The Possibility Bias is not Justified

Journal of the American Philosophical Association (forthcoming)
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Necessity, but not possibility, is typically thought to be rare and suspicion-worthy. This manifests in an asymmetry in the burden of proof incurred by modal claims. In general, claims to the effect that some proposition is impossible/necessary require significant argumentative support and, in general, claims to the effect that some proposition is possible/contingent are thought to be justified freely or by default. Call this the possibility bias. In this paper, I argue that the possibility bias is not epistemically justified. We should regard possibility with at least as much suspicion, that is to say as incurring at least as much of an explanatory demand, as necessity. In fact, I suggest that we might even be justified in reversing the burden of proof asymmetry and adopting a necessity bias. This has quite radical implications for philosophical methodology and hence for many first-order philosophical concerns.

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Samuel Kimpton-Nye
King's College London


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