and knowledge. This combination is realized via product of modal frames so as to construct a knowability modality, which is a bidimensional constructor of arity one defined in a two-dimensional modal frame. A semantical interpretation for the operator is proposed, as well as an axiomatic system able to account for inferences related to this new modality. The resulting logic for (...)
  16. Syntactical Treatment of Modalities, 6 February.Lorenz Demey & Jan Heylen - 2013 - The Reasoner 7 (4):45-45.
  17. Epistemic Possibilities.Keith DeRose - 1991 - Philosophical Review 100 (4):581-605.
  18. Knowledge, Epistemic Possibility, and Scepticism.Keith Douglas Derose - 1990 - Dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles
    In Chapter 1, I defend contextualism--the view that the standards for knowing that a subject must live up to in order for sentences attributing knowledge to her to be true vary according to various features of the contexts in which these sentences are uttered. ;In Chapter 2, I propose and defend a hypothesis as to the truth conditions of epistemic modal statements; I argue that if it is epistemically possible from a subject's point of view that not-p, then she does (...)
  19. Low-Grade Two-Dimensionalism.Josh Dever - 2007 - Philosophical Books 48 (1):1-16.
    As tends to be the way with philosophical positions, there are at least as many two-dimensionalisms as there are two-dimensionalists. But painting with a broad brush, there are core epistemological and metaphysical commitments which underlie the two-dimensionalist project, commitments for which I have no sympathies. A sketch of three signi?cant points of disagreement.
  20. Confusion About Concessive Knowledge Attributions.Dylan Dodd - 2010 - Synthese 172 (3):381 - 396.
    Concessive knowledge attributions (CKAs) are knowledge attributions of the form ‘S knows p, but it’s possible that q’, where q obviously entails not-p (Rysiew, Nous (Detroit, Mich.) 35:477–514, 2001). The significance of CKAs has been widely discussed recently. It’s agreed by all that CKAs are infelicitous, at least typically. But the agreement ends there. Different writers have invoked them in their defenses of all sorts of philosophical theses; to name just a few: contextualism, invariantism, fallibilism, infallibilism, and that the knowledge (...)
  21. The Challenge of Concessive Knowledge Attributions.Dylan Dodd - 2006 - Facta Philosophica 8 (1-2):221-227.
  22. The Unthinkable, Might It Be?Daniel Dohrn - manuscript
    A basic intuition about epistemic possibility is the following: It might be that p iff it is open whether p. The standard way of cashing out this intuition is: It might be that p iff it is reconcilable with one’s informational state that p. However, there are certain examples which point to a lacuna in this conception. They indicate that epistemic possibility is restricted to what one can conceive as an alternative, what one can have a cognitive attitude to.
  23. Embedding Epistemic Modals.Cian Dorr & John Hawthorne - 2013 - Mind 122 (488):867-914.
    Seth Yalcin has pointed out some puzzling facts about the behaviour of epistemic modals in certain embedded contexts. For example, conditionals that begin ‘If it is raining and it might not be raining, … ’ sound unacceptable, unlike conditionals that begin ‘If it is raining and I don’t know it, … ’. These facts pose a prima facie problem for an orthodox treatment of epistemic modals as expressing propositions about the knowledge of some contextually specified individual or group. This paper (...)
  24. Clarity About Concessive Knowledge Attributions: Reply to Dodd.Trent Dougherty & Patrick Rysiew - 2011 - Synthese 181 (3):395-403.
    Recently, Dylan Dodd (this Journal ) has tried to clear up what he takes to be some of the many confusions surrounding concessive knowledge attributions (CKAs)—i.e., utterances of the form “S knows that p , but it’s possible that q ” (where q entails not- p ) (Rysiew, Noûs 35(4): 477–514, 2001). Here, we respond to the criticisms Dodd offers of the account of the semantics and the sometime-infelicity of CKAs we have given (Dougherty and Rysiew, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (...)
  25. Fallibilism, Epistemic Possibility, and Concessive Knowledge Attributions.Trent Dougherty & Patrick Rysiew - 2009 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 78 (1):123-132.
    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 (...)
  26. Anti-Individualism, Self-Knowledge, and Epistemic Possibility: Further Reflections on a Puzzle About Doubt.Gary Ebbs - 2008 - In Anthony E. Hatzimoysis (ed.), Self-Knowledge. Oxford University Press.
  27. The Inaugural Address: Two Kinds of Possibility.Dorothy Edgington - 2004 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes( 78:1-22.
    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.
  28. Two Kinds of Possibility.Dorothy Edgington - 2004 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 78 (1):1–22.
    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.
