Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 28 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines some philosophical questions about knowledge of modality, including how we determine whether a proposition is necessary or contingent and what procedures to use for recognizing possibility. It maintains that virtually anything is conceivable, and that conceivability is therefore incapable of providing a reliable test for possibility. Whether a conceivable state of affairs is genuinely possible depends on whether it is compatible with the class of necessary truths. But this means that we must have some independent way of recognizing necessity. The article explains that independent access to necessity in terms of the hypothesis that various modal truths constitute an implicit definition of necessity. To a large extent, our knowledge of necessity derives from our grasp of this definition. The article also criticizes Cartesian modal arguments for dualism, and raises an objection to the view that metaphysical necessity can be reductively explained in terms of subjunctive conditionals.

Keywords: conceivability, possibility, necessity, Cartesian modal arguments, subjunctive conditionals

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.