About this topic
Summary Modal Skepticism is concerned with the question of how much modal knowledge we can genuinely claim to have. Extreme modal skeptics maintain that we have no modal knowledge. Moderate modal skeptics maintain that we are justified in holding a modal beliefs with a certain range for which we have a reliable modal belief forming mechanism. Most philosophers reject extreme modal skepticism. The key issue is how to specify the appropriate range of modal beliefs. 
Key works The key work in modal skepticism is Van Inwagen 1998. In this paper van Inwagen argues against extreme modal skepticism and in favor of moderate modal skepticism. He presents a key challenge to conceivability approaches, especially that of Yablo 1993. The criticism centers around the idea that in order for one to conclude that their conception provides adequate warrant for believing that a proposition is possible, their conception must have a certain grain of detail that is not easily defeasible by further facts. Often it is the case that our conception does not provide us of adequate warrant, because our conception is best explained by our ignorance of certain facts that are clearly relevant. 
Introductions A key introduction is Vaidya 2007
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  1. On a Form of Skeptical Argument From Possibility.Rogers Albritton - 2011 - Philosophical Issues 21 (1):1-24.
  2. Conceivability, Possibility and the Resurrection of Material Beings.Thomas Atkinson - 2016 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 80 (2):115-132.
    In his 1998 postscript to ‘The Possibility of Resurrection’ Peter van Inwagen argues that the scenario he describes by which God might resurrect a human organism, even though probably not true, is still conceivable and, consequently, ‘serves to establish a possibility’, namely, the metaphysical possibility of the resurrection of material beings. Van Inwagen, however, has also argued in favour of ‘modal scepticism’ [van Inwagen in, God, knowledge and mystery: essays in philosophical theology, Cornell University Press, Ithaca 1995b, pp. 11–12; van (...)
  3. Studies in the Philosophy of Logic and Knowledge.Thomas Baldwin & Timothy Smiley (eds.) - 2005 - Oup/British Academy.
    Questions about knowledge, and about the relation between logic and language, are at the heart of philosophy. Eleven distinguished philosophers from Britain and America contribute papers on such questions. All the contributions are examples of recent philosophy at its best. The first half of the book constitutes a running debate about knowledge, evidence and doubt. The second half tackles questions about logic and its relation to language.
  4. The Origins of Modal Error.George Bealer - 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 (...)
  5. A Priori Skepticism.James R. Beebe - 2011 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83 (3):583-602.
    In this article I investigate a neglected form of radical skepticism that questions whether any of our logical, mathematical and other seemingly self-evident beliefs count as knowledge. ‘A priori skepticism,’ as I will call it, challenges our ability to know any of the following sorts of propositions: (1.1) The sum of two and three is five. (1.2) Whatever is square is rectangular. (1.3) Whatever is red is colored. (1.4) No surface can be uniformly red and uniformly blue at the same (...)
  6. Skeptical Theism and Rowe's New Evidential Argument From Evil.Michael Bergmann - 2001 - Noûs 35 (2):278–296.
    Skeptical theists endorse the skeptical thesis (which is consistent with the rejection of theism) that we have no good reason for thinking the possible goods we know of are representative of the possible goods there are. In his newest formulation of the evidential arguments from evil, William Rowe tries to avoid assuming the falsity of this skeptical thesis, presumably because it seems so plausible. I argue that his new argument fails to avoid doing this. Then I defend that skeptical thesis (...)
  7. In Defence of Sceptical Theism: A Reply to Almeida and Oppy.Michael Bergmann & Michael C. Rea - 2005 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (2):241 – 251.
    Some evidential arguments from evil rely on an inference of the following sort: 'If, after thinking hard, we can't think of any God-justifying reason for permitting some horrific evil then it is likely that there is no such reason'. Sceptical theists, us included, say that this inference is not a good one and that evidential arguments from evil that depend on it are, as a result, unsound. Michael Almeida and Graham Oppy have argued (in a previous issue of this journal) (...)
  8. 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 (...)
