About this topic
Summary Modal Empiricism is the attempt to explain how we have knowledge of necessity and possibility through an empiricist program. The key issues are: how is empiricism to be defined? Does empiricism provide enough resources for one to explain all the kinds of modal statements that are deemed true? What is the key mechanism for arriving at modal knowledge on the empiricist program?
Introductions A key introduction is Vaidya 2007
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  1. added 2020-04-24
    A Priori or A Posteriori?Tuomas E. Tahko - forthcoming - In Ricki Bliss & James Miller (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Metametaphysics. Abingdon, New York: Routledge. pp. 353-363.
    This article discusses the role of a priori and a posteriori knowledge and methods in metaphysics and metametaphysics. Issues discussed include the viability of the distinction, the continuity of a priori and a posteriori methods, connections to modal epistemology, and the role of the distinction for science and naturalistic metaphysics.
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  2. added 2019-12-25
    Causation and Sufficient Reason (Atheism).Felipe Leon - 2019 - In Joseph W. Koterski & Graham Oppy (eds.), Theism and Atheism: Opposing Arguments in Philosophy. MacMillan Reference.
    This chapter provides an overview and critical discussion of cosmological arguments for theism, with special focus on the Kalam argument and arguments from contingency.
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  3. added 2019-12-19
    The Inductive Route Towards Necessity.Quentin Ruyant - forthcoming - Acta Analytica:1-17.
    It is generally assumed that relations of necessity cannot be known by induction on experience. In this paper, I propose a notion of situated possibilities, weaker than nomic possibilities, that is compatible with an inductivist epistemology for modalities. I show that assuming this notion, not only can relations of necessity be known by induction on our experience, but such relations cannot be any more underdetermined by experience than universal regularities. This means that any one believing in a universal regularity is (...)
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  4. added 2019-12-17
    Non‐Uniformism About the Epistemology of Modality: Strong and Weak.Ylwa Sjölin Wirling - forthcoming - Analytic Philosophy.
    Uniformism about the epistemology of modality is the view that there is only one basic route to modal knowledge; non-uniformism is the view that there are several. Non-uniformism is becoming an increasingly popular stance, but how can it be defended? I prise apart two ways of understanding the uniformism/non-uniformism conflict that are mixed up in the literature. I argue that once separated, it is evident that they lead up to two different non-uniformist theses that need to be argued for in (...)
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  5. added 2019-10-30
    A Strange Kind of Power: Vetter on the Formal Adequacy of Dispositionalism.David Yates - 2020 - Philosophical Inquiries 8 (1):97-116.
    According to dispositionalism about modality, a proposition <p> is possible just in case something has, or some things have, a power or disposition for its truth; and <p> is necessary just in case nothing has a power for its falsity. But are there enough powers to go around? In Yates (2015) I argued that in the case of mathematical truths such as <2+2=4>, nothing has the power to bring about their falsity or their truth, which means they come out both (...)
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  6. added 2019-10-16
    An Integrative Design? How Liberalised Modal Empiricism Fails the Integration Challenge.Ylwa Sjölin Wirling - forthcoming - Synthese:1-19.
    The idea that justified modal belief can be accounted for in terms of empirically justified, non-modal belief is enjoying increasing popularity in the epistemology of modality. One alleged reason to prefer modal empiricism over more traditional, rationalist modal epistemologies is that empiricism avoids the problem with the integration challenge that arise for rationalism, assuming that we want to be realists about modal metaphysics. In this paper, I argue that given two very reasonable constraints on what it means to meet the (...)
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  7. added 2019-09-17
    Perceiving Necessity.Catherine Legg & James Franklin - 2017 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 98 (3).
    In many diagrams one seems to perceive necessity – one sees not only that something is so, but that it must be so. That conflicts with a certain empiricism largely taken for granted in contemporary philosophy, which believes perception is not capable of such feats. The reason for this belief is often thought well-summarized in Hume's maxim: ‘there are no necessary connections between distinct existences’. It is also thought that even if there were such necessities, perception is too passive or (...)
