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R e s e a r c h

You can also take a look at some of my papers.


Peter Kung
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My research and scholarship centers on topics in philosophy of mind and epistemology. My major project investigates philosophical thought experiments. Philosophers rely on thought experiments as a crucial source of data against which to evaluate theories, leading to questions, and in some cases, skeptical doubts, about the epistemic credentials of philosophical thought experiments. In my view we can supply illuminating answers to these questions and assuage the skeptical doubts.

My focus since my Ph.D. in 2004 has rested on thought experiments as modal evidence. Because philosophical theses are generally regarded as metaphysically necessary, a thought experiment that provides evidence for a metaphysical possibility has the power to falsify a philosophical thesis. I believe that sensory imagination offers the key to modal evidence. However, although I ultimately deploy imagination in the service of modal epistemology, I believe it is critical to first get the phenomenon of imagination right. Otherwise illuminating discussions of conceivability and possibility, notably by Stephen Yablo, Christopher Hill, and Sydney Shoemaker, falter on this point. They neglect aspects of imagination, which, I argue,  leads to mistakes in their resulting modal epistemologies.

My analysis of imagination reveals that we shouldn’t try to avoid modal puzzles by claiming that we cannot imagine the puzzling phenomenon. So, for example, we cannot avoid modal puzzles about Goldbach’s conjecture by declaring that we are incapable of imagining that we have proven or disproven Goldbach’s conjecture. We should acknowledge, I argue, that we can both imagine proving and imagine disproving Goldbach’s conjecture; in fact we frequently imagine the impossible. However this needn’t lead us to conclude that imagination is useless as modal evidence. A plausible modal epistemology that flows from my theory of imagination allows us to recognize that imagination allows us to construct modally biased thought experiments. I explain in detail how the bias arises.


With this theory of imagination and modal evidence in hand, I tackle various thought experiments in the philosophy literature. I find bias in some well-known thought experiments, including those that purport to establish mind-body dualism and radical skepticism.

A second project, in traditional epistemology, arises naturally from my interest in modal epistemology. My modal epistemology is foundationalist, with sensory imagination furnishing the foundations. Challenges to foundationalism about perceptual justification would lead to analogous challenges to my view of modal justification. In a series of papers I defend modest foundationalism against a number of recent skeptical challenges.

Future Research

My future research plans include three major endeavors.

  1. First, I plan to write a book on modal epistemology. This should be a relatively straightforward project, as the central ideas for the book are contained in papers I have already written. In addition to the material in these existing papers, I will investigate two-dimensional semantics, as well as apply my view to thought experiments in ethics and in metaphysics.

  2. Second, I have become convinced that my account of imagination offers some insight lacking in the literature on that topic. I plan a series of papers on the role of imagination in film theory, imaginative resistance, conditionals, and the mindreading debate.

  3. Third, I plan to continue my work in traditional epistemology, both independently and in collaboration with my co-author Masahiro Yamada (of Claremont Graduate University) to flesh out a modest foundationalist view in epistemology.