Lowe on Modal Knowledge

Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 3 (3):208-217 (2014)
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Abstract

In recent work, E. J. Lowe presents an essence-based account of our knowledge of metaphysical modality that he claims to be superior to its main competitors. I argue that knowledge of essences alone, without knowledge of a suitable bridge principle, is insufficient for knowing that something is metaphysically necessary or metaphysically possible. Yet given Lowe's other theoretical commitments, he cannot account for our knowledge of the needed bridge principle, and so his essence-based modal epistemology remains incomplete. In addition to that, Lowe's account implies a psychologically unrealistic reconstruction of how we ordinarily acquire knowledge of metaphysical modalities. The discussion of Lowe's suggestive essence-based account is also intended as a case study that illustrates a more general problem in the epistemology of modality: the great difficulty of explaining our modal knowledge in terms of a single overtly nonmodal kind of knowledge. The failure of Lowe's account suggests that such a sweeping reductive explanation of our modal knowledge might simply not be available. This should be good news for those philosophers who champion less reductive or more pluralistic accounts of our modal knowledge.

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Joachim Horvath
Ruhr-Universität Bochum

Citations of this work

Possibility Precedes Actuality.Tuomas E. Tahko - 2023 - Erkenntnis 88 (8):3583-3603.
Empirically-Informed Modal Rationalism.Tuomas Tahko - 2017 - In Robert William Fischer & Felipe Leon (eds.), Modal Epistemology After Rationalism. Synthese Library. pp. 29-45.
The Epistemology of Essence.Tuomas Tahko - 2018 - In Alexander Carruth, S. C. Gibb & John Heil (eds.), Ontology, Modality, Mind: Themes from the Metaphysics of E. J. Lowe. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 93-110.
Putting Modal Metaphysics First.Antonella Mallozzi - 2018 - Synthese (Suppl 8):1-20.

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References found in this work

The Philosophy of Philosophy.Timothy Williamson - 2007 - Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Essence and modality.Kit Fine - 1994 - Philosophical Perspectives 8 (Logic and Language):1-16.
Constructing the World.David John Chalmers (ed.) - 2012 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Mathematical truth.Paul Benacerraf - 1973 - Journal of Philosophy 70 (19):661-679.

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