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  8. added 2019-08-09
    New Directions in the Epistemology of Modality, Special Issue of Synthese.Antonella Mallozzi (ed.) - forthcoming - Springer.
    The fourteen papers in this collection offer a variety of original contributions to the epistemology of modality. In seeking to explain our knowledge of possibility and necessity, they raise some novel questions, develop some unfamiliar theoretical perspectives, and make some intriguing proposals. In the Introduction (penultimate draft available for download), I give some general background about the contemporary literature in the area, by sketching a timeline of the main tendencies of the past twenty-five years or so, up to the present (...)
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  9. added 2019-03-29
    Quine's Monism and Modal Eliminativism in the Realm of Superveniences.Atilla Akalın - 2019 - International Journal of Social Humanities Sciences Research (JSHRS) 6 (34):795-800.
    This study asserts that W.V.O. Quine’s eliminative philosophical gaze into mereological composition affects inevitably his interpretations of composition theories of ontology. To investigate Quine’s property monism from the account of modal eliminativism, I applied to his solution for the paradoxes of de re modalities’ . Because of its vital role to figure out how dispositions are encountered by Quine, it was significantly noted that the realm of de re modalities doesn’t include contingent and impossible inferences about things. Therefore, for him, (...)
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  10. added 2019-02-10
    Modal Empiricism Made Difficult: An Essay in the Meta-Epistemology of Modality.Ylwa Sjölin Wirling - 2019 - Dissertation, University of Gothenburg
    Philosophers have always taken an interest not only in what is actually the case, but in what is necessarily the case and what could possibly be the case. These are questions of modality. Epistemologists of modality enquire into how we can know what is necessary and what is possible. This dissertation concerns the meta-epistemology of modality. It engages with the rules that govern construction and evaluation of theories in the epistemology of modality, by using modal empiricism – a form of (...)
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  11. added 2019-01-11
    Imagery and Possibility.Dominic Gregory - forthcoming - Noûs.
    We often ascribe possibility to the scenes that are displayed by mental or nonmental sensory images. The paper presents a novel argument for thinking that we are prima facie justified in ascribing metaphysical possibility to what is displayed by suitable visual images, and it argues that many of our imagery‐based ascriptions of metaphysical possibility are therefore prima facie justified. Some potential objections to the arguments are discussed, and some potential extensions of them, to cover nonvisual forms of imagery and nonmetaphysical (...)
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  12. added 2018-07-25
    Armchair Knowledge and Modal Skepticism: A Rapprochement.Felipe Leon - 2009 - Dissertation, University of California, Riverside
    The thought experiment is a seemingly indispensable tool in the armchair philosopher’s toolbox. One wonders, for example, how philosophers could come to think that justified true belief isn’t knowledge, that reference isn’t determined by an expression’s associated description, or that moral responsibility doesn’t require the ability to do otherwise, without the use of thought experiments. But even if thought experiments play an integral role in philosophical methodology, their legitimacy is at least initially puzzling: one would think that significant knowledge of (...)
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  13. added 2018-06-05
    Knowledge of Necessity: Logical Positivism and Kripkean Essentialism.Stephen K. Mcleod - 2008 - Philosophy 83 (2):179-191.
    By the lights of a central logical positivist thesis in modal epistemology, for every necessary truth that we know, we know it a priori and for every contingent truth that we know, we know it a posteriori. Kripke attacks on both flanks, arguing that we know necessary a posteriori truths and that we probably know contingent a priori truths. In a reflection of Kripke's confidence in his own arguments, the first of these Kripkean claims is far more widely accepted than (...)
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  14. added 2018-04-12
    Nobody Bodily Knows Possibility.Daniel Dohrn - 2017 - Journal of Philosophy 114 (12):678-686.
