Imagination, Modal Knowledge, and Modal Understanding

In Íngrid Vendrell-Ferran & Christiana Werner (eds.), Imagination and Experience: Philosophical Explorations. Routledge (forthcoming)
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Recent work on the imagination has stressed the epistemic significance of imaginative experiences, notably in justifying modal beliefs. An immediate problem with this is that modal beliefs appear to admit of justification through the mere exercise of rational capacities. For instance, mastery of the concepts of square, circle, and possibility should suffice to form the justified belief that a square circle is not possible, and mastery of the concepts of pig, flying, and possibility should suffice to form a justified belief that a flying pig is possible. It is thus unnecessary to try to imagine a square circle or a flying pig to justify these beliefs. In this paper, I consider three ways to defend the epistemic role of imagination in modal epistemology against this challenge. One claims that modal beliefs simply admit of justification by two separate sources: rational capacities and imaginative experience. Another holds that while beliefs about logical or conceptual modality can be justified entirely by rational capacities, beliefs about metaphysical modality require imaginative experiences. The third, which I defend, is the idea that imagination is relevant in the first instance not to modal knowledge but to modal understanding: even where imaginative experience is unnecessary for the justification of modal beliefs, it is indispensable for directly grasping certain modal propositions.

Author's Profile

Uriah Kriegel
Rice University


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