Research Group in Analytic Philosophy

Perspectives, models, and modal knowledge

    Michela Massimi (Edinburgh)

Date: 21 February 2018

Time: 15:00

Place: Seminari de Filosofia UB


Debates on whether conceivability acts as a guide to possibility have been prominent in the literature on the epistemology of modality. Much less attention has been paid to the role that an epistemic notion of conceivability might play in scientific modelling. In this paper, I attend to two tasks. First, I introduce an epistemic notion of conceivability that proves congenial to an ubiquitous class of scientific models, i.e. perspectival models qua seemingly inconsistent models for the same target system. Second, I argue that this epistemic notion of conceivability at work in perspectival models delivers relevant modal knowledge in science (modal knowledge that is not derivative of any prior knowledge of essential properties). The outcome of this strategy is not just to explore how model-based natural sciences might inform debates about the epistemology of modality. But, also, to re-assess some thorny issues in philosophy of science concerning the role of scientific models —known to involve idealizations and falsehoods — in delivering nonetheless important modal knowledge. Perspectival models provide an exemplary case in point given recent debates on scientific pluralism, perspectivism, and the so-called problem of inconsistent models.