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Essence and modal knowledge

Synthese 198 (Suppl 8):1957-1979 (2018)

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  1. Essence, Explanation, and Modality.Michael Wallner & Anand Vaidya - 2020 - Philosophy 95 (4):419-445.
    Recently, Kit Fine's (1994) view that modal truths aretrue in virtue of,grounded in, orexplained byessentialist truths has been under attack. In what follows we offer two responses to the wave of criticism against his view. While the first response is pretty straightforward, the second is based on the distinction between, what we call,Reductive Finean EssentialismandNon-Reductive Finean Essentialism. Engaging the work of Bob Hale onNon-Reductive Finean Essentialism, we aim to show that the arguments against Fine's view are unconvincing, while we acknowledge (...)
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  • Superexplanations for counterfactual knowledge.Antonella Mallozzi - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 178 (4):1315-1337.
    I discuss several problems for Williamson’s counterfactual-theory of modal knowledge and argue that they have a common source, in that the theory neglects to elucidate the proper constraints on modal reasoning. Williamson puts forward an empirical hypothesis that rests on the role of counterfactual reasoning for modal knowledge. But he overlooks central questions of normative modal epistemology. In order for counterfactual reasoning to yield correct beliefs about modality, it needs to be suitably constrained. I argue that what is needed is, (...)
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  • Modal inferences in science: a tale of two epistemologies.Ilmari Hirvonen, Rami Koskinen & Ilkka Pättiniemi - 2021 - Synthese 199 (5-6):13823-13843.
    Recent epistemology of modality has seen a growing trend towards metaphysics-first approaches. Contrastingly, this paper offers a more philosophically modest account of justifying modal claims, focusing on the practices of scientific modal inferences. Two ways of making such inferences are identified and analyzed: actualist-manipulationist modality and relative modality. In AM, what is observed to be or not to be the case in actuality or under manipulations, allows us to make modal inferences. AM-based inferences are fallible, but the same holds for (...)
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  • Counterfactual Logic and the Necessity of Mathematics.Samuel Z. Elgin - 2020 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 50 (1):97-115.
    This paper is concerned with counterfactual logic and its implications for the modal status of mathematical claims. It is most directly a response to an ambitious program by Yli-Vakkuri and Hawthorne, who seek to establish that mathematics is committed to its own necessity. I demonstrate that their assumptions collapse the counterfactual conditional into the material conditional. This collapse entails the success of counterfactual strengthening, which is controversial within counterfactual logic, and which has counterexamples within pure and applied mathematics. I close (...)
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  • Counterfactuals versus conceivability as a guide to modal knowledge.Daniel Dohrn - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (12):3637-3659.
    I compare two prominent approaches to knowledge of metaphysical modality, the more traditional approach via conceiving viz. imagining a scenario and a more recent approach via counterfactual reasoning. In particular, Timothy Williamson has claimed that the proper context for a modal exercise of imagination is a counterfactual supposition. I critically assess this claim, arguing that a purely conceivability/imaginability-based approach has a key advantage compared to a counterfactual-based one. It can take on board Williamson’s insights about the structure of modal imagination (...)
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  • Pricean reflection.John Bengson, Terence Cuneo & Russ Shafer-Landau - 2022 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 31 (4):744-761.
    We offer a reconstruction of Richard Price’s intuition-based epistemology of normative essences, highlighting its key elements and showing how it differs from the approaches taken by other intuitionists such as Thomas Reid and G. E. Moore, as well as sentimentalists such as Francis Hutcheson and David Hume. While our analysis aims to shed light on Price’s moral epistemology, it also seeks to contribute to contemporary debates about the epistemology of essence, advancing a general intuition-based theory. These two goals are related, (...)
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  • Generalized Identity, Zero-Ground, and Necessity.Yannic Kappes - manuscript
    This paper offers a modification of Fabrice Correia's and Alexander Skiles' ("Grounding, Essence, and Identity") definition of grounding in terms of generalized identity that extends it to zero-grounding. This definition promises to improve our understanding of zero-grounding by capturing it within the framework of generalized identity and allows an essentialist theory of modality based on Correia's and Skiles' account to resist a recent challenge by Jessica Leech. The latter is achieved by combining the following two ideas: (1) Some necessities are (...)
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  • Counterfactual Logic and the Necessity of Mathematics.Samuel Elgin - manuscript
    This paper is concerned with counterfactual logic and its implications for the modal status of mathematical claims. It is most directly a response to an ambitious program by Yli-Vakkuri and Hawthorne (2018), who seek to establish that mathematics is committed to its own necessity. I claim that their argument fails to establish this result for two reasons. First, their assumptions force our hand on a controversial debate within counterfactual logic. In particular, they license counterfactual strengthening— the inference from ‘If A (...)
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