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Title: Modal thought and modal knowledge
Author: Ramshaw, Paul Adrian
ISNI:       0000 0004 6349 8125
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis is concerned with the epistemology of absolute alethic necessity. The thesis begins with a characterisation of absolute alethic necessity and its distinctive epistemology. The challenge of explaining the reliability of belief in necessity is identified as the primary goal of the thesis and four broad forms of response to that challenge are identified. Of the four strategies, two are dismissed as prima facie inapplicable to the case of necessity. The two remaining options are identified as Modal Anti-Realism and Non-Standard Realism. In chapter 2, it is suggested that the field can be narrowed further, in light of Anna Sherratt's (2010) Transparency Objection to Modal Anti-Realism. From chapter 3 onwards, the thesis aims to close in on a suitable variety of Non-Standard Realism by drawing upon a number of further, foundational, issues concerning modal thought. It is suggested that a type of normativity concerning content stability (or loss of content) offers the prospects of progress on these foundational questions. It is suggested that notions of normativity of this type are found in, both, the work of Christopher Peacocke (1999) and John Divers and Jose Edgar Gonzalez-Varela (2012). It is suggested that by combining elements of these two works we can make progress on the foundational questions. However, in order to develop the account into a response to the Reliability Challenge, the central remaining task is to articulate the nature and epistemology of the notion of content stability. In chapter 7, a specific notion of content stability is identified as 'proper deployment'. It is also suggested that in order to meet the Reliability Challenge, we require a notion of proper deployment that maintains a minimal degree of objectivity. In particular, there must be facts concerning the proper deployment of content. Chapter 7 also indicates the significant sceptical attack that threatens the required factuality of judgements of this type. It is suggested that the objectivity of proper deployment required for a response to the Reliability Challenge can be maintained on a non-reductive account of proper deployment. It is highlighted, however, that the non-reductive account still faces the task of explaining the epistemology of proper deployment. It is at this point, I suggest, that anti-realism has significant explanatory work to do in the epistemology of modality, but that such work directly concerns the nature and objectivity of content, not modality, itself. In chapters 8 and 9, a constitutive account of proper deployment is proposed and integrated with the responses to the foundational questions concerning modal thought and knowledge.
Supervisor: Divers, John ; McGonigal, Andrew Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available