About this topic
Summary Modal Rationalism in general refers to any attempt to explain modal knowledge through a rationalist program. However, 'modal rationalism' specifically refers to the a thesis advocated by David Chalmers. The thesis maintains that primary positive ideal conceivability entails primary possibility. Rationalist approaches are opposed to empiricist approaches, and to approaches that maintain that modal knowledge is a species of armchair knowledge, knowledge that is not clearly a priori or a posteriori. The key questions concerning modal rationalism are: how best should we specify the mechanism by which we acquire modal knowledge? What is the appropriate range of modal beliefs that are correctly captured by the rationalist approach?
Key works The key modal rationalist approaches are given by Peacocke 1998,Bealer 2002, and Chalmers 2002. Peacocke argues for an approach on which we come to have modal knowledge because we have implicit knowledge of Principles of Possibility that determine whether a given state of affairs is possible just as we rely on principles of grammaticality that determine whether a given set of sentences are grammatical. Bealer argues for an approach on which our intuitions about modality are reliable because of the nature of what it means to possesses a concept with competence. And Chalmers argues for an approach on which we have knowledge of modality based on conceivability. The key move on his approach is to explain the link between conceivability and possibility via two-dimensional semantics. 
Introductions For an introduction seeVaidya 2007
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  1. Modal Inquiry: An Epistemological Study.Gordon Barnes - 2000 - Dissertation, University of Wisconsin, Madison
    The subject of this dissertation is the entitlement to modal beliefs, such as the belief that a proposition is necessarily true, or the belief that a proposition is possibly true. My thesis is that the entitlement to modal beliefs has two dimensions, one active and one passive. In the active dimension, someone is entitled to a modal belief just in case he has conducted the appropriate thought experiments. In the passive dimension, someone is entitled to a modal belief just in (...)
  2. The Origins of Modal Error.Bealer George - 2004 - Dialectica 58 (1):11-42.
    Modal intuitions are the primary source of modal knowledge but also of modal error. According to the theory of modal error in this paper, modal intuitions retain their evidential force in spite of their fallibility, and erroneous modal intuitions are in principle identifiable and eliminable by subjecting our intuitions to a priori dialectic. After an inventory of standard sources of modal error, two further sources are examined in detail. The first source ‐ namely, the failure to distinguish between metaphysical possibility (...)
  3. 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 (...)
  4. A Priori Knowledge.George Bealer - 2000 - The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy 5:1-12.
    This paper is a condensed version of the author’s “A Theory of the A Priori” (Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 2000) for the evidential status of intuitions, the incoherence of radical empiricism. the thesis of modal reliabilism, and the Autonomy of Philosophy Thesis (according to which the a priori disciplines are autonomous from empirical science).
  5. A Priori Knowledge and the Scope of Philosophy.George Bealer - 1996 - Philosophical Studies 81 (2-3):121-142.
    This paper provides a defense of two traditional theses: the Autonomy of Philosophy and the Authority of Philosophy. The first step is a defense of the evidential status of intuitions (intellectual seemings). Rival views (such as radical empiricism), which reject the evidential status of intuitions, are shown to be epistemically self-defeating. It is then argued that the only way to explain the evidential status of intuitions is to invoke modal reliabilism. This theory requires that intuitions have a certain qualified modal (...)
  6. The Philosophical Limits of Scientific Essentialism.George Bealer - 1987 - Philosophical Perspectives 1:289-365.
    Scientific essentialism is the view that some necessities can be known only with the aid of empirical science. The thesis of the paper is that scientific essentialism does not extend to the central questions of philosophy and that these questions can be answered a priori. The argument is that the evidence required for the defense of scientific essentialism is reliable only if the intuitions required by philosophy to answer its central questions is also reliable. Included is an outline of a (...)
  7. Conceivability and Possibility: Some Dilemmas for Humeans.Francesco Berto & Tom Schoonen - forthcoming - Synthese:1-19.
    The Humean view that conceivability entails possibility can be criticized via input from cognitive psychology. A mainstream view here has it that there are two candidate codings for mental representations (one of them being, according to some, reducible to the other): the linguistic and the pictorial, the difference between the two consisting in the degree of arbitrariness of the representation relation. If the conceivability of P at issue for Humeans involves the having of a linguistic mental representation, then it is (...)
