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  1. Dorit Abusch (2012). Circumstantial and Temporal Dependence in Counterfactual Modals. Natural Language Semantics 20 (3):273-297.
    “Counterfactual” readings of might/could have were previously analyzed using metaphysical modal bases. This paper presents examples and scenarios where the assumptions of such a branching-time semantics are not met, because there are facts at the base world that preclude the complement of the modal becoming true. Additional arguments show that counterfactual readings are context dependent. These data motivate a semantics using a circumstantial (or factual) modal base, which refers to context-dependent facts about a world and time. The analysis is formulated (...)
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  2. Maria Aloni (2007). Free Choice, Modals, and Imperatives. Natural Language Semantics 15 (1):65-94.
    The article proposes an analysis of imperatives and possibility and necessity statements that (i) explains their differences with respect to the licensing of free choice any and (ii) accounts for the related phenomena of free choice disjunction in imperatives, permissions, and statements. Any and or are analyzed as operators introducing sets of alternative propositions. Free choice licensing operators are treated as quantifiers over these sets. In this way their interpretation can be sensitive to the alternatives any and or introduce in (...)
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  3. Luis Alonso-Ovalle & Paula Menéndez-Benito (2010). Modal Indefinites. Natural Language Semantics 18 (1):1-31.
    Across languages, we find indefinites that trigger modal inferences. This article contributes to a semantic typology of these items by contrasting Spanish algún with indefinites like German irgendein or Italian uno qualsiasi. While irgendein-type indefinites trigger a Free Choice effect (Kratzer and Shimoyama 2002; Chierchia 2006), algún simply signals that at least two individuals in its domain are possibilities. Additionally, algún, but not irgendein, can convey that the speaker does not know how many individuals satisfy the existential claim in the (...)
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  4. Charity Anderson (2014). Fallibilism and the Flexibility of Epistemic Modals. Philosophical Studies 167 (3):597-606.
    It is widely acknowledged that epistemic modals admit of inter-subjective flexibility. This paper introduces intra-subjective flexibility for epistemic modals and draws on this flexibility to argue that fallibilism is consistent with the standard account of epistemic modals.
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  5. Ana Arregui (2010). Detaching If-Clauses From Should. Natural Language Semantics 18 (3):241-293.
    This paper investigates some aspects of the semantics of deontic should-conditionals. The main objective is to understand which actual world facts make deontic statements true. The starting point for the investigation is a famous puzzle known as Chisholm’s Paradox. It is important because making sense of the data in Chisholm-style examples involves arriving at some conclusion regarding the interaction between what we consider ideal and what is actually true. I give an account of how facts affect the evaluation of should (...)
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  6. Ana Arregui (2007). When Aspect Matters: The Case of Would-Conditionals. [REVIEW] Natural Language Semantics 15 (3):221-264.
    Differences in the interpretation of would-conditionals with simple (perfective) and perfect antecedent clauses are marked enough to discourage a unified view. However, this paper presents a unified, Lewis–Stalnaker style semantics for the modal in such constructions. Differences in the interpretation of the conditionals are derived from the interaction between the interpretation of different types of aspect and the modal. The paper makes a distinction between perfective and perfect aspect in terms of whether they make reference to or quantify over Lewis-style (...)
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  7. Victor H. Balowitz (1976). Meaning, Reference and Necessity. International Studies in Philosophy 8:216-217.
  8. Gilead Bar-Elli, A Fregean Look at Kripke's Modal Notion of Meaning.
    In Naming and Necessity Kripke accuses Frege of conflating two notions of meaning (or sense), one is meaning proper, the other is determining of reference (p. 59). More precisely, Kripke argues that Frege conflated the question of how the meaning of a word is given or determined with the question of how its reference is determined. The criterial mark of meaning determination, according to Kripke, is a statement of synonymy: if we give the sense of “a” by means of “b”, (...)
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  9. David Braun (2013). Invariantism About 'Can' and 'May' (as Well as 'Might'). Linguistics and Philosophy 36 (2):181-185.
