Philosophical Studies

, Volume 172, Issue 4, pp 987–1011 | Cite as

Epistemic modals and credal disagreement

  • Torfinn Thomesen Huvenes


Considerations involving disagreement, as well as related considerations involving correction and retraction, have played an important role in recent debates about epistemic modals. For instance, it has been argued that contextualist views about epistemic modals have problems when it comes to explaining cases of disagreement. In response to these challenges, I explore the idea that the relevant cases of disagreement may involve credal disagreement. In a case of credal disagreement, the parties have different degrees of belief or credences. There does not have to be a difference in outright beliefs in order for the parties to disagree. I argue that the idea of credal disagreement allows us to make sense of otherwise problematic cases of disagreement involving epistemic modals. I also discuss how these ideas can be extended to cases of correction and retraction.


Context-dependence Contextualism Disagreement  Epistemic modals 



Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the Arché Contextualism and Relativism Seminar (University of St Andrews, March 2009) and the Arché Language, Context, and Truth Seminar (University of St Andrews, July 2010). While the paper has changed substantially since then, I am still grateful to audiences on those occasions for useful comments and criticisms. I would also like to thank Derek Ball, Herman Cappelen, Josh Dever, Jon Litland, Ofra Magidor, Dilip Ninan, Jonathan Schaffer, Anders Schoubye, Andreas Stokke, Brian Weatherson, and an anonymous referee for helpful discussion and comments.


  1. Blackburn, S. (1984). Spreading the word. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  2. Blackburn, S. (1998). Ruling passions. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  3. Cappelen, H., & Hawthorne, J. (2009). Relativism and monadic truth. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cappelen, H., & Hawthorne, J. (2011a). Reply to Glanzberg, Soames, and Weatherson. Analysis, 71, 143–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cappelen, H., & Hawthorne, J. (2011b). Reply to Lasersohn, Macfarlane, and Richard. Philosophical Studies, 156, 449–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cappelen, H., & Lepore, E. (2005). Insensitive semantics. Oxford: Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. DeRose, K. (1991). Epistemic possibilities. Philosophical Review, 100, 581–605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dever, J. (2011). Epistemic modals. In S. Bernecker & D. Pritchard (Eds.), Routledge companion to epistemology (pp. 545–557). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Dorr, C. (2014). Transparency and the context-sensitivity of attitude reports. In M. García-Carpintero & G. Martí (Eds.), Empty representations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Dougherty, T., & Rysiew, P. (2009). Fallibilism, epistemic possibility, and concessive knowledge attributions. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 78, 123–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dowell, J. (2011). A flexible contextualist account of epistemic modals. Philosopher’s Imprint, 11, 1–25.Google Scholar
  12. Dreier, J. (1999). Transforming expressivism. Noûs, 33, 558–572.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Egan, A. (2007). Epistemic modals, relativism and assertion. Philosophical Studies, 133, 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Egan, A., Hawthorne, J., & Weatherson, B. (2005). Epistemic modals in context. In G. Preyer & G. Peter (Eds.), Contextualism in philosophy (pp. 131–168). Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  15. Gibbard, A. (1990). Wise choices, apt feelings. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  16. Gibbard, A. (2003). Thinking how to live. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Goldman, A. (2010). Epistemic relativism and reasonable disagreement. In R. Feldman & T. Warfield (Eds.), Disagreement (pp. 187–215). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hacking, I. (1967). Possibility. Philosophical Review, 76, 143–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hawthorne, J. (2007). Eavesdroppers and epistemic modals. Philosophical Issues, 17, 92–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hawthorne, J. (2012). Knowledge and epistemic necessity. Philosophical Studies, 158, 493–501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Huvenes, T. (2012). Varieties of disagreement and predicates of taste. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 90, 167–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jackson, F., & Pettit, P. (1998). A problem for expressivism. Analysis, 58, 239–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jehle, D., & Fitelson, B. (2009). What is the ”equal weight view”? Episteme, 12, 280–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Joyce, J. (2010). A defense of imprecise credences in inference and decision making. Philosophical Perspectives, 24, 281–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kratzer, A. (1977). What Must and Can must and can mean. Linguistics and Philosophy, 1, 337–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kratzer, A. (1981). The notional category of modality. In H.-J. Eikmeyer & H. Rieser (Eds.), Words, worlds, and contexts (pp. 38–74). Berlin: de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  27. Kratzer, A. (1991a). Conditionals. In A. von Stechow & D. Wünderlich (Eds.), Semantik/semantics: International handbook of contemporary research (pp. 651–656). Berlin: de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  28. Kratzer, A. (1991b). Modality. In A. von Stechow & D. Wünderlich (Eds.), Semantik/semantics: International handbook of contemporary research (pp. 639–650). Berlin: de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  29. Krifka, M. (2001). Quantifying into question acts. Natural Language Semantics, 9, 1–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. MacFarlane, J. (2011). Epistemic modals are assessment-sensitive. In A. Egan & B. Weatherson (Eds.), Epistemic modality (pp. 144–178). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Papafragou, A. (2006). Epistemic modality and truth conditions. Lingua, 116, 1688–1702.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Portner, P. (2009). Modality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Price, H. (1983). Does ’probably’ modify sense? Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 61, 396–408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Schaffer, J. (2011). Perspective in taste predicates and epistemic modals. In A. Egan & B. Weatherson (Eds.), Epistemic modality (pp. 179–226). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Simons, M. (2007). Observations on embedding verbs, evidentiality, and presupposition. Lingua, 117, 1034–1056.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Stalnaker, R. (1980). A defense of conditional excluded middle. In W. Harper, R. Stalnaker, & G. Pearce (Eds.), Ifs: Conditionals, belief, decision, chance, and time (pp. 87–104). Dordrecht: Reidel.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Stephenson, T. (2007). Judge dependence, epistemic modals, and predicates of personal taste. Linguistics and Philosophy, 30, 487–525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Swanson, E. (2006). Interactions with context. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, MIT.Google Scholar
  39. Swanson, E. (2010). On scope relations between quantifiers and epistemic modals. Journal of Semantics, 27, 529–540.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. von Fintel, K., & Gillies, A. (2007). An opinionated guide to epistemic modality. In T. S. Gendler & J. Hawthorne (Eds.), Oxford studies in epistemology (Vol. 2, pp. 32–62). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  41. von Fintel, K., & Gillies, A. (2008). CIA leaks. Philosophical Review, 117, 77–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. von Fintel, K., & Gillies, A. (2010). Must..stay..strong!. Natural Language Semantics, 18, 351–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. von Fintel, K., & Gillies, A. (2011). Might made right. In A. Egan & B. Weatherson (Eds.), Epistemic modality (pp. 108–130). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Weatherson, B. (2011). No royal road to relativism. Analysis, 71, 133–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Williamson, T. (2000). Knowledge and its limits. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Wright, C. (2007). New age relativism and epistemic possibility: The question of evidence. Philosophical Issues, 17, 262–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Yalcin, S. (2007). Epistemic modals. Mind, 116, 983–1026.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Yalcin, S. (2010). Probability operators. Philosophy Compass, 5, 916–937.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Yalcin, S. (2011). Nonfactualism about epistemic modality. In A. Egan & B. Weatherson (Eds.), Epistemic modality (pp. 295–332). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Yalcin, S. (2012). Bayesian expressivism. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 112, 123–160.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and IdeasUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

Personalised recommendations