About this topic
Summary Modal epistemology is a wide area in which philosophers explore questions about the nature of possibility and necessity, the ultimate grounds or sources of necessity, the correct logic of necessity, and how best to explain our knowledge of necessity. 
Key works Key works in the metaphysics of modality that are important for modal epistemology include: Kripke 1980, in which Kripke argues for the existence of a posteriori necessities; Fine 1994, in which Fine argues that essences is the ground of modality; and Blackburn 1993, in which Blackburn argues that there can be no truth-conditional realist account of metaphysical modality. 
Introductions A key introduction is Vaidya 2007
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  1. What Am I?: Descartes and the Mind-Body Problem.J. Almog - 2001 - Oxford University Press.
    In his Meditations, Rene Descartes asks, "what am I?" His initial answer is "a man." But he soon discards it: "But what is a man? Shall I say 'a rational animal'? No: for then I should inquire what an animal is, what rationality is, and in this way one question would lead down the slope to harder ones." Instead of understanding what a man is, Descartes shifts to two new questions: "What is Mind?" and "What is Body?" These questions develop (...)
  2. From Cognition's Location to the Epistemology of its Nature.Matthew J. Barker - 2010 - Cognitive Systems Research 11 (357):366.
    One of the liveliest debates about cognition concerns whether our cognition sometimes extends beyond our brains and bodies. One party says Yes, another No. This paper shows that debate between these parties has been epistemologically confused and requires reorienting. Both parties frequently appeal to empirical considerations and to extra-empirical theoretical virtues to support claims about where cognition is. These things should constrain their claims, but cannot do all the work hoped. This is because of the overlooked fact, uncovered in this (...)
  3. Peacocke’s Epiphany: A Possible Problem for Semantic Approaches to Metaphysical Necessity.Jon Barton - 2012 - Philosophia Scientae 16:99-116.
    In his _Being Known_ Peacocke sets himself the task of answering how we come to know about metaphysical necessities. He proposes a semantic principle-based conception consisting of, first, his Principles of Possibility which provide necessary and sufficient conditions for a new concept ‘admissibility’, and second, characterizations of possibility and of necessity in terms of that new concept. I focus on one structural feature; viz. the recursive application involved in the specification of ‘admissibility’. After sketching Peacocke’s proposal, I introduce a fictional (...)
  4. What’s the Worst Case? The Methodology of Possibilistic Prediction.Gregor Betz - 2010 - Analyse & Kritik 32 (1):87-106.
    Frank Knight (1921) famously distinguished the epistemic modes of certainty, risk, and uncertainty in order to characterize situations where deterministic, probabilistic or possibilistic foreknowledge is available. Because our probabilistic knowledge is limited, i.e. because many systems, e.g. the global climate, cannot be described and predicted probabilistically in a reliable way, Knight's third category, possibilistic foreknowledge, is not simply swept by the probabilistic mode. This raises the question how to justify possibilistic predictionsincluding the identication of the worst case. The development of (...)
  5. Abduction and Modality.Stephen Biggs - 2011 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83 (2):283-326.
    This paper introduces a modal epistemology that centers on inference to the best explanation (i.e. abduction). In introducing this abduction-centered modal epistemology, the paper has two main goals. First, it seeks to provide reasons for pursuing an abduction-centered modal epistemology by showing that this epistemology aids a popular stance on the mind-body problem and allows an appealing approach to modality. Second, the paper seeks to show that an abduction-centered modal epistemology can work by showing that abduction can establish claims about (...)
  6. Carnap, the Necessary a Priori, and Metaphysical Anti-Realism.Stephen Biggs & Jessica M. Wilson - 2016 - In Stephen Blatti & Sandra Lapointe (eds.), Ontology after Carnap. Oxford: pp. 81-104.
    In Meaning and Necessity (1947/1950), Carnap advances an intensional semantic framework on which modal claims are true in virtue of semantical rules alone, and so are a priori. In 'Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology' (1950), Carnap advances an epistemic-ontological framework on which metaphysical claims are either trivial or meaningless, since lacking any means of substantive confirmation. Carnap carried out these projects two decades before Kripke influentially argued, in Naming and Necessity (1972/1980), that some modal claims are true a posteriori. How should (...)
