SOPhiA 2022

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

SOPhiA ToolsDE-pageEN-page

Programme - Talk

Models and Modal Knowledge
(Plenary Lecture, English, Location: HS E.002)

Are models a source of modal knowledge? Or do they only encode information that is relevant to obtain and establish such knowledge? In this paper, I examine this issue by considering some approaches to the epistemology of modality and the epistemology of models in science. I focus on views that defend that there is a very close connection between scientific models and modal knowledge and justification (Fischer [2017]) and views that emphasize that modality are features of models (van Fraassen [1980] and [1989]), with the resulting conclusion that modal knowledge (assuming that there is any) should emerge from model knowledge (that is, knowledge of the models). In contrast with these views, I argue that models convey relevant information about the modal, but they themselves are not the source of modal knowledge. Rather, modal knowledge results from knowledge of the relevant properties of the objects under consideration, and models typically have an auxiliary role of encoding some of the relevant information. In this respect, the epistemology of modality is not significantly different from the epistemology of scientific models in that it uses models as a useful device to infer information about the relevant objects, but it is ultimately one?s access to the objects and their properties that provides the proper grounds for modal knowledge. Modality is then understood as an objective feature of the objects under consideration (in contrast with van Fraassen?s proposal) and modal knowledge and justification depends neither on inference to the best explanation nor on theoretical virtues more generally (in contrast with Fischer's view). A form of empiricist modalism is then recommended (Bueno and Shalkowski [2015] and [2020]).


Bueno, O., and Shalkowski, S. [2015]: "Modalism and Theoretical Virtues: Toward an Epistemology of Modality", Philosophical Studies 172, pp. 671-689.
Bueno, O., and Shalkowski, S. [2020]: "Troubles with Theoretical Virtues: Resisting Theoretical Utility Arguments in Metaphysics", Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 101, pp. 456-469.
Fischer, B. [2017]: Modal Justification via Theories. Cham: Springer.
van Fraassen, B.C. [1980]: The Scientific Image. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
van Fraassen, B.C. [1989]: Laws and Symmetry. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Chair: Christian J. Feldbacher
Time: 16:45-18:15, 09. September 2022 (Friday)
Location: HS E.002
Remark: (Online Talk)

Otavio Bueno 
(University of Miami, USA)

Testability and Meaning deco