On the Relationship Between Conceivability and Possibility

Dissertation, Temple University (2000)

Contemporary analytic philosophy often relies on using conceivability as a guide to possibility. My dissertation addresses the question of whether conceivability is a legitimate guide to possibility. ;In order to understand this method, we need a metaphysics of modality. I defend Aristotelian actualism, the view that only actual entities exist; and what is possible or necessary depends on the actual world, and what might have been possible or necessary depends on what would have been actual had things gone differently. I defend several consequences of this view against Platonism and conventionalism. First, properties, propositions, and possible worlds are dependent on or contingent upon actuality. Second, the accessibility relation among Possible worlds is neither transitive nor symmetric, so T is the strongest valid modal logic. Third, merely possible worlds do not exist; possible worlds should be thought of as heuristic devices, not reifications of what might have been. Fourth, metaphysical or real modality is distinct from logical modality. ;With an Aristotelian actualist metaphysics of modality, I turn to the epistemology of possible worlds. Aristotelian actualism, makes our knowledge of modal truths far less puzzling than its rivals. Our knowledge of modality comes in part from a priori principles of possibility. Modal truths are rooted in the essences of actual things, so our knowledge of modal truths is rooted in our knowledge of actual truths. I defend this claim by explaining why essence and necessity are distinct. ;The Aristotelian actualist's metaphysics and epistemology provide the basis for investigating the relationship between conceivability and possibility. We attain knowledge of the possible via three tools: empirical facts about the actual world, a priori principles of possibility, and conceivability. In most interesting philosophical cases, we do not yet know the relevant principle of possibility. Here, we use a dialectic that involves what we can conceive. This kind of conceivability is fallible, and hence we must use caution
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
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: 71,231
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Modal Epistemology and the Rationalist Renaissance.George Bealer - 2002 - In Tamar Szabo Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Conceivability and Possibility. Oxford University Press. pp. 71-125.
Does Conceivability Entail Possibility.David J. Chalmers - 2002 - In Tamar Szabo Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Conceivability and Possibility. Oxford University Press. pp. 145--200.
Introduction: Conceivability and Possibility.Tamar Szabó Gendler & John Hawthorne - 2002 - In T. Szabó Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Conceivability and Possibility. Oxford University Press. pp. 1--70.
Modal Inquiry: An Epistemological Study.Gordon Barnes - 2000 - Dissertation, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Conceivability and Modal Knowledge.Rene Woudenberg - 2006 - Metaphilosophy 37 (2):210-221.
Meta-Conceivability.Philip Corkum - 2012 - Essays in Philosophy 13 (1):12.


Added to PP index

Total views

Recent downloads (6 months)

How can I increase my downloads?


Sorry, there are not enough data points to plot this chart.

My notes