Modal Empiricism Made Difficult: An Essay in the Meta-Epistemology of Modality

Dissertation, University of Gothenburg (2019)
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Abstract

Philosophers have always taken an interest not only in what is actually the case, but in what is necessarily the case and what could possibly be the case. These are questions of modality. Epistemologists of modality enquire into how we can know what is necessary and what is possible. This dissertation concerns the meta-epistemology of modality. It engages with the rules that govern construction and evaluation of theories in the epistemology of modality, by using modal empiricism – a form of modal epistemology – as a running example. In particular, I investigate the assumption that it is important to be able to meet the integration challenge. Meeting the integration challenge is a source of serious difficulty for many approaches, but modal empiricism is supposed to do well in this respect. But I argue that once we have a better grasp of what the integration challenge is, it is not obvious that it presents no problem for modal empiricism. Moreover, even if modal empiricism could be said to be in a relatively good position with respect to integration, it comes at the cost of a forced choice between far-reaching partial modal scepticism and non-uniformism about the epistemology of modality. Non-uniformism is the view that more than one modal epistemology will be correct. While non-uniformism might not in itself be unpalatable, it must be defined and defended in a way which squares with the modal empiricist’s other commitment. I explore two ways of doing so, both involving a revised idea of the integration challenge and its role for the epistemology of modality. One involves a bifurcation of the integration challenge, and the other a restriction of the integration challenge’s relevance. Both ways are interesting, but neither is, as it turns out, a walk in the park.

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Ylwa Sjölin Wirling
University of Gothenburg

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