“Origins Modal Error,” Dialectica, Proceedings of the 2002 St. Nicolas Workshop on Intuition and Epistemology, University of Fribourg, forthcoming.
Reprinted in Epistemology: New Essays, Quentin Smith (ed.) Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.
“Modal Epistemology and the Rationalist Renaissance,” Conceivability and Possibility, Tamar Gendler and John Hawthorne (eds.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 71-125.
© George Bealer
The paper begins with a clarification of the notions of intuition (and, in particular, modal intuition), modal error, conceivability, metaphysical possibility, and epistemic possibility. It is argued that two-dimensionalism is the wrong framework for modal epistemology and that a certain nonreductionist approach to the theory of concepts and propositions is required instead. Finally, there is an examination of moderate rationalism’s impact on modal arguments in the philosophy of mind — for example, Yablo’s disembodiment argument and Chalmers’s zombie argument. A less vulnerable style of modal argument is defended, which nevertheless wins the same anti-materialist conclusions sought by these other arguments.
“A Priori Knowledge,” Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy, Volume 5, Epistemology, Ernest Sosa et al. (eds.), 2000, pp. 1-12.
This paper is a condensed version of the author’s “A Theory of the A Priori” (Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 2000) for the evidential status of intuitions, the incoherence of radical empiricism. the thesis of modal reliabilism, and the Autonomy of Philosophy Thesis (according to which the a priori disciplines are autonomous from empirical science).
“A Theory of the A Priori,” Philosophical Perspectives, vol. 13, 1999, pp. 29-55.
Reprinted in Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 81, Special Issue on A Priori Knowledge, 2000.
© University of Southern California and Blackwell Publishers
The topic of a priori knowledge is approached through the theory of evidence. A shortcoming in traditional formulations of moderate rationalism and moderate empiricism is that they fail to explain why rational intuition and phenomenal experience count as basic sources of evidence. This explanatory gap is filled by modal reliabilism — the theory that there is a qualified modal tie between basic sources of evidence and the truth. This tie to the truth is then explained by the theory of concept possession: this tie is a consequence of what, by definition, it is to possess (i.e., to understand) one’s concepts. A corollary of the overall account is that the a priori disciplines (logic, mathematics, philosophy) can be largely autonomous from the empirical sciences.
“A Theory of Concepts and Concept Possession,” Concepts, Enrique Villanueva (ed.), Philosophical Issues, vol. 9, Proceedings of the 1997 Sociedad Filosofica Ibero Americana, 1998, pp. 261-301.
The paper begins with an argument against eliminativism with respect to the propositional attitudes. There follows an argument that concepts are sui generis ante rem entities. A nonreductionist view of concepts and propositions is then sketched. This provides the background for a theory of concept possession, which forms the bulk of the paper. The central idea is that concept possession is to be analyzed in terms of a certain kind of pattern of reliability in one’s intuitions regarding the behavior of the concept. The challenge is to find an analysis that is at once noncircular and fully general. Environmentalism, anti-individualism, holism, analyticity, etc. provide additional hurdles. The paper closes with a discussion of the theory’s implications for the Wittgenstein-Kripke puzzle about rule-following and the Benacerraf problem concerning mathematical knowledge.
“Concept Possession: Reply to Kim, Sosa, Tomberlin, and Orlando,” Concepts, Enrique Villanueva (ed.), Philosophical Issues, vol. 9, Proceedings of the 1997 Sociedad Filosofica Ibero Americana, 1998, pp. 331-338.
This paper answers critical responses to the author’s “A Theory of Concepts and Concept Possession.” The paper begins with a discussion of candidate counterexamples to the proposed analysis of concept possession — including, e.g., a discussion of its relationship to Frank Jackson’s Mary example. Second, questions concerning the author’s general methodological approach are considered. For instance, it is shown that — contrary to the critics’ suggestions — an analysis of concept possession cannot invoke belief alone, but must also invoke intuition. Finally, a defense is given for the realist framework within which the theory of concepts, and of their possession conditions, is formulated.
“Intuition and The Autonomy of Philosophy,” Rethinking Intuition: The Psychology of Intuition and Its Role in Philosophical Inquiry, Michael R. DePaul and William Ramsey (eds.), Rowman and Littlefield, 1998, pp. 201-239.
