The epistemology of modality and the problem of modal epistemic friction

Synthese 198 (Suppl 8):1909-1935 (2021)
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There are three theories in the epistemology of modality that have received sustained attention over the past 20 years: conceivability-theory, counterfactual-theory, and deduction-theory. In this paper we argue that all three face what we call the problem of modal epistemic friction. One consequence of the problem is that for any of the three accounts to yield modal knowledge, the account must provide an epistemology of essence. We discuss an attempt to fend off the problem within the context of the internalism versus externalism debate about epistemic justification. We then investigate the effects that the PMEF has on reductive and non-reductive theories of the relation between essence and modality.

Author Profiles

Anand Vaidya
San Jose State University
Michael Wallner
University of Graz


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