SOPhiA 2013

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programm - Vortrag

Yablo, Modal Scepticism and the "Dialectics" of Conceivability
(Erkenntnistheorie, Englisch)

How can we know that something is possible? Stephen Yablo defended a sophisticated conceivability-based account about modal knowledge. Since Yablo's intention was to explicate how can we have knowledge about "p is possible"-claims, different sceptical arguments might jeopardise his project. I investigate how could one reply to some general and specific sceptical arguments concerning modal knowledge assuming Yablo's theory as a working hypothesis. I present the main sceptical argument against conceivability arguments in philosophy raised by Van Inwagen. I examine whether the sceptical conclusion is supported by Yablo's position. I will argue that Van Inwagen misrepresents Yablo's theory and his sceptical conclusion derives from that he neglects the "non-ideal", fallibilist feature of Yablo's account.

I offer some additional sceptical arguments, namely, the problem of subjectivist justification, the problem of disagreement, and the scepticism about essentialist principles. The first objection says that Yablo's theory of modal knowledge cannot guarantee inter-subjective justification of possibility claims. Thus, his theory has an unhappy consequence, namely, what is possible is relative to subject. According to the second objection, there is an unsolvable disagreement concerning metaphysical possibility statements, and Yablo cannot explain how can we solve these disagreements. The third sceptical argument intends to show that we cannot have knowledge about essentialist principles, thus we cannot know, for instance, whether Socrates could have been a frog or not.

I investigate how these sceptical worries could be responded. I argue that Yablo's account doesn't lead to either global or local scepticism about conceivability based arguments in philosophy. However, it doesn't mean that either all conceivability arguments or essentialist principles are free from doubt. Built on Yablo's considerations of modal error I sketch a theory about the dialectics of conceivability arguments which might show that we can have at least moderate knowledge of possibility by means of conceivability.

Chair: Martha Cassidy-Brinn
Zeit: 09:45-10:15, 14. September 2013 (Samstag)
Ort: HS 105

Péter Hartl
(University of St Andrews, Ungarn)

Name: Péter Hartl. Degree/Education: 2006, MA equivalent degree (Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest); 2008-2011: postgraduate student at Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Department of Philosophy and History of Science; 2012-2013: MLitt, University of St Andrews. Publications in: epistemology, methodology of philosophy, early modern philosophy, philosophy of Michael Polanyi

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