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
Related categories

95 found
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  1. added 2018-12-13
    Metaphysical and Absolute Possibility.Justin Clarke-Doane - forthcoming - Synthese (special issue).
    It is widely alleged that metaphysical possibility is “absolute” possibility (Kripke [1980], Lewis [1986], Rosen [2006, 16], Stalnaker [2005, 203], Williamson [2016, 460]). Indeed, this is arguably its metaphysical significance. Kripke calls metaphysical necessity “necessity in the highest degree” ([1980, 99]). Williamson calls metaphysical possibility the “maximal objective modality” [2016, 459]. Rosen says that “metaphysical possibility is the [most inclusive] sort of real possibility” ([2006, 16]). And Stalnaker writes, “we can agree with Frank Jackson, David Chalmers, Saul Kripke, David Lewis, (...)
  2. added 2018-10-30
    Essentialist Modal Rationalism.Philip Goff - forthcoming - Synthese.
    In my recent book Consciousness and Fundamental Reality, I proposed a principle linking rational coherence and metaphysical possibility, as part of an argument against physicalism. Although it was not the focus of concern in this book, I had hoped that that principle might undergird a generalised account of our knowledge of modality. I have subsequently realised, however, that that principle has limited application, in a way that conflicts with these broader ambitions. In this paper I will outline these limitations and (...)
  3. added 2018-08-21
    Topological Models of Columnar Vagueness.Thomas Mormann - manuscript
    Abstract. The main aim of this paper is to show that the concept of vagueness based on an S4 modal operator C of clearness (CA to be read as “It is clear that A”, “It is definitely the case that A”, or similarly) leads to a concept of columnar higher-order vagueness. More precisely, the class of topological models of the operator C that satisfy the requirements an S4 operator has to satisfy can be identified with the class of weakly scattered (...)
  4. added 2018-08-10
    Knowing How Things Might Have Been.Mark Jago - 2018 - Synthese:1-19.
    I know that I could have been where you are right now and that you could have been where I am right now, but that neither of us could have been turnips or natural numbers. This knowledge of metaphysical modality stands in need of explanation. I will offer an account based on our knowledge of the natures, or essencess, of things. I will argue that essences need not be viewed as metaphysically bizarre entities; that we can conceptualise and refer to (...)
  5. added 2018-07-02
    New Directions in the Epistemology of Modality, Special Issue of Synthese.Antonella Mallozzi (ed.) - forthcoming - Springer.
  6. added 2018-07-02
    Putting Modal Metaphysics First.Antonella Mallozzi - 2018 - Synthese:1-20.
    I propose that we approach the epistemology of modality by putting modal metaphysics first and, specifically, by investigating the metaphysics of essence. Following a prominent Neo-Aristotelian view, I hold that metaphysical necessity depends on the nature of things, namely their essences. I further clarify that essences are core properties having distinctive superexplanatory powers. In the case of natural kinds, which is my focus in the paper, superexplanatoriness is due to the fact that the essence of a kind is what causes (...)
  7. added 2018-07-02
    Similarity and Possibility: An Epistemology of de Re Possibility for Concrete Entities.Roca-Royes Sonia - 2017 - In Bob Fischer & Felipe Leon (eds.), Modal Epistemology After Rationalism. Springer. pp. 221-245.
    The paper sketches an epistemology of de re possibility centred on the notion of similarity. The proposal is, roughly, that we know about some entities’ unrealized possibilities by extrapolation from knowledge about some other, similar entities’ realized possibilities. The account is limited, among other things, in that it does not cover knowledge of de re necessities or essentialist knowledge, if we have it. But even if alternative epistemologies could explain that type of knowledge too, the current account is found to (...)
  8. 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 (...)
  9. added 2018-02-17
    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 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 racionalismo modal.
  10. added 2017-10-14
    Ideal Reasoners Don’T Believe in Zombies.Danilo Fraga Dantas - 2017 - Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology 21 (1):41-59.
    The negative zombie argument concludes that physicalism is false from the premises that p ∧¬q is ideally negatively conceivable and that what is ideally negatively conceivable is possible, where p is the conjunction of the fundamental physical truths and laws and q is a phenomenal truth (Chalmers 2002; 2010). A sentence φ is ideally negatively conceivable iff φ is not ruled out a priori on ideal rational reflection. In this paper, I argue that the negative zombie argument is neither a (...)