    Braun (Linguistics & Philosophy 35, 461–489, 2012) argued for a non- relativist, invariantist theory of ‘might’. Yanovich (Linguistics & Philosophy, 2013) argues that Braun’s theory is inconsistent with certain facts concerning diachronic meaning changes in ‘might’, ‘can’, and ‘may’. This paper replies to Yanovich’s objection.
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  10. David Braun (2012). An Invariantist Theory of 'Might' Might Be Right. Linguistics and Philosophy 35 (6):461-489.
    Invariantism about ‘might’ says that ‘might’ semantically expresses the same modal property in every context. This paper presents and defends a version of invariantism. According to it, ‘might’ semantically expresses the same weak modal property in every context. However, speakers who utter sentences containing ‘might’ typically assert propositions concerning stronger types of modality, including epistemic modality. This theory can explain the phenomena that motivate contextualist theories of epistemic uses of ‘might’, and can be defended from objections of the sort that (...)
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  11. Phillip Bricker (2004). McGinn on Non-Existent Objects and Reducing Modality. [REVIEW] Philosophical Studies 118 (3):439-451.
    In this discussion of Colin McGinn's book, 'Logical Properties', I comment first on the chapter "Existence", then on the chapter "Modality." With respect to existence, I argue that McGinn's view that existence is a property that some objects have and other objects lack requires the property of existence to be fundamentally unlike ordinary qualitative properties. Moreover, it opens up a challenging skeptical problem: how do I know that I exist? With respect to modality, I argue that McGinn's argument that quantificational (...)
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  12. Berit Brogaard (2009). On Keeping Blue Swans and Unknowable Facts at Bay : A Case Study on Fitch's Paradox. In Joe Salerno (ed.), New Essays on the Knowability Paradox. Oxford University Press.
    (T5) ϕ → ◊Kϕ |-- ϕ → Kϕ where ◊ is possibility, and ‘Kϕ’ is to be read as ϕ is known by someone at some time. Let us call the premise the knowability principle and the conclusion near-omniscience.2 Here is a way of formulating Fitch’s proof of (T5). Suppose the knowability principle is true. Then the following instance of it is true: (p & ~Kp) → ◊K(p & ~Kp). But the consequent is false, it is not possible to know (...)
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  13. Fabrizio Cariani (2013). Epistemic and Deontic Should. Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 2 (1):73-84.
    Probabilistic theories of “should” and “ought” face a predicament. At first blush, it seems that such theories must provide different lexical entries for the epistemic and the deontic interpretations of these modals. I show that there is a new style of premise semantics that can avoid this consequence in an attractively conservative way.
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  14. Fabrizio Cariani, Magdalena Kaufmann & Stefan Kaufmann (2013). Deliberative Modality Under Epistemic Uncertainty. Linguistics and Philosophy 36 (3):225-259.
    We discuss the semantic significance of a puzzle concerning ‘ought’ and conditionals recently discussed by Kolodny and MacFarlane. We argue that the puzzle is problematic for the standard Kratzer-style analysis of modality. In Kratzer’s semantics, modals are evaluated relative to a pair of conversational backgrounds. We show that there is no sensible way of assigning values to these conversational backgrounds so as to derive all of the intuitions in Kolodny and MacFarlane’s case. We show that the appropriate verdicts can be (...)
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  15. Nate Charlow (2013). Logic and Semantics for Imperatives. Journal of Philosophical Logic:1-48.
    In this paper I will develop a view about the semantics of imperatives, which I term Modal Noncognitivism, on which imperatives might be said to have truth conditions (dispositionally, anyway), but on which it does not make sense to see them as expressing propositions (hence does not make sense to ascribe to them truth or falsity). This view stands against “Cognitivist” accounts of the semantics of imperatives, on which imperatives are claimed to express propositions, which are then enlisted in explanations (...)
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  16. Janice Dowell, J. L. (2013). Flexible Contextualism About Deontic Modals: A Puzzle About Information-Sensitivity. Inquiry 56 (2-3):149-178.
    According to a recent challenge to Kratzer's canonical contextualist semantics for deontic modal expressions, no contextualist view can make sense of cases in which such a modal must be information-sensitive in some way. Here I show how Kratzer's semantics is compatible with readings of the targeted sentences that fit with the data. I then outline a general account of how contexts select parameter values for modal expressions and show, in terms of that account, how the needed, contextualist-friendly readings might plausibly (...)
