How can we come to know metaphysical modal truths?

Amie L. Thomasson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Those who aim to give an account of modal knowledge face two challenges: the integration challenge of reconciling an account of what is involved in knowing modal truths with a plausible story about how we can come to know them, and the reliability challenge of giving a plausible account of how we could have evolved a reliable capacity to acquire modal knowledge. I argue that recent counterfactual and dispositional accounts of modal knowledge cannot solve these problems regarding specifically metaphysical modal truths—leaving us with the threat of skepticism about large portions of metaphysics, and certain other areas of philosophy. I argue, however, that both of these problems look insuperable only if we assume that metaphysical modal discourse serves a describing or tracking function. If we adopt instead a normativist approach to metaphysical modal discourse, which sees the basic function of modal discourse as giving us perspicuous ways of conveying, reasoning with, and renegotiating semantic rules, the problems show up very differently. The modal normativist can give a plausible response to both of the classic problems of how we can come to know metaphysical modal truths.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
StateAccepted/In press - Jun 9 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Debunking arguments
  • Integration challenge
  • Metaphysical modality
  • Modal epistemology
  • Modal normativism
  • Reliability challenge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Social Sciences(all)


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