Meta-conceivability

Essays in Philosophy 13 (1):12 (2012)
Authors
Phil Corkum
University of Alberta
Abstract
In addition to conceiving of such imaginary scenarios as those involving philosophical zombies, we may conceive of such things being conceived. Call these higher order conceptions ‘meta-conceptions’. Sorensen (2006) holds that one can entertain a meta-conception without thereby conceiving of the embedded lower-order conception. So it seems that I can meta-conceive possibilities which I cannot conceive. If this is correct, then meta-conceptions provide a counter-example to the claim that possibility entails conceivability. Moreover, some of Sorensen’s discussion suggests the following argument: if the conceivability of some proposition entails its possibility, then the meta-conceivability of some proposition entails its possibility; but we can meta-conceive impossibilities; so conceivability doesn’t entail possibility. In this paper, I’ll argue that one cannot entertain a meta-conception without thereby conceiving of the embedded lower-order conception. And so we can neither meta-conceive impossibilities nor meta-conceive possibilities of which we cannot thereby conceive.
Keywords modal epistemology  conceivability  possibility
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