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  17. Rohan French (2013). Expressive Power, Mood, and Actuality. Synthese 190 (9):1689-1699.
    In Wehmeier (J Philos Log 33:607–630, 2004) we are presented with the subjunctive modal language, a way of dealing with the expressive inadequacy of modal logic by marking atomic predicates as being either in the subjunctive or indicative mood. Wehmeier claims that this language is expressively equivalent to the standard actuality language, and that despite this the marked-unmarked dichotomies are not the same in the two languages. In this paper we will attend to Wehmeier’s argument that this is the case, (...)
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  18. Bart Geurts (2005). Entertaining Alternatives: Disjunctions as Modals. Natural Language Semantics 13 (4):383-410.
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  19. K. Gluer & P. Pagin (2012). Reply to Forbes. Analysis 72 (2):298-303.
    In earlier work (Glüer, K. and P. Pagin. 2006. Proper names and relational modality. Linguistics & Philosophy 29: 507–35; Glüer, K. and P. Pagin. 2008. Relational modality. Journal of Logic, Language and Information 17: 307–22), we developed a semantics for (metaphysical) modal operators that accommodates Kripkean intuitions about proper names in modal contexts even if names are not rigid designators. Graeme Forbes (2011. The problem of factives for sense theories. Analysis 71: 654–62.) criticizes our proposal. He argues that our semantics (...)
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  20. Martin Hackl & Jon Nissenbaum (2012). A Modal Ambiguity in for-Infinitival Relative Clauses. Natural Language Semantics 20 (1):59-81.
    This squib presents two puzzles related to an ambiguity found in for-infinitival relative clauses (FIRs). FIRs invariably receive a modal interpretation even in the absence of any overt modal verb. The modal interpretation seems to come in two distinct types, which can be paraphrased by finite relative clauses employing the modal auxiliaries should and could. The two puzzles presented here arise because the availability of the two readings is constrained by factors that are not otherwise known to affect the interpretation (...)
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  21. Valentine Hacquard (2010). On the Event Relativity of Modal Auxiliaries. Natural Language Semantics 18 (1):79-114.
    Crosslinguistically, the same modal words can be used to express a wide range of interpretations. This crosslinguistic trend supports a Kratzerian analysis, where each modal has a core lexical entry and where the difference between an epistemic and a root interpretation is contextually determined. A long-standing problem for such a unified account is the equally robust crosslinguistic correlation between a modal’s interpretation and its syntactic behavior: epistemics scope high (in particular higher than tense and aspect) and roots low, a fact (...)
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  22. Mikhail Kissine (2008). Why Will is Not a Modal. Natural Language Semantics 16 (2):129-155.
    In opposition to a common assumption, this paper defends the idea that the auxiliary verb will has no other semantic contribution in contemporary English than a temporal shift towards the future with respect to the utterance time. Strong reasons for rejecting the idea that will quantifies over possible worlds are presented. Given the adoption of Lewis’s and Kratzer’s views on modality, the alleged ‘modal’ uses of will are accounted for by a pragmatic mechanism which restricts the domain of the covert (...)
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  23. Eric McCready & Norry Ogata (2007). Adjectives, Stereotypicality, and Comparison. Natural Language Semantics 15 (1):35-63.
    Japanese has a large number of evidential and modal expressions. Many of the inferential evidentials – mitai, yoo, rashii – also have an adjectival use. On this use, they make a claim about the prototypicality of some object or individual with respect to another class of object, in the case of rashii, or about the similarity of these two objects, for yoo and mitai. This paper provides a compositional semantics for these adjectives, claiming that they are evaluated in terms of (...)
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  24. Martin Montminy (2012). Epistemic Modals and Indirect Weak Suggestives. Dialectica 66 (4):583-606.
    I defend a contextualist account of bare epistemic modal claims against recent objections. I argue that in uttering a sentence of the form ‘It might be that p,’ a speaker is performing two speech acts. First, she is (directly) asserting that in view of the knowledge possessed by some relevant group, it might be that p. The content of this first speech act is accounted for by the contextualist view. But the speaker's utterance also generates an indirect speech act that (...)
