"Modal expressivism" is the thesis that modal concepts (such as necessity, possibility, and impossibility) do not describe properties of things; rather, they express structural features of our thinking about things; specifically, those features conditioning our use of empirical-descriptive concepts. Philosophers of a realist bent reject modal expressivism because it seems to turn questions about whether things are necessary, possible, or impossible into an issue about the way we think. If questions of necessity, possibility, and impossibility are determined by the way we think, rather than the way the world is, how can modal claims be answerable to the way the world is? On the other hand, if modality is entirely independent of the way we think, can we ever be sure our modal claims correctly identify the modal properties of things? This talk will discuss these issues by considering the work of two proponents of modal expressivism, Wilfrid Sellars and Robert Brandom.
Ray Brassier obtained his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Warwick in 2001. From 2002 to 2008 he was a Research Fellow at Middlesex University’s Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy. He joined AUB's Philosophy department in 2008 as Associate Professor and became Professor of Philosophy in 2015. He is the author of Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction (Palgrave 2007) and the English translator of works by Alain Badiou and Quentin Meillassoux. He is currently working on a book about the American philosopher Wilfrid Sellars with the title Reasons, Patterns, and Processes: Sellars’s Transcendental Naturalism.