  7. A Naturalist's Approach to Modal Intuitions.Gunnar Björnsson - 2004 - In Erik Weber Tim De Mey (ed.), Modal Epistemology.
    Modal inquiry is plagued by methodological problems. The best-developed views on modal semantics and modal ontology take modalstatements to be true in virtue of relations between possible worlds. Unfortunately, such views turn modal epistemology into a mystery, and this paper is about ways to avoid that problem. It looks at different remedies suggested by Quine, Blackburn and Peacocke and finds them all wanting. But although Peacocke’s version of the popular conceptualist approach fails to give a normative account of correct modal (...)
  8. Plenitude of Possible Structures.Phillip Bricker - 1991 - Journal of Philosophy 88 (11):607-619.
    Which mathematical structures are possible, that is, instantiated by the concrete inhabitants of some possible world? Are there worlds with four-dimensional space? With infinite-dimensional space? Whence comes our knowledge of the possibility of structures? In this paper, I develop and defend a principle of plenitude according to which any mathematically natural generalization of possible structure is itself possible. I motivate the principle pragmatically by way of the role that logical possibility plays in our inquiry into the world.
  9. Modal Realism and Modal Epistemology: A Huge Gap.Otávio Bueno & Scott Shalkowski - 2004 - In Erik Weber Tim De Mey (ed.), Modal Epistemology. Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie van Belgie Vor Wetenschappen En Kunsten. pp. 93--106.
  10. Review of B. Hale and A. Hoffmann (Eds.), Modality: Metaphysics, Logic, and Epistemology[REVIEW]John P. Burgess - 2010 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2010 (10).
  11. Analyticity, Apriority, Modality.Albert Casullo - 2012 - In Manuel García-Carpintero & Max Kölbel (eds.), The Continuum Companion to the Philosophy of Language. Continuum International. pp. 228.
  12. Modal Epistemology: Fortune or Virtue?Albert Casullo - 2000 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 38 (S1):17--25.
  13. Avant-propos.Stéphane Chauvier - 2008 - Les Etudes Philosophiques 84 (1):1.
  14. X—Knowing What One Ought to Do.Matthew Chrisman - 2015 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 115 (2pt2):167-186.
    This paper considers two competing pictures of knowledge of what one ought to do—one which assimilates this to other propositional knowledge conceived as partial ‘locational’ knowledge of where one is in a space of possibilities, the other which distinguishes this from other propositional knowledge by construing it as partial ‘directional’ knowledge of what to do in particular circumstances. I argue that the apparent tension can be lessened by better understanding the contextualized modal-cum-prescriptive nature of ‘ought’ and enriching our conception of (...)
  15. The Logic(s) of Modal Knowledge.Daniel Cohnitz - 2012 - In Greg Restall & Gillian Russell (eds.), New Waves in Philosophical Logic. MacMillan.
  16. Generating Possibilities.David Denby - 2008 - Philosophical Studies 141 (2):191-207.
    Our knowledge of the most basic alternative possibilities can be thought of as generated recursively from what we know about the actual world. But what are the generating principles? According to one view, they are recombinational: roughly, alternative possibilities are generated by “patching together” parts of distinct worlds or “blotting out” parts of worlds to yield new worlds. I argue that this view is inadequate. It is difficult to state in a way that is true and non-trivial, and anyway fails (...)
  17. Kant's Criteria of the a Priori.John Divers - 1999 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 80 (1):17–45.
  18. Belief in Absolute Necessity.John Divers & José Edgar González‐Varela - 2013 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 87 (2):358-391.
    We outline a theory of the cognitive role of belief in absolute necessity that is normative and intended to be metaphysically neutral. We take this theory to be unique in scope since it addresses simultaneously the questions of how such belief is (properly) acquired and of how it is (properly) manifest. The acquisition and manifestation conditions for belief in absolute necessity are given univocally, in terms of complex higher-order attitudes involving two distinct kinds of supposition (A-supposing and C-supposing). It is (...)