  8. Chalmers' “Unholy Stew”: Review of 'Constructing the World' by David Chalmers. [REVIEW]Richard Brown - 2013 - The Philosophers' Magazine 61 (61):115-118.
    This highly technical book is densely packed with arguments and is an important addition to the literature. Even if one ultimately disagrees with Chalmers there is much to be gained in his exhaustive study, and he goes out of his way to show how one can accept limited or modified versions of scrutability. It is impossible for me to do justice to his argumentative rigor and comprehensive coverage of possible views in the space I have here. In the end I (...)
  9. A Plea for a Modal Realist Epistemology.Otavio Bueno & Scott A. Shalkowski - 2000 - Acta Analytica 24 (24):175--194.
    In this paper we examine Lewis's attempts to provide an epistemology of modality and we argue that he fails to provide an account that properly weds his metaphysics with an epistemology that explains the knowledge of modality that both he and his critics grant. We argue that neither the appeals to acceptable paraphrases of ordinary modal discourse nor parallels with Platonistic theories of mathematics suffice. We conclude that no proper epistemology for modal realism has been provided and that one is (...)
  10. The Discovery That Phosphorus is Hesperus: A Follow-Up to Kripke on the Necessity of Identity.M. J. García-Encinas - 2017 - Analysis and Metaphysics 16:52-69.
    It was an empirical discovery that Phosphorus is Hesperus. According to Kripke, this was also the discovery of a necessary fact. Now, given Kripke’s theory of direct reference one could wonder what kind of discovery this is. For we already knew Phosphorus/Hesperus, and we also knew that any entity is, necessarily, identical to itself. So what is it that was discovered? I want to show that there is more to this widely known case than what usual readings, and critics, reveal; (...)
  11. 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.
  12. 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 (...)
  13. Imagining Possibilities.Dominic Gregory - 2004 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 69 (2):327-348.
    This paper argues that the imaginability of propositions of a certain kind under certain special circumstances implies their possibility. It then attempts to use that conclusion in doing some modal epistemology. In particular, the paper argues that the conclusion justifies some ascriptions of possibility and that it promises to justify some ascriptions of impossibility.
  14. Knowledge of Possibility and of Necessity.Bob Hale - 2002 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 103 (1):1-20.
  15. How Do We Know Necessary Truths? Kant's Answer.Hanna Robert - 1998 - European Journal of Philosophy 6 (2):115-145.
    It is traditionally held that our knowledge of necessity is a priori; but the familiar theories of a priori knowledge – platonism and conventionalism – have now been discredited, and replaced by either modal skepticism or a posteriori essentialism. The main thesis of this paper is that Kant's theory of a priori knowledge, when detached from his transcendental idealism, offers a genuine alternative to these unpalatable options. According to Kant's doctrine, all epistemic necessity is grounded directly or indirectly on our (...)
  16. 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. (...)
  17. Actuality and Modal Rationalism.Keith Hossack - 2007 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 107 (1pt3):433-456.
  18. The Metaphysics of Knowledge.Keith Hossack - 2007 - Oxford University Press.
    The Metaphysics of Knowledge presents the thesis that knowledge is an absolutely fundamental relation, with an indispensable role to play in metaphysics, philosophical logic, and philosophy of mind and language. Knowledge has been generally assumed to be a propositional attitude like belief. But Keith Hossack argues that knowledge is not a relation to a content; rather, it a relation to a fact. This point of view allows us to explain many of the concepts of philosophical logic in terms of knowledge. (...)
  19. Rational Imagination and Modal Knowledge.Jonathan Ichikawa & Benjamin Jarvis - 2012 - Noûs 46 (1):127 - 158.
    How do we know what's (metaphysically) possible and impossible? Arguments from Kripke and Putnam suggest that possibility is not merely a matter of (coherent) conceivability/imaginability. For example, we can coherently imagine that Hesperus and Phosphorus are distinct objects even though they are not possibly distinct. Despite this apparent problem, we suggest, nevertheless, that imagination plays an important role in an adequate modal epistemology. When we discover what is possible or what is impossible, we generally exploit important connections between what is (...)
