The fundamental working hypothesis of the group is that there is an important relationship between the nature of understanding, our capacity for a priori knowledge, and the realm of necessary truths. Elucidating this picture is crucial for articulating a conception of philosophy itself as an independent discipline with a distinctive, a priori methodology. The main research goals of the group are motivated by this working hypothesis.
(for more, see our detailed Project Description)
Our first main goal is to develop a systematic, well-grounded theory of the nature of understanding. We think the best way to reach this goal is by bringing together philosophical and empirical work in areas of research in which understanding plays an explanatory role. We therefore have several subsidiary goals: to arrive at a detailed account of the role understanding plays in the epistemology of testimony, to describe the relationship between understanding and linguistic competence, and to investigate the phenomenological aspects of understanding.
Our second main goal is to develop a detailed account of the function and epistemic value of paradigmatic a priori methods. More specifically, we aim to determine the extent to which such methods rely only on understanding, as we conceive it. We also intend to identify ways in which epistemically fruitful a priori methods might rely on cognitive capacities that go beyond what is required for understanding. Our goal is to determine the scope and limits of the understanding-based a priori.
Our third main goal is to support the view that necessary truths are fundamentally a priori, by showing that all necessary truths can be determined a priori on the basis of contingent truths. In support of this goal, we aim to develop an account of metaphysical modality that helps explain how knowledge of contingent truths can provide a priori access to modal truths. Our goal is to articulate a conception of metaphysical modality that shows why the modal realm is open to investigation by the use of understanding-based and other a priori methods.
The work of the research group falls into three areas:
- the nature of understanding,
- the relationship between understanding and a priori knowledge, and
- the relationship between the a priori and necessity.