  19. Modal Epistemology: Our Knowledge of Necessity and Possibility.Simon Evnine - 2008 - Philosophy Compass 3 (4):664-684.
    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 (...)
  20. Theory Selection in Modal Epistemology.Robert William Fischer - 2015 - American Philosophical Quarterly 52 (3):289-304.
    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. (...)
  21. On Categories and A Posteriori Necessity: A Phenomenological Echo.M. J. Garcia-Encinas - 2012 - Metaphilosophy 43 (1-2):147-164.
    This article argues for two related theses. First, it defends a general thesis: any kind of necessity, including metaphysical necessity, can only be known a priori. Second, however, it also argues that the sort of a priori involved in modal metaphysical knowledge is not related to imagination or any sort of so-called epistemic possibility. Imagination is neither a proof of possibility nor a limit to necessity. Rather, modal metaphysical knowledge is built on intuition of philosophical categories and the structures they (...)
  22. Conceivability and Possibility.Tamar Szabó Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.) - 2002 - Oxford University Press.
    The capacity to represent things to ourselves as possible plays a crucial role both in everyday thinking and in philosophical reasoning; this volume offers much-needed philosophical illumination of conceivability, possibility, and the relations between them.
  23. The Problem of Imaginative Resistance.Tamar Szabó Gendler & Shen-yi Liao - 2016 - In John Gibson & Noël Carroll (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Literature. Routledge. pp. 405-418.
    The problem of imaginative resistance holds interest for aestheticians, literary theorists, ethicists, philosophers of mind, and epistemologists. We present a somewhat opinionated overview of the philosophical discussion to date. We begin by introducing the phenomenon of imaginative resistance. We then review existing responses to the problem, giving special attention to recent research directions. Finally, we consider the philosophical significance that imaginative resistance has—or, at least, is alleged to have—for issues in moral psychology, theories of cognitive architecture, and modal epistemology.
  24. Philosophical Insights and Modal Cognition.Mikkel Gerken - 2015 - In Eugen Fischer John Collins (ed.), Experimental Philosophy, Rationalism, and Naturalism. pp. 110-131.
    Modal rationalists uphold a strong constitutive relationship between a priori cognition and modal cognition. Since both a priori cognition and modal cognition have been taken to be characteristic of philosophical insights, I will critically assess an ambitious modal rationalism and an associated ambitious methodological rationalism. I begin by examining Kripkean cases of the necessary a posteriori in order to characterize the ambitious modal rationalism that will be the focus of my criticism. I then argue that there is a principled association (...)
  25. Philosophical Methodology in Modal Epistemology.Dana Goswick - 2012 - Essays in Philosophy 13 (1):11.
    This paper examines the legitimacy of two common methodologies within philosophy: thought experiments and conceptual analysis. In particular, I examine the uses to which these two methodologies have been put within modal epistemology. I argue that, although both methods can be used to reveal conditional essentialist claims , neither can be used to reveal the de re essentialists claims they’re often taken to reveal.
  26. The Epistemology of ‘Just is’-Statements.Daniel Greco - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (10):2599-2607.
    Agustín Rayo’s The Construction of Logical Space offers an exciting and ambitious defense of a broadly Carnapian approach to metaphysics. This essay will focus on one of the main differences between Rayo’s and Carnap’s approaches. Carnap distinguished between analytic, a priori “meaning postulates”, and empirical claims, which were both synthetic and knowable only a posteriori. Like meaning postulates, they determine the boundaries of logical space. But Rayo is skeptical that the a priori/a posteriori or analytic/synthetic distinctions can do the work (...)
  27. Counterfactual Reasoning and Knowledge of Possibilities.Dominic Gregory - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (4):821-835.
