Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Conceivability and possibility: some dilemmas for Humeans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Author(s)

Francesco Berto, Tom Schoonen

School/Research organisations

Abstract

The Humean view that conceivability entails possibility can be criticized via input from cognitive psychology. A mainstream view here has it that there are two candidate codings for mental representations (one of them being, according to some, reducible to the other): the linguistic and the pictorial, the difference between the two consisting in the degree of arbitrariness of the representation relation. If the conceivability of P at issue for Humeans involves the having of a linguistic mental representation, then it is easy to show that we can conceive the impossible, for impossibilities can be represented by meaningful bits of language. If the conceivability of P amounts to the pictorial imaginability of a situation verifying P, then the question is whether the imagination at issue works purely qualitatively, that is, only by phenomenological resemblance with the imagined scenario. If so, the range of situations imaginable in this way is too limited to have a significant role in modal epistemology. If not, imagination will involve some arbitrary labeling component, which turns out to be sufficient for imagining the impossible. And if the relevant imagination is neither linguistic nor pictorial, Humeans will appear to resort to some representational magic, until they come up with a theory of a ‘third code’ for mental representations.

Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2697-2715
Number of pages19
JournalSynthese
Volume195
Issue number6
Early online date24 Feb 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018

    Research areas

  • Conceivability and possibility, Imagination, Mental imagery, Mental representation, Modal epistemology

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Modal Meinongianism: conceiving the impossible

    Berto, F., 2 Jan 2020, Graham Priest on Paraconsistency and Dialetheism. Başkent, C. & Macaulay Ferguson, T. (eds.). Cham: Springer, p. 3-19 (Outstanding contributions to logic; vol. 18).

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

  2. The fundamental problem of logical omniscience

    Hawke, P., Özgün, A. & Berto, F., 20 Dec 2019, In : Journal of Philosophical Logic. Online First, 40 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Impossible worlds

    Berto, F. & Jago, M., 13 Jun 2019, Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. 336 p.

    Research output: Book/ReportBook

  4. The logic of fast and slow thinking

    Solaki, A., Berto, F. & Smets, S., 1 Jun 2019, In : Erkenntnis. In press

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. Negation on the Australian Plan

    Berto, F. & Restall, G., 22 Apr 2019, In : Journal of Philosophical Logic. In press

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. A plea for KR

    Duncan Kerr, A., 28 May 2019, In : Synthese. In press

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. On the indeterminacy of the meter

    Scharp, K., Jun 2019, In : Synthese. 196, 6, p. 2487-2517 31 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Carnapian explication and ameliorative analysis: a systematic comparison

    Dutilh Novaes, C., 24 Feb 2018, In : Synthese. p. 1-24 24 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Defeating pragmatic encroachment?

    McGrath, M., Jul 2018, In : Synthese. 195, 7, p. 3051–3064 14 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. Synthese (Journal)

    Theodoros Diasakos (Reviewer)
    18 Jan 2011

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPeer review of manuscripts

ID: 255688728

Top