, Volume 195, Issue 5, pp 2155–2174 | Cite as

Is imagination too liberal for modal epistemology?

  • Derek Lam


Appealing to imagination for modal justification is very common. But not everyone thinks that all imaginings provide modal justification. Recently, Gregory (2010) and Kung (Philos Phenomenol Res 81(3):620–663, 2010) have independently argued that, whereas imaginings with sensory imageries can justify modal beliefs, those without sensory imageries don’t because of such imaginings’ extreme liberty. In this essay, I defend the general modal epistemological relevance of imagining. I argue, first, that when the objections that target the liberal nature of non-sensory imaginings are adequately developed, those objections also threaten the sensory imaginings. So, if we think that non-sensory imaginings are too liberal for modal justification, we should say the same about sensory imaginings. I’ll finish my defense by showing that, when it comes to deciding between saying that all imaginings are prima facie justificatory and saying that no imaginings are justificatory, there is an independent reason for accepting the former.


Modal epistemology Modal skepticism Imagination 


  1. Bealer, G. (2002). Modal epistemology and the rationalist renaissnce. In T. Gendler & J. Hawthorne (Eds.), Conceivability and possiblity (pp. 71–125). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Benaceraff, P. (1973). Mathematical truth. Journal of Philosophy, 70(19), 661–679.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berker, S. (2013). The rejection of epistemic consequentialism. Philosophical Issues, 23, 363–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Byrne, A. (2007). Possibility and imagination. Philosophical Perspectives, 21(1), 125–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chan, T. (Ed.). (2009). The aim of belief. Oxford: OUP.Google Scholar
  6. Chisholm, R. (1980). A version of foundationalism. Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 5(1), 543–564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cruz, J., & Pollock, J. (2004). The chimerical appeal of epistemic externalism. In R. Schantz (Ed.), The external challenge (pp. 125–142). Berlin: De GruyterGoogle Scholar
  8. Currie, G., & Ravenscroft, I. (2002). Recreative minds: Imagination in philosophy and psychology. Oxford: OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fantl, J., & McGrath, M. (2009). Knowledge in an uncertain world. Oxford: OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fiocco, M. (2007). Conceivability, imagination, and modal knowledge. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 74(2), 364–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Geirsson, H. (2005). Conceivability and defeasible modal justification. Philosophical Studies, 122(3), 279–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gregory, D. (2010). Conceivability and apparent possibility. In B. Hale & A. Hoffmann (Eds.), Modality: Metaphysics, logic, and epistemology (pp. 319–341). Oxford: OUPGoogle Scholar
  13. Hartl, P. (2016). Modal scepticism, yablo-style conceivability, and analogical reasoning. Synthese, 193, 269–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Haslanger, S. (2000). Gender and race: (What) are they? (What) do we want them to be? Nous, 34(1), 31–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Haslanger, S. (2006). What good are our intuitions? Philosophical analysis and social kinds. Aristotelian Society Supplementary, 80(1), 89–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hawke, P. (2011). Van Inwagen’s modal skepticism. Philosophical Studies, 153(3), 351–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Huemer, M. (2001). Skepticism and the veil of perception. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
  18. Huemer, M. (2007). Compassionate phenomenal conservatism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 74(1), 30–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ichikawa, J., & Jarvis, B. (2012). Rational imagination and modal knowledge. Noûs, 46(1), 127–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kung, P. (2010). Imagining as a guide to possibility. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 81(3), 620–663.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kung, P. (2016). You really do imagine it: Against error theories of imagination. Noûs, 50(1), 90–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kvanvig, J. (1989). Conservatism and its virtues. Synthese, 79, 143–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Littlejohn, C. (2012). Justification and the truth-connection. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Maitzen, S. (1995). Our errant epistemic aim. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 55(4), 869–876.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. McCain, K. (2008). The virtues of epistemic conservatism. Synthese, 164(2), 185–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. McDowell, J. (2011). Perception as a capacity for knowledge. Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Montmarquet, J. (1993). Epistemic virtue and doxastic responsibility. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  28. Peacocke, C. (2002). Being known. Oxford: OUP.Google Scholar
  29. Pryor, J. (2000). The skeptic and the dogmatist. Nous, 34(4), 517–549.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Quine, W. V. O. (1953a). From a Logical Point of View. Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Quine, W. V. O. (1953b). Two dogmas of empiricism. In From a logical point of view (pp. 20–46). Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Roca-Royes, S. (2011). Conceivability and De Re modal knowledge. Noûs, 45(1), 22–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Schantz, R. (Ed.). (2004). The externalist challenge. Berlin: De Gruyter.Google Scholar
  34. Steglich-Petersen, A. (2009). Truth as the aim of epistemic justification. In Chan (Ed.), The Aim of belief (pp. 204–226).Google Scholar
  35. Strawson, P. (1962). Freedom and resentment. Proceedings of the British Academy, 48, 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Van Inwagen, P. (1998). Modal epistemology. Philosophical Studies, 92(1), 67–84.Google Scholar
  37. Williamson, T. (2007). The philosophy of philosophy. Oxford: OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Yablo, S. (1993). Is conceivability a guide to possibility? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 53(1), 1–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Corcoran Dept. of PhilosophyUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations