We examine a prominent naturalistic line on the method of cases (MoC), exemplified by Timothy Williamson and Edouard Machery: MoC is given a fallibilist and non-exceptionalist treatment, accommodating moderate modal skepticism. But Gettier cases are in dispute: Williamson takes them to induce substantive philosophical knowledge; Machery claims that the ambitious use of MoC should be abandoned entirely. We defend an intermediate position. We offer an internal critique of Macherian pessimism about Gettier cases. Most crucially, we argue that Gettier cases needn’t exhibit ‘disturbing characteristics’ that Machery posits to explain why philosophical cases induce dubious judgments. It follows, we show, that Machery’s central argument for the effective abandonment of MoC is undermined. Nevertheless, we engineer a restricted variant of the argument—in harmony with Williamsonian ideology–that survives our critique, potentially limiting philosophy’s scope for establishing especially ambitious modal theses, despite traditional MoC’s utility being partially preserved.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Thanks to our reviewers for exceptionally stimulating and helpful feedback. Versions of this paper were presented at the Machery Workshop at the University of Amsterdam; the Fiction and Imagination workshop at the University of Turin; the Conceptual Engineering seminar at Arché; and the 2019 OZSW Theoretical Philosophy Conference at the University of Amsterdam. Thanks to these audiences for their feedback. Thanks to Manuel Gustavo Isaac for getting us interested in Machery’s important work and to Edouard Machery for his comments on our presentation at the Machery Workshop. Finally, thanks for the input of the Logic of Conceivability-gang: Francesco Berto, Christopher Badura, Karolina Krzyżanowska, Aybüke Özgün, and Anthi Solaki. This research is published within the project ‘The Logic of Conceivability’, funded by the European Research Council (ERC CoG), Grant Number 681404.
- Experimental philosophy
- Gettier cases
- Methods of cases
- Moderate modal skepticism
- Philosophical methodology
- Thought experiments