Volume 11, Issue 1, 2011
Reconstruing Modal Intuitions
In Naming and Necessity, Kripke argues that clearly conceived (or imagined) scenarios that seem to be counterexamples to a posteriori identity theses can indeed count as evidence against them—but only if, after reflection on our understanding of their constituent terms and the relevant empirical facts, we find that they cannot be acceptably reconstrued as intuitions about something else. This makes trouble for phenomenalphysical identity statements such as ‘pain is C-fiber stimulation’, since most agree that such statements cannot be so reconstrued—and thus some materialists reject Kripke’s account of the link between conceivability and possibility entirely. In my view, however, this is a mistake, since it impoverishes our resources for evaluating a posteriori modal claims;
the better strategy for materialists is to show that phenomenal-physical identity statements comprise a special class of statements to which Kripke’s general strategy does not apply. In this paper I contribute to this project by examining, and challenging, Stephen Yablo’s (2005) general objections to Kripke’s strategy, and sketch a principled way to draw a distinction between phenomenal-physical identity statements and other a posteriori modal claims.