  20. Why We Need A-Intensions.Frank Jackson - 2004 - Philosophical Studies 118 (1-2):257-277.
    I think recent discussions of content and reference have not paid enough attention to the role of language as a convention-governed system of communication. With this as a background theme, I explain the role of A-intensions in elucidating one important notion of content and correlative notions of reference.
  21. From Metaphysics to Ethics: A Defence of Conceptual Analysis.Frank Jackson - 1998 - Oxford University Press.
    Frank Jackson champions the cause of conceptual analysis as central to philosophical inquiry. In recent years conceptual analysis has been undervalued and widely misunderstood, suggests Jackson. He argues that such analysis is mistakenly clouded in mystery, preventing a whole range of important questions from being productively addressed. He anchors his argument in discussions of specific philosophical issues, starting with the metaphysical doctrine of physicalism and moving on, via free will, meaning, personal identity, motion, and change, to ethics and the philosophy (...)
  22. 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 (...)
  23. Konstituirovanie pliuralizma obrazov nauki kak istoricheskaia zadacha fenomenologii (Constituting of Plural Images of Science as Historical Task of Philosophy).Sergey Kulikov - 2014 - HORIZON. Studies in Phenomenology 3 (2):9-20.
    The main purpose of article is representation of conceptual introduction to a cycle of the future researches devoted to reconstruction of phenomenological views on processes of creation of images of science. That purpose is achieved as a result of detection of key features (the conceptual bases) of pre-phenomenological and phenomenological ways of a reflection of science. Research leans on a method of the comparative analysis. Classical and non-classical variant of creation of images of science were compared. Members of classical philosophy (...)
  24. Is Imagination Too Liberal for Modal Epistemology?Derek Lam - forthcoming - Synthese:1-20.
    Appealing to imagination for modal justification is very common. But not everyone thinks that all imaginings provide modal justification. Recently, Gregory (2010) and Kung (2010) have independently argued that, whereas imaginings with sensory imageries can justify modal beliefs, those without sensory imageries don’t because of such imaginings’ extreme liberty. In this essay, I defend the general modal epistemological relevance of imagining. I argue, first, that when the objections that target the liberal nature of non-sensory imaginings are adequately developed, those objections (...)
  25. Modal Rationalism.Jessica Leech - 2011 - Dialectica 65 (1):103-115.
    Hossack (2007) defends what he calls the rationalist thesis: the thesis that necessity reduces to (or at least always coincides with) a priori knowledge. In this paper I discuss some features of Hossack’s rationalist account of necessity. In the first half, I attempt to fill in a missing link in the rationalist thesis, connecting the notions of primitiveness of facts and a priori modes of presentation. In the second half, I complain that the strategy of dissolving counterexamples is not enough, (...)
  26. The Hardness of the Iconic Must: Can Peirce's Existential Graphs Assist Modal Epistemology?C. Legg - 2012 - Philosophia Mathematica 20 (1):1-24.
    Charles Peirce's diagrammatic logic — the Existential Graphs — is presented as a tool for illuminating how we know necessity, in answer to Benacerraf's famous challenge that most ‘semantics for mathematics’ do not ‘fit an acceptable epistemology’. It is suggested that necessary reasoning is in essence a recognition that a certain structure has the particular structure that it has. This means that, contra Hume and his contemporary heirs, necessity is observable. One just needs to pay attention, not merely to individual (...)
  27. The Q Factor: Modal Rationalism Versus Modal Autonomism.Joseph Levine - 2010 - Philosophical Review 119 (3):365-380.
    Type-B materialists (to use David Chalmers's jargon) claim that though zombies are conceivable, they are not metaphysically possible. This article calls this position regarding the relation between metaphysical and epistemic modality “modal autonomism,” as opposed to the “modal rationalism” endorsed by David Chalmers and Frank Jackson, who insist on a deep link between the two forms of modality. This article argues that the defense of modal rationalism presented in Chalmers and Jackson (2001) begs the question against the type-B materialist/modal autonomist. (...)