    Against modal rationalism, Manolo Martínez argues that elementary bodily mechanisms allow cognizers to know possibility. He presents an exemplary behavioral mechanism adapted to maximizing expected outcome in a random game. The bodily mechanism purportedly tracks probabilities and related possibilities. However, it is doubtful that cognizers like us can know metaphysical modalities purely by virtue of bodily mechanisms without using rational capacities. Firstly, Martínez’s mechanism is limited. But knowledge of probabilities arguably has to cover a variety of probabilistic outcomes. One may (...)
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  15. added 2018-02-23
    Lance Rips's Lines of Thought: Central Concepts in Cognitive Psychology. [REVIEW]Robert William Fischer - 2014 - Philosophical Psychology 27 (3):445-449.
    (2014). Lines of thought: Central concepts in cognitive psychology. Philosophical Psychology: Vol. 27, No. 3, pp. 445-449. doi: 10.1080/09515089.2012.732338.
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  16. added 2018-02-22
    Modal Empiricism: Objection, Reply, Proposal.Bob Fischer - 2017 - In Bob Fischer & Felipe Leon (eds.), Modal Epistemology After Rationalism. Cham: Springer. pp. 263-280.
    According to modal empiricism, our justification for believing possibility and necessity claims is a posteriori. That is, experience does not merely play an enabling role in modal justification; it isn’t simply that experience explains how, say, we acquire the relevant concepts. Rather, the view is that modal claims answer to the tribunal of experience in roughly the way that claims about quarks and quails answer to it. One serious objection to modal empiricism is the problem of empirical conservativeness: it doesn’t (...)
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  17. added 2018-02-17
    On the Plurality of Worlds.David K. Lewis - 1986 - Wiley-Blackwell.
    This book is a defense of modal realism; the thesis that our world is but one of a plurality of worlds, and that the individuals that inhabit our world are only a few out of all the inhabitants of all the worlds. Lewis argues that the philosophical utility of modal realism is a good reason for believing that it is true.
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  18. added 2017-08-14
    C. I. Lewis and the Benacerraf Problem.Bob Fischer - 2018 - Episteme 15 (2):154-165.
    Realists about modality offer an attractive semantics for modal discourse in terms of possible worlds, but standard accounts of the worlds—as properties, propositions, or causally-isolated concreta—invoke entities with which we can’t interact. If realism is true, how can we know anything about modal matters? Let's call this "the Benacerraf Problem." I suggest that C. I. Lewis has an intriguing answer to it. Given that we’re willing to disentangle some of Lewis’s insights from his phenomenalism, we can take the following line. (...)
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  19. added 2017-08-14
    On the Alleged Knowledge of Metaphysical Modality.Duen-Min Deng - 2016 - Philosophia 44 (2):479-495.
    Many metaphysical controversies can be understood as debates over whether some alleged entities are metaphysically possible. No doubt, with regard to these matters, we may have opinions or theories, commonsensical or sophisticated. But do we have knowledge of them? Can we really know that something is metaphysically possible, and if so, how? Several different answers have been offered in the literature, intending to illustrate how we may have knowledge of metaphysical modality. In this paper, I concentrate on a proposal by (...)
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  20. added 2017-08-14
    Continuity as a Guide to Possibility.Joshua Rasmussen - 2014 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 92 (3):525-538.
    I propose a new guide for assessing claims about what is possible. I offer examples of modal claims that are, in a certain intuitive respect, ?continuous? with one another. I then put forward a general, defeasible principle of modal continuity that can account for our intuitions about those examples. According to this principle, statements that differ by a mere quantitative term don't normally differ with respect to being possibly true. I offer a precise statement of the principle, and then I (...)
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  21. added 2017-08-14
    Epistemology and Possibility.Rebecca Hanrahan - 2005 - Dialogue 44 (4):627-652.
    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 (...)
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  22. added 2017-08-14
    Evidence for Possibility.Rebecca Roman Hanrahan - 1998 - Dissertation, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    Consider the claim: Our actions are free if and only if we could have done otherwise; or the claim, We are essentially mental substances because we can exist without our bodies. Both of these claims, along with countless others, employ a notion of possibility. If this notion is to have a place in philosophy, we must be able to justify our modal claims. We need an epistemology of possibility. It is often assumed that the imagination is the key here. The (...)