  11. added 2017-09-04
    On a Priori Knowledge of Necessity.Juhani Yli-Vakkuri & Margot Strohminger - manuscript
    The idea that the epistemology of modality is in some sense a priori is a popular one, but it has turned out to be difficult to precisify in a way that does not expose it to decisive counterexamples. The most common precisifications follow Kripke’s suggestion that cases of necessary a posteriori truth that can be known a priori to be necessary if true ‘may give a clue to a general characterization of a posteriori knowledge of necessary truths’. The idea is (...)
  12. added 2017-08-14
    Conceivability, Plural Quantification, and Haecceitism.Hasen Khudairi - manuscript
    This essay aims to redress the contention that epistemic possibility cannot be a guide to the principles of modal metaphysics. I argue that the interaction between the multi-dimensional intensional framework and intensional plural quantification enables epistemic possibilities to target the haecceitistic properties of individuals. I outline the elements of plural logic, and I specify, then, a multi-dimensional intensional formula encoding the relation between the epistemic possibility of haecceity comprehension and its metaphysical possibility. I conclude by addressing objections from the indeterminacy (...)
  13. added 2017-08-14
    Modal Epistemology.Otavio Bueno & Scott Shalkowski - 2016 - Routledge.
  14. added 2017-08-14
    On Modal Knowledge.Filipe Drapeau Vieira Contim & Sébastien Motta - 2012 - Philosophia Scientae 16:3-37.
  15. added 2017-08-14
    Thought Experiment: On the Powers and Limits of Imaginary Cases Tamar Szabó Gendler Studies in Philosophy New York: Garland Publishing, 2000, Xvii + 258 Pp., $75.00. [REVIEW]Neb Kujundzic - 2002 - Dialogue 41 (2):407-.
  16. added 2017-04-07
    Abductive Two-Dimensionalism: A New Route to the A Priori Identification of Necessary Truths.Biggs Stephen & Wilson Jessica - forthcoming - Synthese:1-35.
    Epistemic two-dimensional semantics (E2D), advocated by Chalmers (2006) and Jackson (1998), among others, aims to restore the link between necessity and a priority seemingly broken by Kripke (1972/1980), by showing how armchair access to semantic intensions provides a basis for knowledge of necessary a posteriori truths (among other modal claims). The most compelling objections to E2D are that, for one or other reason, the requisite intensions are not accessible from the armchair (see, e.g., Wilson 1982, Melnyk 2008). As we substantiate (...)
  17. added 2017-02-13
    Miguel RealeMiguel Reale: The Knowledge of Possibility or the Possibility of Knowledge.Luís Lóia - 2012 - Cultura:91-98.
  18. added 2017-02-08
    On the Possibility of Knowledge.Harry Ruja - 1937 - New Scholasticism 11 (3):237-246.
  19. added 2017-01-30
    Knowledge of Possibility and of Necessity.Bob Hale - 2002 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 103 (1):1-20.
  20. added 2016-12-08
    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 (...)
  21. added 2016-12-08
    On The Impossibility of Nonactual Epistemic Possibilities.Ori Simchen - 2004 - Journal of Philosophy 101 (10):527 - 554.
    A problem inherited from Kripke is the reconciliation of commitments to various necessities with conflicting intuitions of contingency, intuitions that things "might have turned out otherwise." Kripke's reconciliation strategy is to say that while it is necessary that X is Y, and so impossible for X not to be Y, it is nevertheless epistemically possible for X not to be Y. But what are nonactual epistemic possibilities? Several answers are considered and it is concluded that scenarios adduced to explain away (...)
  22. added 2016-11-07
    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 (...)
  23. added 2016-10-27
    Avant-propos.Stéphane Chauvier - 2008 - Les Etudes Philosophiques 84 (1):1.
  24. added 2016-10-15
    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.
  25. added 2016-10-10
    Williamsonian Modal Epistemology, Possibility-Based.Barbara Vetter - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (4-5):766-795.
    Williamsonian modal epistemology is characterized by two commitments: realism about modality, and anti-exceptionalism about our modal knowledge. Williamson’s own counterfactual-based modal epistemology is the best known implementation of WME, but not the only option that is available. I sketch and defend an alternative implementation which takes our knowledge of metaphysical modality to arise, not from knowledge of counterfactuals, but from our knowledge of ordinary possibility statements of the form ‘x can F’. I defend this view against a criticism indicated in (...)
  26. added 2016-10-10
    What's There to Know? A Fictionalist Approach to Mathematical Knowledge.Mary Leng - 2007 - In Mary Leng, Alexander Paseau & Michael Potter (eds.), Mathematical Knowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    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.
  27. added 2016-08-25
    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. added 2016-07-11
    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 (...)
