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Title: Concepts and modality
Author: Brodowski, Björn
ISNI:       0000 0004 2739 2462
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2012
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There’s a venerable tradition in philosophy to look to our concepts when it comes to appreciating facts about absolute real modality, i.e. how things can and must be in an absolute sense. Given the absence of a modal sensorium, the traditional model stated that modal facts have something to do with conceptual relations. Squares must be four-­‐sided, for example, because the concept having four sides is part of the concept square. If this example could be generalised, it would not only provide a model for the epistemology of modality, it would also explain why much of our modal knowledge is a priori. The fact that we plausibly don’t need any empirical information in order to understand our concepts would explain why their analysis, and the subsequent appreciation of the corresponding modal facts, can be had from the armchair. In the wake of an externalist and scientistic trend in philosophy in the latter half of the 20th century, this model has come under severe attack. Orthodoxy has it now that concepts were the wrong place to look. Not only are there substantial modal facts whose recognition requires empirical investigation, even the application conditions, i.e. meanings, of many concepts are essentially a posteriori. This thesis rehearses the main arguments for rejecting the tradition, defends its central tenets and urges that, while the externalist arguments provide important insights, they do nothing to overturn the traditional model, but rather point to where it needs qualification. It spells out how we must understand its key notions—meaning, apriority, modality—in order to retain what is plausible about the traditional model. It is argued that an appeal to concepts in modal epistemology is inevitable, and that this is a tradition to foster.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: University oF St. Andrews ; University of Aberdeen ; Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Modality (Logic)