Modal rationalism and the demonstrative reply to the scrutability argument against physicalism

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According to the scrutability argument against physicalism, an a priori gap between the physical and conscious experience entails a lack of necessitation and the falsity of physicalism. This paper investigates the crucial premise of the scrutability argument: the inference from an a priori gap to a lack of necessitation. This premise gets its support from modal rationalism, according to which there are important, potentially constitutive, connections between a priori justification and metaphysical modality. I argue against the strong form of modal rationalism that underwrites the scrutability argument and suggest a more moderate rationalist view. I offer a novel demonstrative reply to the scrutability argument, according to which demonstratives play a vital role in the generation of meaning for our representations of conscious experience. This connection between conscious experience and demonstratives, rather than a metaphysical gap generated by the truth of dualism, is the source of the epistemic gap between consciousness and the physical.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2107-2134
Number of pages28
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • A priori entailment
  • Conceivability
  • Demonstratives
  • Epistemology of modality
  • Explanatory gap
  • Modal rationalism
  • Modality
  • Phenomenal concepts
  • Physicalism
  • Scrutability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • General Social Sciences


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