Empirically-Informed Modal Rationalism

  • Tuomas E. TahkoEmail author
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 378)


In this chapter, it is suggested that our epistemic access to metaphysical modality generally involves rationalist, a priori elements. However, these a priori elements are much more subtle than ‘traditional’ modal rationalism assumes. In fact, some might even question the ‘apriority’ of these elements, but I should stress that I consider a priori and a posteriori elements especially in our modal inquiry to be so deeply intertwined that it is not easy to tell them apart. Supposed metaphysically necessary identity statements involving natural kind terms are a good example: the fact that empirical input is crucial in establishing their necessity has clouded the role and content of the a priori input, as I have previously argued (Tahko 2015). For instance, the supposed metaphysically necessary identity statement involving water and its microstructure can only be established with the help of a controversial a priori principle concerning the determination of chemical properties by microstructure. The Kripke-Putnam framework of modal epistemology fails precisely because it is unclear whether the required a priori element is present.


Modal Rationalism Natural Kind Nuclear Charge Abstract Entity Natural Kind Term 
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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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