  28. Metaphysical Knowledge.E. J. Lowe - 2002 - Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale (4):453--471.
  29. A Priori Knowledge Contextualised and Benacerraf's Dilemma.Maja Malec - 2004 - Acta Analytica 19 (33):31-44.
    In this article, I discuss Hawthorne'€™s contextualist solution to Benacerraf'€™s dilemma. He wants to find a satisfactory epistemology to go with realist ontology, namely with causally inaccessible mathematical and modal entities. I claim that he is unsuccessful. The contextualist theories of knowledge attributions were primarily developed as a response to the skeptical argument based on the deductive closure principle. Hawthorne uses the same strategy in his attempt to solve the epistemologist puzzle facing the proponents of mathematical and modal realism, but (...)
  30. Rationalism and the Content of Intuitive Judgements.Anna-Sara Malmgren - 2011 - Mind 120 (478):263-327.
    It is commonly held that our intuitive judgements about imaginary problem cases are justified a priori, if and when they are justified at all. In this paper I defend this view — ‘rationalism’ — against a recent objection by Timothy Williamson. I argue that his objection fails on multiple grounds, but the reasons why it fails are instructive. Williamson argues from a claim about the semantics of intuitive judgements, to a claim about their psychological underpinnings, to the denial of rationalism. (...)
  31. Modalizing Mechanisms.Manolo Martínez - 2015 - Journal of Philosophy 112 (12):658-670.
    It is widely held that it is unhelpful to model our epistemic access to modal facts on the basis of perception, and postulate the existence of a bodily mechanism attuned to modal features of the world. In this paper I defend modalizing mechanisms. I present and discuss a decision-theoretic model in which agents with severely limited cognitive abilities, at the end of an evolutionary process, have states which encode substantial information about the probabilities with which the outcomes of a certain (...)
  32. Does Conceivability Entail Metaphysical Possibility?Moti Mizrahi & David R. Morrow - 2015 - Ratio 28 (1):1-13.
    In this paper, we argue that ‘Weak Modal Rationalism’, which is the view that ideal primary positive conceivability entails primary metaphysical possibility, is self-defeating. To this end, we outline two reductio arguments against ‘Weak Modal Rationalism’. The first reductio shows that, from supposing that ‘Weak Modal Rationalism’ is true, it follows that conceivability both is and is not conclusive evidence for possibility. The second reductio shows that, from supposing that ‘Weak Modal Rationalism’ is true, it follows that it is possible (...)
  33. The Modus Cogitandi of Heraclitus.Michael M. Nikoletseas - 2015
    This is a new reading of Heraclitus by a natural scientist who challenges the traditional view of Heraclitus as the philosopher of flux. A parallel analysis of Heraclitus and Parmenides removes the alleged enigmas and obscurity of their thought, and reveals groundbreaking epistemological thinking. Heraclitus' work is simply an epistemological essay, an essay on method in natural science.
  34. Being Known.Christopher Peacocke - 1998 - Oxford University Press.
    Being Known is a response to a philosophical challenge which arises for every area of thought: to reconcile a plausible account of what is involved in the truth of statements in a given area with a credible account of how we can know those statements. Christopher Peacocke presents a framework for addressing the challenge, a framework which links both the theory of knowledge and the theory of truth with the theory of concept-possession.
  35. Imagination and Justification.C. G. Prado - 1988 - The Monist 71 (3):377-388.
  36. Modal Empiricism and Knowledge of De Re Possibilities: A Critique of Roca-Royes' Account.Duško Prelević - 2015 - Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 22 (4):488–498.
    Accounting for our knowledge of de re modalities is probably the main reason why the proponents of modal empiricism think that their view should be preferred to modal rationalism. In this paper, I address Sonia Roca-Royes' account, which is taken to be a representative modal empiricist view, in order to show that modal empiricism faces serious problems even in explaining our knowledge of possibility de re, something which seems to be the easiest thing to explain on this view. I argue (...)
  37. Čalmersova odbrana argumenta na osnovu zamislivosti.Duško Prelević - 2011 - Theoria: Beograd 54 (2):25–55.