  9. ``Losing Track of the Sceptic&Quot.Anthony Brueckner - 1985 - Analysis 45:103--104.
  10. Possible Disagreements and Defeat.Brandon Carey - 2011 - Philosophical Studies 155 (3):371-381.
    Conciliatory views about disagreement with one’s epistemic peers lead to a somewhat troubling skeptical conclusion: that often, when we know others disagree, we ought to be (perhaps much) less sure of our beliefs than we typically are. One might attempt to extend this skeptical conclusion by arguing that disagreement with merely possible epistemic agents should be epistemically significant to the same degree as disagreement with actual agents, and that, since for any belief we have, it is possible that someone should (...)
  11. Skepticism and Possibilities.James Cargile - 2000 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 61 (1):157-171.
    One skeptical strategy against A’s claim to know that P is to hold that it is logically possible for someone to have the same “base” for P as A does in spite of its not being true that P. Philosophical replies have focussed on showing that these are not genuine possibilities. Whether they are can be an interesting question of metaphysics, but it is argued in this paper that this metaphysical discussion is not the proper focus for an assessment of (...)
  12. Debunking and Dispensability.Justin Clarke-Doane - 2016 - In Uri D. Leibowitz & Neil Sinclair (eds.), Explanation in Ethics and Mathematics: Debunking and Dispensability. Oxford University Press.
    In his précis of a recent book, Richard Joyce writes, “My contention…is that…any epistemological benefit-of-the-doubt that might have been extended to moral beliefs…will be neutralized by the availability of an empirically confirmed moral genealogy that nowhere…presupposes their truth.” Such reasoning – falling under the heading “Genealogical Debunking Arguments” – is now commonplace. But how might “the availability of an empirically confirmed moral genealogy that nowhere… presupposes” the truth of our moral beliefs “neutralize” whatever “epistemological benefit-of-the-doubt that might have been extended (...)
  13. The Logic of Negative Conceivability.Daniel Cohnitz - manuscript
    Analytic epistemology is traditionally interested in rational reconstructions of cognitive pro- cesses. The purpose of these rational reconstructions is to make plain how a certain cognitive process might eventually result in knowledge or justi?ed beliefs, etc., if we pre-theoretically think that we have such knowledge or such justi?ed beliefs. Typically a rational reconstruction assumes some unproblematic basis of knowledge and some justi?cation-preserving inference pattern and then goes on to show how these two su ce to generate the explicandum.
  14. Modal Skepticism: Philosophical Thought Experiments and Modal Epistemology.Daniel Cohnitz - 2003 - Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook 10:281--296.
    One of the most basic methods of philosophy is, and has always been, the consideration of counterfactual cases and imaginary scenarios. One purpose of doing so obviously is to test our theories against such counterfactual cases. Although this method is widespread, it is far from being commonly accepted. Especially during the last two decades it has been confronted with criticism ranging from complete dismissal to denying only its critical powers to a cautious defense of the use of thought experiments as (...)
  15. Review: Symbolic Scepticism. [REVIEW]Nicholas Denyer - 1991 - Phronesis 36 (3):313 - 318.
  16. Quinean Scepticism About de Re Modality After David Lewis.John Divers - 2007 - European Journal of Philosophy 15 (1):40–62.
  17. The Modal-Knowno Problem.Robert William Fischer & Felipe Leon - 2016 - Southwest Philosophy Review 32 (1):225-232.
  18. Gómez-Torrente on Modality and Tarskian Logical Consequence.Manuel García-Carpintero - 2003 - Theoria 18 (2):159-170.
    Gómez-Torrente’s papers have made important contributions to vindicate Tarski’s model-theoretic account of the logical properties in the face of Etchemendy’s criticisms. However, at some points his vindication depends on interpreting the Tarskian account as purportedly modally deflationary, i.e., as not intended to capture the intuitive modal element in the logical properties, that logical consequence is (epistemic or alethic) necessary truth-preservation. Here it is argued that the views expressed in Tarski’s seminal work do not support this modally deflationary interpretation, even if (...)