  29. Epistemic Modals, Relativism and Assertion.Andy Egan - 2007 - Philosophical Studies 133 (1):1--22.
    I think that there are good reasons to adopt a relativist semantics for epistemic modal claims such as ``the treasure might be under the palm tree'', according to which such utterances determine a truth value relative to something finer-grained than just a world (or a <world, time> pair). Anyone who is inclined to relativise truth to more than just worlds and times faces a problem about assertion. It's easy to be puzzled about just what purpose would be served by assertions (...)
  30. Epistemic Modals in Context.Andy Egan, John Hawthorne & Brian Weatherson - 2005 - In G. Preyer & G. Peter (eds.), Contextualism in Philosophy. Oxford University Press. pp. 131-170.
    A very simple contextualist treatment of a sentence containing an epistemic modal, e.g. a might be F, is that it is true iff for all the contextually salient community knows, a is F. It is widely agreed that the simple theory will not work in some cases, but the counterexamples produced so far seem amenable to a more complicated contextualist theory. We argue, however, that no contextualist theory can capture the evaluations speakers naturally make of sentences containing epistemic modals. If (...)
  31. Epistemic Modality.Andy Egan & Brian Weatherson (eds.) - 2011 - Oxford University Press UK.
    There is a lot that we don't know. That means that there are a lot of possibilities that are, epistemically speaking, open. For instance, we don't know whether it rained in Seattle yesterday. So, for us at least, there is an epistemic possibility where it rained in Seattle yesterday, and one where it did not. What are these epistemic possibilities? They do not match up with metaphysical possibilities - there are various cases where something is epistemically possible but not metaphysically (...)
  32. On “Epistemic Possibility”.James H. Fetzer - 1974 - Philosophia 4 (2-3):327-335.
  33. Conceivability and Epistemic Possibility.M. Oreste Fiocco - 2007 - Erkenntnis 67 (3):387-399.
    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 (...)
  34. Two-Context Probabilism and the Dissolution of the 'Lottery' Problem.Gregor Flock - manuscript
    In this paper it will be attempted to dissolve the lottery problem based on fallibilism, probabilism and the introduction of a so far widely neglected second context of knowledge. First, it will be argued that the lottery problem is actually an exemplification of the much wider Humean "future knowledge problem" (ch. 1). Two types of inferences and arguments will be examined, compared and evaluated in respect to their ability to fittingly describe the thought processes behind lottery/future knowledge propositions (ch. 2). (...)
  35. Rationally Held ‘P, but I Fully Believe ~P and I Am Not Equivocating’.Bryan Frances - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (2):309-313.
    One of Moore’s paradoxical sentence types is ‘P, but I believe ~P’. Mooreans have assumed that all tokens of that sentence type are absurd in some way: epistemically, pragmatically, semantically, or assertively. And then they proceed to debate what the absurdity really is. I argue that if one has the appropriate philosophical views, then one can rationally assert tokens of that sentence type, and one can be epistemically reasonable in the corresponding compound belief as well.
  36. Knowability as Potential Knowledge.André Fuhrmann - 2014 - Synthese 191 (7):1627-1648.
    The thesis that every truth is knowable is usually glossed by decomposing knowability into possibility and knowledge. Under elementary assumptions about possibility and knowledge, considered as modal operators, the thesis collapses the distinction between truth and knowledge (as shown by the so-called Fitch-argument). We show that there is a more plausible interpretation of knowability—one that does not decompose the notion in the usual way—to which the Fitch-argument does not apply. We call this the potential knowledge-interpretation of knowability. We compare our (...)
  37. Possibility.Ian Hacking - 1967 - Philosophical Review 76 (2):143-168.
  38. Modality: Metaphysics, Logic, and Epistemology.Bob Hale & Aviv Hoffmann (eds.) - 2009 - Oxford University Press.
    The philosophy of modality investigates necessity and possibility, and related notions--are they objective features of mind-independent reality? If so, are they irreducible, or can modal facts be explained in other terms? This volume presents new work on modality by established leaders in the field and by up-and-coming philosophers. Between them, the papers address fundamental questions concerning realism and anti-realism about modality, the nature and basis of facts about what is possible and what is necessary, the nature of modal knowledge, modal (...)
  39. Knowledge and Epistemic Necessity.John Hawthorne - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 158 (3):493-501.
    Claims of the form 'I know P and it might be that not-P' tend to sound odd. One natural explanation of this oddity is that the conjuncts are semantically incompatible: in its core epistemic use, 'Might P' is true in a speaker's mouth only if the speaker does not know that not-P. In this paper I defend this view against an alternative proposal that has been advocated by Trent Dougherty and Patrick Rysiew and elaborated upon in Jeremy Fantl and Matthew (...)