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  25. Maribel Romero (2013). Modal Superlatives: A Compositional Analysis. [REVIEW] Natural Language Semantics 21 (1):79-110.
    Superlative adjectives accompanied by certain modal adjectives like possible (e.g. John bought the largest possible present) are ambiguous between a reading where possible is a regular noun modifier and a reading paraphrasable as ‘as Adj as possible’, called ‘modal superlative reading’. Three interesting restrictions have been observed in the literature. First, possible and some other adjectives ending in -able, but not potential and probable, support the latter reading. Second, when the modal adjective appears postnominally, only the modal superlative reading is (...)
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  26. Hotze Rullmann, Lisa Matthewson & Henry Davis (2008). Modals as Distributive Indefinites. Natural Language Semantics 16 (4):317-357.
    Modals in St’át’imcets (Lillooet Salish) show two differences from their counterparts in English. First, they have variable quantificational force, systematically allowing both possibility and necessity interpretations; and second, they lexically restrict the conversational background, distinguishing for example between deontic and (several kinds of) epistemic modality. We provide an analysis of the St’át’imcets modals according to which they are akin to specific indefinites in the nominal domain. They introduce choice function variables which select a subset of the accessible worlds. Following Klinedinst, (...)
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  27. Alex Silk (2013). Evidence Sensitivity in Weak Necessity Deontic Modals. Journal of Philosophical Logic:1-33.
    Kolodny and MacFarlane have made a pioneering contribution to our understanding of how the interpretation of deontic modals can be sensitive to evidence and information. But integrating the discussion of information-sensitivity into the standard Kratzerian framework for modals suggests ways of capturing the relevant data without treating deontic modals as “informational modals” in their sense. I show that though one such way of capturing the data within the standard semantics fails, an alternative does not. Nevertheless I argue that we have (...)
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  28. Giacomo Turbanti (2011). Modality in Brandom's Incompatibility Semantics. In María Inés Crespo, Dimitris Gakis & Galit Weidman-Sassoon (eds.), Proceedings of the Amsterdam Graduate Conference - Truth, Meaning, and Normativity. ILLC Publications.
    In the fifth of his John Locke Lectures, Robert Brandom takes up the challenge to define a formal semantics for modelling conceptual contents according to his normative analysis of linguistic practices. The project is to exploit the notion of incompatibility in order to directly define a modally robust relation of entailment. Unfortunately, it can be proved that, in the original definition, the modal system represented by Incompatibility Semantics (IS) collapses into propositional calculus. In this paper I show how IS can (...)
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  29. Tom Werner (2006). Future and Non-Future Modal Sentences. Natural Language Semantics 14 (3):235-255.
    In this paper, I argue for two principles to determine the temporal interpretation of modal sentences in English, given a theory in which modals are interpreted against double conversational backgrounds and an ontology in which possible worlds branch towards the future, The Disparity Principle requires that a modal sentence makes distinctions between worlds in the modal base. The Non- disparity Principle requires that a modal sentence does not make distinctions on the basis of facts settled at speech time. Selection of (...)
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  30. Douglas J. Wulf (2009). Two New Challenges for the Modal Account of the Progressive. Natural Language Semantics 17 (3):205-218.
    The progressive in English appears to be inherently modal, due to what Dowty (Word meaning and Montague grammar: The semantics of verbs and times in generative semantics and in Montague’s PTQ, 1979) terms the imperfective paradox. In truth-conditional accounts, the literal truth of a clause with the modal progressive hinges on the possibility of the described outcome. The clause’s truth under such accounts has also been tacitly assumed to describe its felicitous use. Two challenges for this strategy are discussed. First, (...)
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  31. Igor Yanovich (2013). Invariantist 'Might' and Modal Meaning Change. Linguistics and Philosophy 36 (2):175-180.
    Invariantism proposed by Braun (Linguistics and Philosophy 35(6):461–489, 2012) aims to maintain full identity of semantic content between all uses of ‘might’. I invoke well-known facts regarding diachronic change in meanings of modals to argue that invariantism commits us to implausible duplication of familiar processes of lexical semantic change on the level of “lexical pragmatics”, with no obvious payoff.