  29. added 2016-05-02
    Against the Additive View of Imagination.Nick Wiltsher - 2016 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 94 (2):266-282.
    According to the additive view of sensory imagination, mental imagery often involves two elements. There is an image-like element, which gives the experiences qualitative phenomenal character akin to that of perception. There is also a non-image element, consisting of something like suppositions about the image's object. This accounts for extra- sensory features of imagined objects and situations: for example, it determines whether an image of a grey horse is an image of Desert Orchid, or of some other grey horse. The (...)
  30. added 2016-02-29
    Problems for a Modal Epistemology.Rebecca Hanrahan - unknown
  31. added 2016-02-29
    Kant on God's Intuitive Understanding: Interpreting CJ §76's Modal Claims.Reed Winegar - 2017 - Kantian Review 22 (2):305-329.
    In §76 of the 3rd Critique, Kant claims that an intuitive understanding would represent no distinction between possible and actual things. Prior interpretations of §76 take Kant to claim that an intuitive understanding would produce things merely in virtue of thinking about them and, thus, could not think of merely possible things. In contrast, I argue that §76’s modal claims hinge on Kant’s suggestion that God represents things in their thoroughgoing determination, including in their connection to God’s actual will. I (...)
  32. added 2016-02-29
    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, (...)
  33. added 2016-02-29
    Comments on Robert Fischer's “Modal Knowledge, in Theory”.Todd M. Stewart - 2012 - Southwest Philosophy Review 28 (2):95-99.
  34. added 2016-02-29
    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.
  35. added 2016-02-29
    Modal Integration.Scott A. Shalkowski - 2012 - Philosophia Scientiae 16 (2):85-98.
    Chris Daly défend « l'explicationisme », la position selon laquelle l'inférence a la meilleure explication constitue une façon acceptable de justifier une théorie. Il la défend en tentant de justifier la position explicationiste par ses propres ressources, c'est-a-dire par elle-même. Je soutiens que dans le contexte de la métaphysique, cette défense échoue. L'explicationiste échoue à se justifier par ses propres ressources et l'une de ses premisses centrales ne peut pas être justifiée uniquement de façon externaliste.Chris Daly defends "explanationism", the view (...)
  36. added 2016-02-29
    Modality & Other Matters: An Interview with Timothy Williamson.Timothy Williamson & Paal Antonsen - 2010 - Perspectives: International Postgraduate Journal of Philosophy 3 (1):16-29.
    An interview with Timothy Williamson on Modality and other matters. Williams is asked three main questions: the first about the difference between philosophical and non-philosophical knowledge, the second concerns the epistemology of modality, and the third is on the emerging metaphysical picture.
  37. added 2016-02-29
    Esistenza Necessaria E Oggetti Possibili: La Metafisica Modale di Timothy Williamson.Alfredo Tomasetta - 2008 - Cuem.
  38. added 2016-02-29
    The Presidential Address I—Armchair Philosophy, Metaphysical Modality and Counterfactual Thinking.Timothy Wilkinson - 2004 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 105 (1):1–23.
  39. added 2016-02-29
    The Epistemology of Modality.Sherwood Paul Tidman - 1990 - Dissertation, University of Notre Dame
    My dissertation is an examination of the epistemic grounds of claims concerning what is possible or necessary. It is often suggested that we can determine whether a state of affairs is possible by appeal to our ability to conceive of the state of affairs. A state of affairs is possible if conceivable; impossible if inconceivable. Likewise, it is sometimes suggested that consistency provides the key to modal knowledge. In the first two chapters I carefully distinguish a number of different interpretations (...)
  40. added 2016-02-29
    Modal Basic Epistemology.Scott Thaman Shuger - 1979 - Dissertation, Vanderbilt University
  41. added 2016-02-29
    Possibility and Actuality.Peter Long - 1961 - Mind 70 (278):187-200.
  42. added 2016-02-26
    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 (...)
  43. added 2016-02-01
    Actuality and Possibility.W. E. Morris - 1980 - Philosophy 55 (211):57 - 72.
  44. 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 (...)
  45. added 2015-11-27
    Conceivability and Apparent Possibility.Dominic Gregory - 2010 - In Bob Hale & Aviv Hoffmann (eds.), Modality: Metaphysics, Logic, and Epistemology. Oxford University Press.
  46. added 2015-09-15
    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 (...)
  47. added 2015-06-02
    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 (...)
  48. added 2015-03-23
    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 (...)
  49. added 2014-11-06
    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 (...)
  50. added 2014-10-06
    The Epistemology of Essentialist Claims.Alan Mcmichael - 1986 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 11 (1):33-52.
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