Mind 121 (484):919-950 (2012)

E. J. Lowe
PhD: Oxford University; Last affiliation: Durham University
There is currently intense interest in the question of the source of our presumed knowledge of truths concerning what is, or is not, metaphysically possible or necessary. Some philosophers locate this source in our capacities to conceive or imagine various actual or non-actual states of affairs, but this approach is open to certain familiar and seemingly powerful objections. A different and ostensibly more promising approach has been developed by Timothy Williamson, according to which our capacity for modal knowledge is just an extension, or by-product, of our general capacity to acquire knowledge of true counterfactual conditionals — a capacity that we deploy ubiquitously in everyday life. Williamson’s account crucially involves a thesis to the effect that modal truths can be explained in terms of counterfactual truths. In this paper, I query Williamson’s account on a number of points, including this thesis. My positive proposal, which owes a debt to the work of Kit Fine on modality and essence, appeals instead to our capacity to grasp essences, understood in a neo-Aristotelian fashion, according to which essences are expressed by ‘real definitions’.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2013
DOI 10.1093/mind/fzs122
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,130
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Grounding, Essence, And Identity.Fabrice Correia & Alexander Skiles - 2019 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 98 (3):642-670.
Modality is Not Explainable by Essence.Carlos Romero - 2019 - Philosophical Quarterly 69 (274):121-141.
Metaphysical and Absolute Possibility.Justin Clarke-Doane - 2019 - Synthese 198 (Suppl 8):1861-1872.

View all 80 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Truthmakers and Modality.Ross Paul Cameron - 2008 - Synthese 164 (2):261 - 280.
Modal Knowledge and Counterfactual Knowledge.Sonia Roca-Royes - 2011 - Logique Et Analyse 54 (216):537-552.
Counterfactuals and Modal Epistemology.Tuomas E. Tahko - 2012 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 86 (1):93–115.
Understanding, Modality, Logical Operators. [REVIEW]Christopher Peacocke - 2011 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 82 (2):472 - 480.
Knowledge and Modality.A. Casullo - 2010 - Synthese 172 (3):341 - 359.
Understanding and Essence.Anand Jayprakash Vaidya - 2010 - Philosophia 38 (4):811-833.
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.
Modal Skepticism and Counterfactual Knowledge.Juhani Yli-Vakkuri - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 162 (3):605-623.


Added to PP index

Total views
379 ( #26,659 of 2,506,442 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
14 ( #56,950 of 2,506,442 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes