A two-dimensional account of epistemic modals
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Georgetown University, 2011.; Includes bibliographical references.; Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format. Not everyone knows that water is H2O. Suppose Alice is one of those people. Alice says, "For all I know, water might not be H2O." Intuitively it seems like Alice has spoken truly. That is, it seems like it is epistemically possible (for Alice) that water is not H2O. However, conventional accounts of modality in linguistics and philosophy of language predict that any metaphysically impossible statement will also be epistemically impossible (for anyone). And there are plausible arguments, from Kripke and others, that purport to show that it is metaphysically impossible for water to be anything other than H2O. So according to the standard accounts of modality, Alice has in fact said something false. This is highly counterintuitive and suggests that the standard accounts of modality need to be reworked.; I offer a new account of modality that is capable of representing what I call EPMIs: epistemically possible metaphysical impossibilities. Sentences like "water might not be H2O" and "Hesperus might not be Phosphorus" are examples of EPMIs, and others can be readily found (including many that do not rely on Kripkean considerations about metaphysical possibility). My new account explains the existence of EPMIs while retaining the versatility and explanatory power of the standard accounts.
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