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  23. added 2017-08-14
    Knowledge Elicitation Using a Multi-Modal Approach.M. J. Winfield, A. Basden & I. Cresswell - 1996 - World Futures 47 (1):93-101.
    (1996). Knowledge elicitation using a multi‐modal approach. World Futures: Vol. 47, Unity and Diversity in Contemporary Systems Tinking: Systematic Pictures at an Exhibition, pp. 93-101.
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  24. added 2017-08-14
    Passage and Possibility: A Study of Aristotle's Modal Concepts.Jane M. Day - 1984 - Philosophical Books 25 (2):81-83.
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  25. added 2017-08-14
    The Problematic of Metaphysical Knowledge.John Deely - 1967 - Philosophy Today 11 (3):184.
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  26. added 2017-07-06
    A Naturalistic Account of Content and an Application to Modal Epistemology.Manolo Martínez - 2010 - Dissertation, Universitat de Barcelona
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  27. added 2017-04-08
    Can Modal Skepticism Defeat Humean Skepticism?Peter Hawke - 2017 - In Bob Fischer Felipe Leon (ed.), Modal Epistemology After Rationalism. Dordrecht: Synthese Library. pp. 281-308.
    My topic is moderate modal skepticism in the spirit of Peter van Inwagen. Here understood, this is a conservative version of modal empiricism that severely limits the extent to which an ordinary agent can reasonably believe “exotic” possibility claims. I offer a novel argument in support of this brand of skepticism: modal skepticism grounds an attractive (and novel) reply to Humean skepticism. Thus, I propose that modal skepticism be accepted on the basis of its theoretical utility as a tool for (...)
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  28. added 2016-12-13
    Empiiriset elementit modaaliepistemologiassa.Tuomas E. Tahko - 2016 - In Ilkka Niiniluoto, Tuomas Tahko & Teemu Toppinen (eds.), Mahdollisuus. Helsinki: Philosophical Society of Finland. pp. 154-159.
    Title in English: "Empirical elements in modal epistemology". This article examines Peter van Inwagen's modal scepticism and argues that although van Inwagen is correct to criticise modal rationalism, there are tools in modal empiricism that are promising sources of modal knowledge.
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  29. added 2016-10-09
    Review of David J. Chalmers, Constructing the World.Thomas W. Polger - 2014 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 65 (2):419-423.
    David Chalmers burst onto the philosophical scene in the mid-1990s with his work on consciousness, which awakened slumbering zombie arguments against physicalism and transformed the explanatory gap into the hard problem of consciousness. The distinction between hard and easy problems of consciousness became a central dogma of the movement. Chalmers’ influence in philosophy and consciousness studies is unquestionable. But enthusiasts of Chalmers’ work on consciousness may be excused for not fully appreciating his own justification for drawing the hard/easy distinction, or (...)
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  30. added 2016-09-11
    Modal Justification Via Theories.Bob Fischer - 2017 - Cham: Springer.
    This monograph articulates and defends a theory-based epistemology of modality (TEM). According to TEM, someone justifiably believe an interesting modal claim if and only if (a) she justifiably believes a theory according to which that claim is true, (b) she believes that claim on the basis of that theory, and (c) she has no defeaters for her belief in that claim. The book has two parts. In the first, the author motivates TEM, sets out the view in detail, and defends (...)
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  31. added 2016-07-31
    The Epistemology of Essence.Tuomas Tahko - 2018 - In Alexander Carruth, S. C. Gibb & John Heil (eds.), Ontology, Modality, Mind: Themes from the Metaphysics of E. J. Lowe. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 93-110.
    The epistemology of essence is a topic that has received relatively little attention, although there are signs that this is changing. The lack of literature engaging directly with the topic is probably partly due to the mystery surrounding the notion of essence itself, and partly due to the sheer difficulty of developing a plausible epistemology. The need for such an account is clear especially for those, like E.J. Lowe, who are committed to a broadly Aristotelian conception of essence, whereby essence (...)