  19. Necessity, Caution and Scepticism.Bob Hale & Crispin Wright - 1989 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 63 (1):175 - 238.
  20. Modal Scepticism, Yablo-Style Conceivability, and Analogical Reasoning.Peter Hartl - 2016 - Synthese 193 (1):269-291.
    This paper offers a detailed criticism of different versions of modal scepticism proposed by Van Inwagen and Hawke, and, against these views, attempts to vindicate our reliance on thought experiments in philosophy. More than one different meaning of “ modal scepticism” will be distinguished. Focusing mainly on Hawke’s more detailed view I argue that none of these versions of modal scepticism is compelling, since sceptical conclusions depend on an untenable and, perhaps, incoherent modal epistemology. With a detailed account of modal (...)
  21. 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 (...)
  22. Van Inwagen's Modal Skepticism.Peter Hawke - 2011 - Philosophical Studies 153 (3):351-364.
    In this paper, the author defends Peter van Inwagen’s modal skepticism. Van Inwagen accepts that we have much basic, everyday modal knowledge, but denies that we have the capacity to justify philosophically interesting modal claims that are far removed from this basic knowledge. The author also defends the argument by means of which van Inwagen supports his modal skepticism, offering a rebuttal to an objection along the lines of that proposed by Geirrson. Van Inwagen argues that Stephen Yablo’s recent and (...)
  23. Chalmers on the Apriority of Modal Knowledge.C. S. Hill - 1998 - Analysis 58 (1):20-26.
  24. Induction and Modality.David Johnson - 1991 - Philosophical Review 100 (3):399-430.
  25. On the de-Naturalization of Epistemology.András Kertész - 2002 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 33 (2):269-288.
    Starting from an overview of approaches to naturalized epistemology, the paper shows, firstly, that Quine's programme yields a sceptical paradox. This means that Quine's attempt to defeat scepticism itself yields a rather strong argument for scepticism and thus against his own programme of naturalized epistemology. Secondly, it is shown that this paradox can be solved by an approach called reflexive-heuristic naturalism. Finally, the paper also raises some fundamental problems which the solution proposed has to leave open.
  26. Hilbert's Epistemology.Philip Kitcher - 1976 - Philosophy of Science 43 (1):99-115.
    Hilbert's program attempts to show that our mathematical knowledge can be certain because we are able to know for certain the truths of elementary arithmetic. I argue that, in the absence of a theory of mathematical truth, Hilbert does not have a complete theory of our arithmetical knowledge. Further, while his deployment of a Kantian notion of intuition seems to promise an answer to scepticism, there is no way to complete Hilbert's epistemology which would answer to his avowed aims.
  27. 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 (...)
  28. From Modal Skepticism to Modal Empiricism.Felipe Leon - forthcoming - In Robert William Fischer Felipe Leon (ed.), Modal Epistemology After Rationalism.
    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 (...)
  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. Agnosticismo modal.José Tomás Alvarado Marambio - 2008 - Anuario Filosófico 41 (3):597-620.
  31. Note on a Strong Liberated Modal Logic and its Relevance to Possible World Skepticism.Charles G. Morgan - 1979 - Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 20 (4):718-722.
  32. Deflating skolem.F. A. Muller - 2005 - Synthese 143 (3):223-253.
    . Remarkably, despite the tremendous success of axiomatic set-theory in mathematics, logic and meta-mathematics, e.g., model-theory, two philosophical worries about axiomatic set-theory as the adequate catch of the set-concept keep haunting it. Having dealt with one worry in a previous paper in this journal, we now fulfil a promise made there, namely to deal with the second worry. The second worry is the Skolem Paradox and its ensuing Skolemite skepticism. We present a comparatively novel and simple analysis of the argument (...)
  33. Invariances: The Structure of the Objective World.Robert Nozick - 2001 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
    Excerpts from Robert Nozick's "Invariances" Necessary truths are invariant across all possible worlds, contingent ones across only some.