  40. Knowledge and Objective Chance.John Hawthorne & Maria Lasonen-Aarnio - 2009 - In Patrick Greenough & Duncan Pritchard (eds.), Williamson on Knowledge. Oxford University Press. pp. 92--108.
    We think we have lots of substantial knowledge about the future. But contemporary wisdom has it that indeterminism prevails in such a way that just about any proposition about the future has a non-zero objective chance of being false.2, 3 What should one do about this? One, pessimistic, reaction is scepticism about knowledge of the future. We think this should be something of a last resort, especially since this scepticism is likely to infect alleged knowledge of the present and past. (...)
  41. Concessive Knowledge-Attributions: Fallibilism and Gradualism.Stephen Hetherington - 2013 - Synthese 190 (14):2835-2851.
    Any knowledge-fallibilist needs to solve the conceptual problem posed by concessive knowledge-attributions (such as ‘I know that p, but possibly not-p’). These seem to challenge the coherence of knowledge-fallibilism. This paper defuses that challenge via a gradualist refinement of what Fantl and McGrath (2009) call weak epistemic fallibilism.
  42. Impossible Possible Worlds Vindicated.Jaakko Hintikka - 1975 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 4 (4):475 - 484.
  43. Might: Evidence and Argument From Negation and Conjunction for Anepistemic Modality and its Logical Structure.Robert Mark Hollander - 1999 - Dissertation, City University of New York
    This study purports to answer several questions through the analysis of logical structure of might Why doesn't might pattern with the other modals of possibility under negation? Why does might resist realization conjunctions---conjunctions in which the second conjunct asserts what is entertained as a possibility in the first conjunct? and more generally, Why are forms which express the O corner of Aristotle's square of oppositions dispreferred syntactically, morphologically and semantically? ;The evidence of realization conjunctions indicates that might expresses uncertainty, not (...)
  44. Epistemic Possibility.Michael Huemer - 2007 - Synthese 156 (1):119-142.
    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.
  45. TxW Epistemic Modality.Andrea Iacona - 2012 - 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 (...)
  46. The Impossible: An Essay on Hyperintensionality.Mark Jago - 2014 - Oxford University Press.
    Mark Jago presents an original philosophical account of meaningful thought: in particular, how it is meaningful to think about things that are impossible. We think about impossible things all the time. We can think about alchemists trying to turn base metal to gold, and about unfortunate mathematicians trying to square the circle. We may ponder whether God exists; and philosophers frequently debate whether properties, numbers, sets, moral and aesthetic qualities, and qualia exist. In many philosophical or mathematical debates, when one (...)
  47. The Problem of Rational Knowledge.Mark Jago - 2013 - Erkenntnis (S6):1-18.
    Real-world agents do not know all consequences of what they know. But we are reluctant to say that a rational agent can fail to know some trivial consequence of what she knows. Since every consequence of what she knows can be reached via chains of trivial cot be dismissed easily, as some have attempted to do. Rather, a solution must give adequate weight to the normative requirements on rational agents’ epistemic states, without treating those agents as mathematically ideal reasoners. I’ll (...)
  48. Logical Information and Epistemic Space.Mark Jago - 2009 - Synthese 167 (2):327 - 341.
    Gaining information can be modelled as a narrowing of epistemic space . Intuitively, becoming informed that such-and-such is the case rules out certain scenarios or would-be possibilities. Chalmers’s account of epistemic space treats it as a space of a priori possibility and so has trouble in dealing with the information which we intuitively feel can be gained from logical inference. I propose a more inclusive notion of epistemic space, based on Priest’s notion of open worlds yet which contains only those (...)
  49. Hintikka and Cresswell on Logical Omniscience.Mark Jago - 2006 - Logic and Logical Philosophy 15 (3):325-354.
    I discuss three ways of responding to the logical omniscience problems faced by traditional ‘possible worlds’ epistemic logics. Two of these responses were put forward by Hintikka and the third by Cresswell; all three have been influential in the literature on epistemic logic. I show that both of Hintikka's responses fail and present some problems for Cresswell’s. Although Cresswell's approach can be amended to avoid certain unpalatable consequences, the resulting formal framework collapses to a sentential model of knowledge, which defenders (...)
  50. Imagine the Possibilities: Information Without Overload.Mark Jago - unknown
    Information is often modelled as a set of relevant possibilities, treated as logically possible worlds. However, this has the unintuitive consequence that the logical consequences of an agent's information cannot be informative for that agent. There are many scenarios in which such consequences are clearly informative for the agent in question. Attempts to weaken the logic underlying each possible world are misguided. Instead, I provide a genuinely psychological notion of epistemic possibility and show how it can be captured in a (...)
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