Empirically-Informed Modal Rationalism

In Robert William Fischer & Felipe Leon (eds.), Modal Epistemology After Rationalism. Synthese Library. pp. 29-45 (2017)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

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 involving natural kind terms are a good example: the fact that empirical input is crucial in establishing their necessity has clouded the role and content of the a priori input, as I have previously argued. For instance, the supposed metaphysically necessary identity statement involving water and its microstructure can only be established with the help of a controversial a priori principle concerning the determination of chemical properties by microstructure. The Kripke-Putnam framework of modal epistemology fails precisely because it is unclear whether the required a priori element is present. My positive proposal builds on E. J. Lowe’s work. Lowe holds that our knowledge of metaphysical modality is based on our knowledge of essence. Lowe’s account strives to offer a uniform picture of modal epistemology: essence is the basis of all our modal knowledge. This is the basis of Lowe’s modal rationalism. I believe that Lowe’s proposal is on the right lines in the case of abstract objects, but I doubt that it can be successfully applied to the case of natural kinds. Accordingly, the case of natural kinds will be my main focus and I will suggest that modal rationalism, at least as it is traditionally understood, falls short of explaining modal knowledge concerning natural kinds. Yet, I think that Lowe has identified something of crucial importance for modal epistemology, namely the essentialist, a priori elements present in our modal inquiry. The upshot is that rather than moving all the way from modal rationalism to modal empiricism, a type of hybrid approach, ‘empirically-informed modal rationalism ’, can be developed

Links

PhilArchive

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

The Q factor: Modal rationalism versus modal autonomism.Joseph Levine - 2010 - Philosophical Review 119 (3):365-380.
Lowe on Modal Knowledge.Joachim Horvath - 2014 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 3 (3):208-217.
The Epistemology of Essence.Tuomas Tahko - 2018 - In Alexander Carruth, S. C. Gibb & John Heil (eds.), Ontology, Modality, Mind: Themes from the Metaphysics of E. J. Lowe. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 93-110.
Modal Epistemology and the Rationalist Renaissance.George Bealer - 2002 - In Tamar Szabo Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Conceivability and Possibility. Oxford University Press. pp. 71-125.
Understanding and Essence.Anand Jayprakash Vaidya - 2010 - Philosophia 38 (4):811-833.
Essence and modality.Kit Fine - 1994 - Philosophical Perspectives 8 (Logic and Language):1-16.
Norms and Necessity.Amie L. Thomasson - 2013 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 51 (2):143-160.
Modality and supervenience.Danilo Suster - 2000 - Acta Analytica 15:141-155.

Analytics

Added to PP
2014-09-15

Downloads
759 (#11,142)

6 months
47 (#28,447)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Tuomas E. Tahko
University of Bristol

Citations of this work

Putting Modal Metaphysics First.Antonella Mallozzi - 2018 - Synthese (Suppl 8):1-20.
The Epistemology of Essence.Tuomas Tahko - 2018 - In Alexander Carruth, S. C. Gibb & John Heil (eds.), Ontology, Modality, Mind: Themes from the Metaphysics of E. J. Lowe. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 93-110.
Possibility Precedes Actuality.Tuomas E. Tahko - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-21.

View all 9 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

Essence and modality.Kit Fine - 1994 - Philosophical Perspectives 8 (Logic and Language):1-16.
Ontological Dependence.Tuomas E. Tahko & E. J. Lowe - 2020 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Does conceivability entail possibility.David J. Chalmers - 2002 - In Tamar Szabo Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Conceivability and Possibility. Oxford University Press. pp. 145--200.

View all 30 references / Add more references