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EpistemologyNew Essays$
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Quentin Smith

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199264933

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199264933.001.0001

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Intuition and Modal Error

Intuition and Modal Error

Chapter:
(p.189) 8 Intuition and Modal Error
Source:
Epistemology
Author(s):

George Bealer (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199264933.003.0009

Modal intuitions are not only the primary source of modal knowledge but also the primary source of modal error. An explanation of how modal error arises — and, in particular, how erroneous modal intuitions arise — is an essential part of a comprehensive theory of knowledge and evidence. This chapter begins with a summary of certain preliminaries: the phenomenology of intuitions, their fallibility, the nature of concept-understanding and its relationship to the reliability of intuitions, and so forth. It then identifies two sources of modal error: the first has to do with the failure to distinguish between metaphysical possibility and various kinds of epistemic possibility; the second, with the local misunderstanding of one's concepts (as opposed to out-and-out misunderstanding, as in Burge's original arthritis case). The first source of error is widely misunderstood; the second source has not been discussed in philosophical literature. This source of modal error, and the potential to overcome it, has wide-ranging implications for philosophical method. The failure to understand these sources of modal error has recently led to sceptical accounts of intuition and modal error, which are, ultimately self-defeating.

Keywords:   modal intuitions, modal knowledge, intuitions, knowledge and evidence, metaphysical possibility, epistemic possibility

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