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  32. added 2016-04-27
    The Modal-Knowno Problem.Robert William Fischer & Felipe Leon - 2016 - Southwest Philosophy Review 32 (1):225-232.
  33. added 2016-03-31
    Hale on the Architecture of Modal Knowledge.Bob Fischer - 2016 - Analytic Philosophy 57 (1):76-89.
    There are many modal epistemologies available to us. Which should we endorse? According to Bob Hale, we can start to answer this question by examining the architecture of modal knowledge. That is, we can try to decide between the following claims: knowing that p is possible is essentially a matter of having a well-founded belief that there are no conflicting necessities—a necessity-based approach—and knowing that p is necessary is essentially a matter of having a well-founded belief that there are no (...)
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  34. added 2016-03-18
    From Modal Skepticism to Modal Empiricism.Felipe Leon - 2017 - In Robert William Fischer Felipe Leon (ed.), Modal Epistemology After Rationalism. Springer Verlag.
    This collection highlights the new trend away from rationalism and toward empiricism in the epistemology of modality. Accordingly, the book represents a wide range of positions on the empirical sources of modal knowledge. Readers will find an introduction that surveys the field and provides a brief overview of the work, which progresses from empirically-sensitive rationalist accounts to fully empiricist accounts of modal knowledge. Early chapters focus on challenges to rationalist theories, essence-based approaches to modal knowledge, and the prospects for naturalizing (...)
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  35. added 2016-03-16
    Modal Epistemology After Rationalism.Bob Fischer & Felipe Leon (eds.) - 2017 - Cham: Springer.
    This collection highlights the new trend away from rationalism and toward empiricism in the epistemology of modality. Accordingly, the book represents a wide range of positions on the empirical sources of modal knowledge. Readers will find an introduction that surveys the field and provides a brief overview of the work, which progresses from empirically-sensitive rationalist accounts to fully empiricist accounts of modal knowledge. Early chapters focus on challenges to rationalist theories, essence-based approaches to modal knowledge, and the prospects for naturalizing (...)
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  36. added 2016-02-29
    Epistemology and Possibility.Rebecca Hanrahan - 2005 - Dialogue 44 (4):627-652.
    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 (...)
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  37. added 2016-02-16
    A Theory-Based Epistemology of Modality.Bob Fischer - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (2):228-247.
    We have some justified beliefs about modal matters. A modal epistemology should explain what’s involved in our having that justification. Given that we’re realists about modality, how should we expect that explanation to go? In the first part of this essay, I suggest an answer to this question based on an analogy with games. Then, I outline a modal epistemology that fits with that answer. According to a theory-based epistemology of modality, you justifiably believe that p if you justifiably believe (...)
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  38. added 2016-02-04
    Modal Knowledge, Evolution, and Counterfactuals.Thomas Kroedel - 2017 - In Robert William Fischer & Felipe Leon (eds.), Modal Epistemology After Rationalism. Dordrecht.
    The chapter defends an evolutionary explanation of modal knowledge from knowledge of counterfactual conditionals. Knowledge of counterfactuals is evolutionarily useful, as it enables us to learn from mistakes. Given the standard semantics for counterfactuals, there are several equivalences between modal claims and claims involving counterfactuals that can be used to explain modal knowledge. Timothy Williamson has suggested an explanation of modal knowledge that draws on the equivalence of ‘Necessarily p’ with ‘If p were false, a contradiction would be the case’. (...)
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  39. added 2015-12-14
    Perceptual Knowledge of Nonactual Possibilities.Margot Strohminger - 2015 - Philosophical Perspectives 29 (1):363-375.
    It is widely assumed that sense perception cannot deliver knowledge of nonactual (metaphysical) possibilities. We are not supposed to be able to know that a proposition p is necessary or that p is possible (if p is false) by sense perception. This paper aims to establish that the role of sense perception is not so limited. It argues that we can know lots of modal facts by perception. While the most straightforward examples concern possibility and contingency, others concern necessity and (...)
