The Blurred Line between Epistemic and Metaphysical Modalities in the Modal Epistemology of Imagination

Abstract

Modal epistemologies that rely on a fallibilism about modal claims have been gaining traction over the years. This paper critically discusses the accounts of Kung (2009; 2010; 2016) and Dohrn (2018; 2019; 2020) and argues that they are invariably susceptible to being read as entailing claims of epistemic possibility. Both Kung and Dohrn seek to ground modal intuitions on non-modal ones, and primarily appeal to the modalizing capacity of imagination to aid in the discovery of modal truths. However, insofar as inference from non-modal imagination to modal truths remains fallible, then no non-ad hoc distinction can be made between substantiation of fallible metaphysically modal claims and infallible epistemically modal ones. This is because, barring an agent’s infallible knowledge of modal truths, how these truths are asserted must attend the agent’s imperfect epistemic access thereof, therefore entailing claims of modality consistent with her epistemic state – i.e., claims of epistemic possibility. If modal epistemologies in general non-modally ground their modal assertions in this fallible fashion, then they seem inevitably interpretable in terms of epistemic possibility as opposed to some non-epistemic reading of metaphysical possibility.

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