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  32. Thomas Ede Zimmermann (2000). Free Choice Disjunction and Epistemic Possibility. Natural Language Semantics 8 (4):255-290.
    This paper offers an explanation of the fact that sentences of the form (1) ‘X may A or B’ may be construed as implying (2) ‘X may A and X may B’, especially if they are used to grant permission. It is suggested that the effect arises because disjunctions are conjunctive lists of epistemic possibilities. Consequently, if the modal may is itself epistemic, (1) comes out as equivalent to (2), due to general laws of epistemic logic. On the other hand, (...)
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Deontic Modals
  1. Fabrizio Cariani (2013). 'Ought' and Resolution Semantics. Noûs 47 (3):534-558.
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  2. Nate Charlow (2013). What We Know and What to Do. Synthese 190 (12):2291-2323.
    This paper discusses an important puzzle about the semantics of indicative conditionals and deontic necessity modals (should, ought, etc.): the Miner Puzzle (Parfit, ms; Kolodny and MacFarlane, J Philos 107:115–143, 2010). Rejecting modus ponens for the indicative conditional, as others have proposed, seems to solve a version of the puzzle, but is actually orthogonal to the puzzle itself. In fact, I prove that the puzzle arises for a variety of sophisticated analyses of the truth-conditions of indicative conditionals. A comprehensive solution (...)
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  3. Nate Charlow (2011). Practical Language: Its Meaning and Use. Dissertation, University of Michigan
    I demonstrate that a "speech act" theory of meaning for imperatives is—contra a dominant position in philosophy and linguistics—theoretically desirable. A speech act-theoretic account of the meaning of an imperative !φ is characterized, broadly, by the following claims. -/- LINGUISTIC MEANING AS USE !φ’s meaning is a matter of the speech act an utterance of it conventionally functions to express—what a speaker conventionally uses it to do (its conventional discourse function, CDF). -/- IMPERATIVE USE AS PRACTICAL !φ's CDF is to (...)
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  4. Nate Charlow (2010). Restricting and Embedding Imperatives. In M. Aloni, H. Bastiaanse, T. de Jager & K. Schulz (eds.), Logic, Language, and Meaning: Selected Papers from the 17th Amsterdam Colloquium. Springer.
    We use imperatives to refute a naïve analysis of update potentials (force-operators attaching to sentences), arguing for a dynamic analysis of imperative force as restrictable, directed, and embeddable. We propose a dynamic, non-modal analysis of conditional imperatives, as a counterpoint to static, modal analyses. Our analysis retains Kratzer's analysis of if-clauses as restrictors of some operator, but avoids typing it as a generalized quantifier over worlds (against her), instead as a dynamic force operator. Arguments for a restrictor treatment (but against (...)
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  5. Matthew Chrisman (2012). 'Ought' and Control. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (3):433-451.
    Ethical theorists often assume that the verb ?ought? means roughly ?has an obligation?; however, this assumption is belied by the diversity of ?flavours? of ought-sentences in English. A natural response is that ?ought? is ambiguous. However, this response is incompatible with the standard treatment of ?ought? by theoretical semanticists, who classify ?ought? as a member of the family of modal verbs, which are treated uniformly as operators. To many ethical theorists, however, this popular treatment in linguistics seems to elide an (...)
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  6. Matthew Chrisman (2012). On the Meaning of 'Ought'. In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, vol. 7. Oxford University Press. 304.
    Discussions about the meaning of the word “ought” are pulled in two apparently competing directions. First, in ethical theory this word is used in the paradigmatic statement of ethical principles and conclusions about what some agent is obligated to do. This leads some ethical theorists to claim that the word “ought” describes a real relation, roughly, of being obligated to (realism) or expresses some non-cognitive attitude toward agents acting in certain ways (expressivism). Second, in theoretical linguistics this word is classified (...)
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  7. Benj Hellie (forthcoming). How We Do. In Nate Charlow & Matthew Chrisman (eds.), Deontic Modals. Oxford UP.
