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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

(p.189) 8 Intuition and Modal Error

George Bealer (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

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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