    Williamson has argued against scepticism concerning our metaphysically modal knowledge, by arguing that standard patterns of suppositional reasoning to counterfactual conclusions provide reliable sources of correct ascriptions of possibility and necessity. The paper argues that, while Williamson’s claims relating to necessity may well be right, he has not provided adequate reasons for thinking that the familiar modes of counterfactual reasoning to which he points generalise to provide a decent route to ascriptions of possibility. The paper also explores another path to (...)
  28. Iterated Modalities, Meaning and A Priori Knowledge.Dominic Gregory - 2011 - Philosophers' Imprint 11 (3).
    Recent work on the philosophy of modality has tended to pass over questions about iterated modalities in favour of constructing ambitious metaphysical theories of possibility and necessity, despite the central importance of iterated modalities to modal logic. Yet there are numerous unresolved but fundamental issues involving iterated modalities: Chandler and Salmon have provided forceful arguments against the widespread assumption that all necessary truths are necessarily necessary, for example. The current paper examines a range of ways in which one might seek (...)
  29. Conceivability and Apparent Possibility.Dominic Gregory - 2010 - In Bob Hale & Aviv Hoffmann (eds.), Modality: Metaphysics, Logic, and Epistemology. Oxford University Press.
  30. Knowledge of Possibility and of Necessity.Bob Hale - 2002 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 103 (1):1–20.
    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 (...)
  31. Knowledge of Possibility and of Necessity.Bob Hale - 2002 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 103 (1):1-20.
  32. The Set-Theoretic Multiverse.Joel David Hamkins - 2012 - Review of Symbolic Logic 5 (3):416-449.
    The multiverse view in set theory, introduced and argued for in this article, is the view that there are many distinct concepts of set, each instantiated in a corresponding set-theoretic universe. The universe view, in contrast, asserts that there is an absolute background set concept, with a corresponding absolute set-theoretic universe in which every set-theoretic question has a definite answer. The multiverse position, I argue, explains our experience with the enormous range of set-theoretic possibilities, a phenomenon that challenges the universe (...)
  33. Problems for a Modal Epistemology.Rebecca Hanrahan - 2008 - Auslegung 29 (2).
  34. Possibility and Actuality.Nicolai Hartmann - 2013 - Walter de Gruyter.
    From a different perspective, “essential actuality” is related to logical actuality. It means plain existence in the ideal sphere of being. One is familiar with this, for example, in “mathematical existence.” This does not merge with validity, but implies ...
  35. Lowe on Modal Knowledge.Joachim Horvath - 2014 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 3 (3):208-217.
    In recent work, E. J. Lowe presents an essence-based account of our knowledge of metaphysical modality that he claims to be superior to its main competitors. I argue that knowledge of essences alone, without knowledge of a suitable bridge principle, is insufficient for knowing that something is metaphysically necessary or metaphysically possible. Yet given Lowe's other theoretical commitments, he cannot account for our knowledge of the needed bridge principle, and so his essence-based modal epistemology remains incomplete. In addition to that, (...)
  36. The Modal Argument for a Priori Justification.Joachim Horvath - 2009 - Ratio 22 (2):191-205.
    Kant famously argued that, from experience, we can only learn how something actually is, but not that it must be so. In this paper, I defend an improved version of Kant's argument for the existence of a priori knowledge, the Modal Argument , against recent objections by Casullo and Kitcher. For the sake of the argument, I concede Casullo's claim that we may know certain counterfactuals in an empirical way and thereby gain epistemic access to some nearby, nomologically possible worlds. (...)
  37. 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 (...)
  38. Modal Objectivity.Clarke-Doane Justin - forthcoming - Noûs.
    It is widely held that the intelligibility of modal metaphysics has been vindicated. Quine’s arguments to the contrary supposedly confused analyticity with metaphysical necessity, and rigid with non-rigid designators. But even if modal metaphysics is intelligible, it could be misconceived. It could be that metaphysical necessity is not absolute necessity – the strictest “non-epistemic” (non-deontic) notion of necessity – and that no proposition of traditional metaphysical interest is necessary in every non-epistemic sense. If there were nothing otherwise “uniquely metaphysically significant” (...)