The phenomenology of a priori intuition is explored at length (where a priori intuition is taken to be not a form of belief but rather a form of seeming, specifically intellectual as opposed to sensory seeming). Various reductive accounts of intuition are criticized, and Humean empiricism (which, unlike radical empiricism, does admit analyticity intuitions as evidence) is shown to be epistemically self-defeating. This paper also recapitulates the defense of the thesis of the Autonomy and Authority of Philosophy given in the author’s “A Priori Knowledge and the Scope of Philosophy” (Philosophical Studies, 1996).
“The A Priori,” Blackwell Guide to Epistemology, Ernest Sosa and John Greco (eds.), Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1998, pp. 243-270.
The paper begins by showing that the a priori is not to be equated with the necessary or with the analytic, as many traditional philosophers have believed. Quinean attacks on the analytic/synthetic distinction and on the modalities do not, therefore, affect the prospect of a unified account of the a priori. Such an account is then provided.
“On the Possibility of Philosophical Knowledge,” Philosophical Perspectives, vol. 10, 1996, pp. 1-34.
© Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
The paper elaborates upon various points and arguments in the author’s “A Priori Knowledge and the Scope of Philosophy” (Philosophical Studies, 1993), in which the author defends the autonomy of philosophy from the empirical sciences. It provides, for example, an extended defense of the modal reliabilist theory of basic evidence, including a new argument against evolutionary explanations of the reliability of intuitions. It also contains a fuller discussion of how to neutralize the threat of scientific essentialism to the autonomy of philosophy.
“A Priori Knowledge and the Scope of Philosophy,” Philosophical Studies, vol. 81, 1996, pp. 121-142.
© Kluwer Academic Publishers
Reprinted in A Priori Knowledge, Albert Casullo (ed.), Brookfield, Vermont: Dartmouth, 1999.
This paper provides a defense of two traditional theses: the Autonomy of Philosophy and the Authority of Philosophy. The first step is a defense of the evidential status of intuitions (intellectual seemings). Rival views (such as radical empiricism), which reject the evidential status of intuitions, are shown to be epistemically self-defeating. It is then argued that the only way to explain the evidential status of intuitions is to invoke modal reliabilism. This theory requires that intuitions have a certain qualified modal tie to the truth. This result is then used as the basis of the defense of the Autonomy and Authority theses. The paper closes with a defense of the two theses against a potential threat from scientific essentialism.
“A Priori Knowledge: Replies to Lycan and Sosa,” Philosophical Studies, vol. 81, 1996, pp. 163-174.
© Kluwer Academic Publishers
Reprinted in A Priori Knowledge, Albert Casullo (ed.), Brookfield, Vermont: Dartmouth, 1999
This paper contains replies to comments on the author’s paper “A Priori Knowledge and the Scope of Philosophy.” Several points in the argument of that paper are given further clarification: the notion of our standard justificatory procedure, the notion of a basic source of evidence, and the doctrine of modal reliabilism. The reliability of intuition is then defended against Lycan’s skepticism and a response is given to Lycan’s claim that the scope of a priori knowledge does not include philosophically central topics such as the nature of consciousness. Next a counterfactual account of intuitions proposed by Sosa is criticized. Finally, in response to certain questions raised by Sosa, the explanation of the evidential status of intuition offered in the original paper receives further elaboration.
“The Incoherence of Empiricism,” The Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume, vol. 66, 1992, pp. 99-138.
© The Aristotelian Society
Reprinted in Rationality and Naturalism, Steven J. Wagner and Richard Warner (eds.), Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1993.
Radical empiricism is the view that a person’s experiences (sensory and introspective), or a person’s observations, constitute the person’s evidence. This view leads to epistemic self-defeat. There are three arguments, concerning respectively: (1) epistemic starting points; (2) epistemic norms; (3) terms of epistemic appraisal. The source of self-defeat is traced to the fact that empiricism does not count a priori intuition as evidence (where a priori intuition is not a form of belief but rather a form of seeming, specifically intellectual as opposed to sensory). Moderate rationalism, by contrast, avoids self-defeat.
“Philosophical Limits of Scientific Essentialism,” Philosophical Perspectives, vol. 1, 1987, pp. 289-365.
© Ridgeview Publishing Co.
Scientific essentialism is the view that some necessities (e.g., water = H2O) can be known only with the aid of empirical science. The thesis of the paper is that scientific essentialism does not extend to the central questions of philosophy and that these questions can be answered a priori. The argument is that the evidence required for the defense of scientific essentialism (e.g., twin earth intuitions) is reliable only if the intuitions required by philosophy to answer its central questions is also reliable. Included is an outline of a modal reliabilist theory of basic evidence and a concept-possession account of the reliability of a priori intuition.