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  40. added 2014-10-07
    Concepts, Experience and Modal Knowledge1.C. S. Jenkins - 2010 - Philosophical Perspectives 24 (1):255-279.
    forthcoming in R. Cameron, B. Hale and A. Hoffmann (ed.s), The Logic, Epistemology and Metaphysics of Modality, Oxford University Press. Presents a concept-grounding account of modal knowledge.
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  41. added 2014-09-15
    Empirically-Informed Modal Rationalism.Tuomas Tahko - 2017 - In Robert William Fischer & Felipe Leon (eds.), Modal Epistemology After Rationalism. Synthese Library. pp. 29-45.
    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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  42. added 2014-08-01
    Modal Knowledge, in Theory.Robert William Fischer - 2012 - Southwest Philosophy Review 28 (1):227-235.
    Some philosophers think that a person can justifi ably believe that p is possible even though she has no theory according to which p is possible. They think, for example, that she can justifiably believe that there could be naturally purple elephants even though she lacks (inter alia) a theory about the factors germane to elephant pigmentation. There is a certain optimism about this view: it seems to assume that people are fairly good at ferreting out problems with proposed modal (...)
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  43. added 2014-03-21
    Principles for Possibilia.Christopher Peacocke - 2002 - Noûs 36 (3):486–508.
    It seems to be an obvious truth that There could be something that doesn't actually exist. That is, it seems to be obiously true that ◊∃×). It is sufficient for the truth of that there could be more people, or trees, or cars, than there actually are. It is also sufficient for the truth of that there could be some pepole, or trees, or cars that are distinct from all those that actually exist. Do and suchlike statements involve a commitment (...)
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  44. added 2014-03-09
    Consciousness and Modal Empiricism.Rebecca Roman Hanrahan - 2009 - Philosophia 37 (2):281-306.
    David Chalmers supports his contention that there is a possible world populated by our zombie twins by arguing for the assumption that conceivability entails possibility. But, I argue, the modal epistemology he sets forth, ‘modal rationalism,’ ignores the problem of incompleteness and relies on an idealized notion of conceivability. As a consequence, this epistemology can’t justify our quotidian judgments of possibility, let alone those judgments that concern the mind/body connection. Working from the analogy that the imagination is to the possible (...)
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  45. added 2014-02-25
    Theory Selection in Modal Epistemology.Robert William Fischer - 2015 - American Philosophical Quarterly 52 (4):381-395.
    Accounts of modal knowledge are many and varied. How should we choose between them? I propose that we employ inference to the best explanation, and I suggest that there are three desiderata that we should use to rank hypotheses: conservatism, simplicity, and the ability to handle disagreement. After examining these desiderata, I contend that they can’t be used to justify belief in the modal epistemology that fares best, but that they can justify our accepting it in an epistemically significant sense. (...)
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  46. added 2014-02-10
    The Principle-Based Account of Modality: Elucidations and Resources. [REVIEW]Christopher Peacocke - 2002 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 64 (3):663–679.
    In their searching contributions to this Symposium, Gideon Rosen, Timothy Williamson and Crispin Wright identify a set of issues crucial for assessing the principle-based treatment of modality I presented in Chapter Four of Being Known. I thank them for such focused and thoughtful discussions. This response is organized as a series of questions and proposed answers that aim to address the issues they raise. I hope their contributions will be as helpful to the reader as they have been to me (...)
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  47. added 2011-12-07
    Thought and World: The Hidden Necessities.James F. Ross - 2008 - University of Notre Dame Press.
    Introduction: Structural realism -- Necessities : earned truth and made truth -- Real impossibility -- What might have been -- Truth -- Perception and abstraction -- Emergent consciousness and irreducible understanding -- Real natures : software everywhere -- Going wrong with the master of falsity.
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  48. added 2009-05-31
    Necessity, Essence, and Individuation: A Defense of Conventionalism.Alan Sidelle - 1989 - Cornell University Press.