  39. Modal Rationalism and Constructive Realism: Models and Their Modality.William Michael Kallfelz - manuscript
    I present a case for a rapprochement between aspects of rationalism and scientific realism, by way of a general framework employing modal epistemology and elements of 2-dimensional semantics (2DS). My overall argument strategy is meta-inductive: The bulk of this paper establishes a “base case,” i.e., a concretely constructive example by which I demonstrate this linkage. The base case or constructive example acts as the exemplar for generating, in a constructively ‘bottom-up’ fashion, a more generally rigorous case for rationalism-realism qua modal (...)
  40. No-Futurism and Metaphysical Contingentism.Baptiste Le Bihan - 2014 - Axiomathes 24 (4):483-497.
    According to no-futurism, past and present entities are real, but future ones are not. This view faces a skeptical challenge (Bourne 2002, 2006, Braddon-Mitchell, 2004): if no-futurism is true, how do you know you are present? I shall propose a new skeptical argument based on the physical possibility of Gödelian worlds (1949). This argument shows that a no-futurist has to endorse a metaphysical contingentist reading of no-futurism, the view that no-futurism is contingently true. But then, the no-futurist has to face (...)
  41. What's There to Know?Mary Leng - unknown
    Defends an account of mathematical knowledge in which mathematical knowledge is a kind of modal knowledge. Leng argues that nominalists should take mathematical knowledge to consist in knowledge of the consistency of mathematical axiomatic systems, and knowledge of what necessarily follows from those axioms. She defends this view against objections that modal knowledge requires knowledge of abstract objects, and argues that we should understand possibility and necessity in a primative way.
  42. Tharp’s Third Theorem.David Lewis - 2002 - Analysis 62 (274):95–97.
  43. Miguel RealeMiguel Reale: The Knowledge of Possibility or the Possibility of Knowledge.Luís Lóia - 2012 - Cultura:91-98.
  44. Possibility and Actuality.Peter Long - 1961 - Mind 70 (278):187-200.
  45. What is the Source of Our Knowledge of Modal Truths?E. J. Lowe - 2012 - Mind 121 (484):919-950.
    There is currently intense interest in the question of the source of our presumed knowledge of truths concerning what is, or is not, metaphysically possible or necessary. Some philosophers locate this source in our capacities to conceive or imagine various actual or non-actual states of affairs, but this approach is open to certain familiar and seemingly powerful objections. A different and ostensibly more promising approach has been developed by Timothy Williamson, according to which our capacity for modal knowledge is just (...)
  46. Rationalism and Modal Knowledge.Stephen K. McLeod - 2009 - Critica 41 (122):29-42.
    The article argues against attempts to combine ontological realism about modality with the rejection of modal rationalism and it suggests that modal realism requires (at least a weak form of) modal rationalism. /// El artículo da argumentos en contra de que se intente combinar el realismo ontológico sobre la modalidad con el rechazo del racionalismo modal y sugiere que el realismo modal exige (por lo menos una forma débil de) racionalismo modal.
  47. Knowledge of Necessity: Logical Positivism and Kripkean Essentialism.Stephen K. McLeod - 2008 - Philosophy 83 (324):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 (...)
  48. Modal Epistemology.Stephen K. McLeod - 2005 - Philosophical Books 46 (3):235-245.
  49. The Epistemology of Essentialist Claims.Alan Mcmichael - 1986 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 11 (1):33-52.
  50. Review of Michael Rea's, 'World Without Design: The Ontological Consequences of Naturalism'. [REVIEW]Andrew Melnyk - 2004 - Mind 113 (451):575-581.
    Substantial review of Michael Rea's, World without design: the ontological consequences of naturalism. It is an improved version of my paper, "Rea On Naturalism" in Philo, 2004, revised in light of Rea's comments on the earlier paper. The discussion focuses on Rea’s case for three of his theses: that naturalism must be viewed as a ‘research programme’; that naturalism ‘cannot be adopted on the basis of evidence’, as he puts it; and that naturalists cannot be justified in accepting realism about (...)
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