    Modalni racionalizam je stanovište po kome se iz zamislivosti a priori može izvesti metafizička mogućnost. Jedan od najuticajnijih prigovora protiv ovog stanovišta je da postoje nužni aposteriorni iskazi, jer se čini da je zamislivo da su ovi iskazi lažni, ali da je to metafizički nemoguće. Dejvid Čalmers je, koristeći epistemičku verziju dvodimenzionalne semantike, pokazao da modalni racionalizam može da bude kompatibilan sa postojanjem nužnih aposteriornih iskaza. Takođe je ponudio relevantan smisao zamislivosti, koji se a priori može povezati sa relevantnim smislom (...)
  38. Von Wright, Rationalism and Modality.L. C. Rice - 1977 - International Logic Review 15:53.
  39. The Philosophy of Philosophy, by Timothy Williamson.Luis S. Robledo - 2008 - Disputatio.
  40. Modal Epistemology, Modal Concepts and the Integration Challenge.Sonia Roca-Royes - 2010 - Dialectica 64 (3):335-361.
    The paper argues against Peacocke's moderate rationalism in modality. In the first part, I show, by identifying an argumentative gap in its epistemology, that Peacocke's account has not met the Integration Challenge. I then argue that we should modify the account's metaphysics of modal concepts in order to avoid implausible consequences with regards to their possession conditions. This modification generates no extra explanatory gap. Yet, once the minimal modification that avoids those implausible consequences is made, the resulting account cannot support (...)
  41. A Review of Timothy Williamson's the Philosophy of Philosophy. [REVIEW]Gillian Russell - 2010 - Philosophical Books 51 (1):39-52.
  42. On the Epistemology of Modal Rationalism: The Main Problems and Their Significance.Mihai Rusu - 2015 - Logos and Episteme 6 (1):75-94.
    In this paper, I discuss the main characteristics of the epistemology of modal rationalism by proceeding from the critical investigation of Peacocke’s theory of modality. I build on arguments by Crispin Wright and Sonia Roca-Royes, which are generalised and supplemented by further analysis, in order to show that principle-based accounts have little prospects of succeeding in their task of providing an integrated account of the metaphysics and the epistemology of modality. I argue that it is unlikely that we will able (...)
  43. What Might Be and What Might Have Been. Schnieder, Schulz & Steinberg - manuscript
    In describing and classifying things we often rely on their modal characteristics. We will in general not have a satisfactory account of the nature and character of an object, unless we specify at least partly how the thing might be or cannot be, and also how it might have been or could not have been. In his contribution to the Second Jerusalem Philosophical Encounter,1 Strawson addressed the issue of how to understand such ascriptions of modal characteristics. Although his paper is (...)
  44. Bealer on the Autonomy of Philosophical and Scientific Knowledge.Michael J. Shaffer - 2007 - Metaphilosophy 38 (1):44–54.
    In a series of influential articles, George Bealer argues for the autonomy of philosophical knowledge on the basis that philosophically known truths must be necessary truths. The main point of his argument is that the truths investigated by the sciences are contingent truths to be discovered a posteriori by observation, while the truths of philosophy are necessary truths to be discovered a priori by intuition. The project of assimilating philosophy to the sciences is supposed to be rendered illegitimate by the (...)
  45. "Passage and Possibility: A Study of Aristotle's Modal Concepts" by Sarah Waterlow. [REVIEW]Lynne Spellman - 1986 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 46 (4):688.
  46. The Epistemology of Modality.Margot Strohminger & Juhani Yli-Vakkuri - 2017 - Analysis 77:anx058.
  47. The Epistemology of Essence.Tuomas E. Tahko - forthcoming - In Alexander Carruth, S. C. Gibb & John Heil (eds.), Ontology, Modality, Mind: Themes from the Metaphysics of E. J. Lowe. Oxford University Press.
    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 (...)
  48. Empirically-Informed Modal Rationalism.Tuomas E. 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 (...)
  49. 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.
  50. Modal Rationalism and the Transference of Meaning.James L. Trafford - 2010 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 10 (2):97-107.
    The lesson is familiar. Kripke’s arguments in favor of a posteriori necessary truths annul the idea that conceivability is a guide to metaphysical possibility because determining that which is a priori is a separate issue from determining that which is necessary. Modal rationalists do not completely agree with this conclusion. Following recent work on two-dimensional semantics, David Chalmers suggests that two distinct semantic values can be assigned to a statement, depending on whether we consider possible worlds as counterfactual or counteractual. (...)
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