    Anscombean action theory hits the semantics and pragmatics of practical language with some assistance from mindset semantics. Hilites: an intention is an attitude toward an action-type, implemented by another intention; the structural order of intentions is recognized in knowhow; knowhow is grasp of an 'instruction' -- a conditional with imperative antecedent and consequent; the content of an imperative is an action-type; a command involving a certain imperative manifests an intention of our collective agency regarding the content of the imperative; a (...)
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  8. Frank Jackson & Robert Pargetter (1986). Oughts, Options, and Actualism. Philosophical Review 95 (2):233-255.
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  9. Andrew J. I. Jones & Ingmar Pörn (1986). Ought' and 'Must. Synthese 66 (1):89 - 93.
  10. Hans Kamp (1973). Free Choice Permission. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 74:57 - 74.
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  11. Niko Kolodny & John MacFarlane (2010). Ifs and Oughts. Journal of Philosophy 107 (3):115-143.
    We consider a paradox involving indicative conditionals (“ifs”) and deontic modals (“oughts”). After considering and rejecting several standard options for..
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  12. David Lewis (1979). A Problem About Permission. In Esa Saarinen, Risto Hilpinen, Illka Niiniluoto & Merrill Provence (eds.), Essays in Honour of Jaakko Hintikka on the Occasion of His Fiftieth Birthday on January 12, 1979. Reidel. 163-175.
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  13. Rosja Mastop (2011). Norm Performatives and Deontic Logic. European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 7 (2):83-105.
    Deontic logic is standardly conceived as the logic of true statements about the existence of obligations and permissions. In his last writings on the subject, G. H. von Wright criticized this view of deontic logic, stressing the rationality of norm imposition as the proper foundation of deontic logic. The present paper is an attempt to advance such an account of deontic logic using the formal apparatus of update semantics and dynamic logic. That is, we first define norm systems and a (...)
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  14. Dilip Ninan (2005). Two Puzzles About Deontic Necessity. In J. Gajewski, V. Hacquard, B. Nickel & S. Yalcin (eds.), New Work on Modality, MIT Working Papers in Linguistics.
    The deontic modal must has two surprising properties: an assertion of must p does not permit a denial of p, and must does not take past tense complements. I first consider an explanation of these phenomena that stays within Angelika Kratzer’s semantic framework for modals, and then offer some reasons for rejecting that explanation. I then propose an alternative account, according to which simple must sentences have the force of an imperative.
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  15. Paul Portner (2007). Imperatives and Modals. Natural Language Semantics 15 (4):351-383.
    Imperatives may be interpreted with many subvarieties of directive force, for example as orders, invitations, or pieces of advice. I argue that the range of meanings that imperatives can convey should be identified with the variety of interpretations that are possible for non-dynamic root modals (what I call ‘priority modals’), including deontic, bouletic, and teleological readings. This paper presents an analysis of the relationship between imperatives and priority modals in discourse which asserts that, just as declaratives contribute to the Common (...)
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  16. Ana Cristina Quelhas & Ruth Byrne (2003). Reasoning with Deontic and Counterfactual Conditionals. Thinking and Reasoning 9 (1):43 – 65.
    We report two new phenomena of deontic reasoning: (1) For conditionals with deontic content such as, "If the nurse cleaned up the blood then she must have worn rubber gloves", reasoners make more modus tollens inferences (from "she did not wear rubber gloves" to "she did not clean up the blood") compared to conditionals with epistemic content. (2) For conditionals in the subjunctive mood with deontic content, such as, "If the nurse had cleaned up the blood then she must have (...)
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  17. Mark Schroeder (2011). Ought, Agents, and Actions. Philosophical Review 120 (1):1 - 41.
    According to a naïve view sometimes apparent in the writings of moral philosophers, ‘ought’ often expresses a relation between agents and actions – the relation that obtains between an agent and an action when that action is what that agent ought to do. It is not part of this naïve view that ‘ought’ always expresses this relation – on the contrary, adherents of the naïve view are happy to allow that ‘ought’ also has an epistemic sense, on which it means, (...)
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  18. Aaron Sloman (1970). `Ought' and `Better'. Mind 79 (315):385-394.
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