  34. Theism and Ultimate Explanation: The Necessary Shape of Contingency.Timothy O'Connor - 2008 - Wiley-Blackwell.
    An expansive, yet succinct, analysis of the Philosophy of Religion – from metaphysics through theology. Organized into two sections, the text first examines truths concerning what is possible and what is necessary. These chapters lay the foundation for the book’s second part – the search for a metaphysical framework that permits the possibility of an ultimate explanation that is correct and complete. A cutting-edge scholarly work which engages with the traditional metaphysician’s quest for a true ultimate explanation of the most (...)
  35. It Ain't Necessarily So.Hilary Putnam - 1962 - Journal of Philosophy 59 (22):658-671.
  36. Modal Stability and Warrant.Colin P. Ruloff - 2006 - Philosophia 34 (2):173-188.
    Keith DeRose believes that it is a strength of his contextualist analysis that it explains why the recently much-discussed skeptical Argument from Ignorance (AI) is so persuasive. Not only that, however; DeRose also believes that he is able to explain the underlying dynamics of AI by utilizing solely the epistemological and linguistic resources contained within his contextualist analysis. DeRose believes, in other words, that his contextualist analysis functions as a genuinely self-contained explanation of skepticism. But does it? In this paper (...)
  37. Modal Rationalism and the Objection From the Insolvability of Modal Disagreement.Mihai Rusu - 2016 - Logos and Episteme 7 (2):171-183.
    The objection from the insolvability of principle-based modal disagreements appears to support the claim that there are no objective modal facts, or at the very least modal facts cannot be accounted for by modal rationalist theories. An idea that resurfaced fairly recently in the literature is that the use of ordinary empirical statements presupposes some prior grasp of modal notions. If this is correct, then the idea that we may have a total agreement concerning empirical facts and disagree on modal (...)
  38. Modal Scepticism, Unqualified Modality, and Modal Kinds.Andrea Sauchelli - 2012 - Philosophia 40 (2):403-409.
    I formulate and defend two sceptical theses on specific parts of our modal knowledge (unqualified and absolute modalities). My main point is that unqualified modal sentences are defective in that they fail to belong unambiguously to specific modal kinds and thus cannot be evaluated; hence, we must be sceptical of beliefs involving them.
  39. Epistemic Logic, Skepticism, and Non-Normal Modal Logic.P. K. Schotch & R. E. Jennings - 1981 - Philosophical Studies 40 (1):47 - 67.
    An epistemic logic is built up on the basis of an analysis of two skeptical arguments. the method used is to first construct an inference relation appropriate to epistemic contexts and introduce "a knows that..." as an operator giving rise to sentences closed with respect to this new concept of inference. soundness and completeness proofs are provided using auxiliary three-valued valuations.
  40. Skepticism and Epistemic Logic.Peter K. Schotch - 2000 - Studia Logica 66 (1):187-198.
    This essay attempts to implement epistemic logic through a non-classical inference relation. Given that relation, an account of '(the individual) a knows that A' is constructed as an unfamiliar non-normal modal logic. One advantage to this approach is a new analysis of the skeptical argument.
  41. Against the Logicians. Sextus - 2005 - Cambridge University Press.
    By far the most detailed surviving examination by any ancient Greek sceptic of epistemology and logic, this work critically reviews the pretensions of non-sceptical philosophers, to have discovered methods for determining the truth, either through direct observation or by inference from the observed to the unobserved. A fine example of the Pyrrhonist sceptical method at work, it also provides extensive information about the ideas of other Greek thinkers, which in many instances, are poorly preserved in other sources.
  42. Explanation and Justification in Moral Epistemology.Walter Sinnott-Armstrong - 1999 - The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy 1:117-127.
    Recent exchanges among Harman, Thomson, and their critics about moral explanations have done much to clarify this two-decades-old debate. I discuss some points in these exchanges along with five different kinds of moral explanations that have been proposed. I conclude that moral explanations cannot provide evidence within an unlimited contrast class that includes moral nihilism, but some moral explanations can still provide evidence within limited contrast classes where all competitors accept the necessary presuppositions. This points towards a limited version of (...)
