Hume’s maxim, hyperintensionality and the strangeness of impossibility


20 octobre 2023


Salle du Conseil PSP (a.224) Bâtiment Socrate, a.224, Place du Cardinal Mercier 14 Louvain-la-Neuve, 1348

Séminaire du centre CEFISES

La première séance du séminaire "Metametaphysics and the sciences" aura lieu le 20/10/24.

Attention, changement de local: Salle du Conseil PSP, a.224.

Orateur : Pierre Saint-Germier (STMS – CNRS/Ircam/Ministère de la culture/Sorbonne Université)


« According to Hume’s maxim, « nothing of which we can form a clear and distinct idea is absurd and impossible ». This maxim provides a justification for the method of conceivability, according to which one may arrive at justified modal beliefs after suitably conceiving appropriate scenarios. We propose a formal modeling of the method of conceivability that extends Berto’s logic of ceteris paribus imagination by adding a modal operator and a conceivability operator « C ». A semantic characterization of this operator is proposed in the framework of impossible worlds semantics.

This modeling of conceivability provides a hyperintensional account of conceivability, sheds a new light on the sources of modal error, answers some doubts recently voiced by Priest about Hume’s maxim, and is applied to the analysis of philosophical and scientific thought experiments. Overall, our formal model of the method of conceivability provides a nuanced account of its epistemic strengths and weaknesses. »

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