Date of Award

May 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Joshua Spencer

Second Advisor

Michael Liston

Committee Members

Robert Schwartz


Conceivability, Epistemology, Metaphysics, Modality


In this thesis I argue that at least one type of conceiving, namely imagining, provides reliable

evidence of non-actual metaphysical possibility. My argument requires two main tasks. I need to

show that conceiving can provide evidence at all of mere (non-actual) metaphysical possibilities.

To put it another way, how could what we imagine or otherwise conceive stand in any

representational relation whatsoever to a mere possibility? I argue by analogy with perception

that the contents of our imaginings correspond with (some) merely possible states of affairs.

Imagination is not perception of merely possible objects, of course. If one imagines that an F is

G, the imagining indicates that a certain class could be non-empty—namely, the class of Fs that

are G. This position is meant to avoid the specificity problem famously raised by Quine (1948)

and emulated by Paul Tidman (1994). I also need to explain how conceiving that p, where p is a

proposition, say, can reliably lead to true beliefs about p’s possibility. I do not have a unified or

knock-down argument to this effect, but I do offer several reasons to think that such a connection


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