  43. Perceptual Knowledge of Nonactual Possibilities.Margot Strohminger - 2015 - Philosophical Perspectives 29 (1):363-75.
    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 (...)
  44. Modal Humeanism and Arguments From Possibility.Margot Strohminger - 2013 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 113 (3pt3):391-401.
    Sider (2011, 2013) proposes a reductive analysis of metaphysical modality—‘(modal) Humeanism’—and goes on to argue that it has interesting epistemological and methodological implications. In particular, Humeanism is supposed to undermine a class of ‘arguments from possibility’, which includes Sider's (1993) own argument against mereological nihilism and Chalmers's (1996) argument against physicalism. I argue that Sider's arguments do not go through, and moreover that we should instead expect Humeanism to be compatible with the practice of arguing from possibility in philosophy.
  45. Moderate Modal Skepticism.Margot Strohminger & Juhani Yli-Vakkuri - forthcoming - In Matthew A. Benton, John Hawthorne & Dani Rabinowitz (eds.), Knowledge, Belief, and God: New Insights in Religious Epistemology. Oxford University Press.
    This paper examines "moderate modal skepticism", a form of skepticism about metaphysical modality defended by Peter van Inwagen in order to blunt the force of certain modal arguments in the philosophy of religion. Van Inwagen’s argument for moderate modal skepticism assumes Yablo's (1993) influential world-based epistemology of possibility. We raise two problems for this epistemology of possibility, which undermine van Inwagen's argument. We then consider how one might motivate moderate modal skepticism by relying on a different epistemology of possibility, which (...)
  46. The Epistemology of Modality.Margot Strohminger & Juhani Yli-Vakkuri - 2017 - Analysis 77 (4):825-838.
  47. Acquaintance and Possible Worlds.Jennifer Vaughan Taylor - 2008 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 108 (1pt3):393-400.
    I argue that if a subject's acquaintance with an object is necessary for him to think about and refer to the object, then the content of his thought cannot be a set of metaphysically possible worlds. Acquaintance resets what possibilities there are; it affects the powers of representation, and does not only limit the range of possibilities. If acquaintance restricts what a subject can think about, the theorist cannot specify what possibilities are open to the subject simply in terms of (...)
  48. Rule-Circularity and the Justification of Deduction.Neil Tennant - 2005 - Philosophical Quarterly 55 (221):625 - 648.
    I examine Paul Boghossian's recent attempt to argue for scepticism about logical rules. I argue that certain rule- and proof-theoretic considerations can avert such scepticism. Boghossian's 'Tonk Argument' seeks to justify the rule of tonk-introduction by using the rule itself. The argument is subjected here to more detailed proof-theoretic scrutiny than Boghossian undertook. Its sole axiom, the so-called Meaning Postulate for tonk, is shown to be false or devoid of content. It is also shown that the rules of Disquotation and (...)
  49. Godel, Wittgenstein and the Nature of Mathematical Knowledge.Thomas Tymoczko - 1984 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1984:449-468.
    The nature of mathematical knowledge can be understood only by locating the knowing mathematician in an epistemic community. This claim is defended by extending Kripke's version of the Private Language Argument to include informal rules and using Godelian results to argue that such rules rules necessary in mathematics. A committed formalist might evade Kripke's original argument by positing internal mechanisms that determine rule -governed behavior. However, in the presence of informal rules, the formalist position collapses into the extreme skepticism that (...)
  50. Modal Epistemology.Peter Van Inwagen - 1998 - Philosophical Studies 92 (1):67--84.
    Many important metaphysical arguments validly deduce an actuality from a possibility. For example: Because it is possible for me to exist in the absence of anything material, I am not my body. I argue that there is no reason to suppose that our capacity for modal judgment is equal to the task of determining whether the "possibility" premise of any of these arguments is true. I connect this thesis with Stephen Yablo's recent work on the epistemology of modal statements.
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