Does Conceivability Entail Metaphysical Possibility?

Authors


  • An earlier version of this paper was presented at the First Annual Philosophers' Cocoon conference at the University of Tampa. We would like to thank Marcus Arvan, Clayton Littlejohn, Robert William Fischer, Ted Parent, Justin Snedegar, Mark Alfano, and Tuomas Tahko for helpful discussion. Finally, we are grateful to several anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier drafts.

Abstract

In this paper, we argue that ‘Weak Modal Rationalism’, which is the view that ideal primary positive conceivability entails primary metaphysical possibility, is self-defeating. To this end, we outline two reductio arguments against ‘Weak Modal Rationalism’. The first reductio shows that, from supposing that ‘Weak Modal Rationalism’ is true, it follows that conceivability both is and is not conclusive evidence for possibility. The second reductio shows that, from supposing that ‘Weak Modal Rationalism’ is true, it follows that it is possible that ‘Weak Modal Rationalism’ is necessarily false, and hence that ‘Weak Modal Rationalism’ is false. We then argue that adopting a weaker position according to which conceivability is merely prima facie evidence for possibility provides limited protection from our criticism of conceivability arguments.

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