Supervaluationism is often described as the most popular semantic treatment of indeterminacy. There’s little consensus, however, about how to fill out the barebones idea to include a characterization of logical consequence. In a recent paper, Achille Varzi writes: it is pretty clear that there is not just one supervaluational semantics out there–there are lots of such semantics; and although it is true that they all exploit the same insight, their relative differences are by no means immaterial . . . a (...) lot depends on how a given supervaluationally machinery is brought into play when it comes to explaining the logic of the language. (Varzi, forthcoming, p.463) The ‘supervaluational machinery’ to be discussed here is the idea of a supervaluational model defined below. Varzi highlights the fact that that all sorts of properties of sequents that are candidates for the name ‘validity’ can be defined using the resources of supervaluational models. (shrink)
Are counterfactuals with true antecedents and consequents automatically true? That is, is Conjunction Conditionalization: if (X & Y), then (X > Y) valid? Stalnaker and Lewis think so, but many others disagree. We note here that the extant arguments for Conjunction Conditionalization are unpersuasive, before presenting a family of more compelling arguments. These arguments rely on some standard theorems of the logic of counterfactuals as well as a plausible and popular semantic claim about certain semifactuals. Denying Conjunction Conditionalization, then, requires (...) rejecting other aspects of the standard logic of counterfactuals, or else our intuitive picture of semifactuals. (shrink)
This article investigates the claim that some truths are fundamentally or really true — and that other truths are not. Such a distinction can help us reconcile radically minimal metaphysical views with the verities of common sense. I develop an understanding of the distinction whereby Fundamentality is not itself a metaphysical distinction, but rather a device that must be presupposed to express metaphysical distinctions. Drawing on recent work by Rayo on anti-Quinean theories of ontological commitments, I formulate a rigourous theory (...) of the notion. In the final sections, I show how this package dovetails with ‘interpretationist’ theories of meaning to give sober content to thought that some things — perhaps sets, or gerrymandered mereological sums — can be ‘postulated into existence’. (shrink)
This paper explores the interaction of well-motivated (if controversial) principles governing the probability conditionals, with accounts of what it is for a sentence to be indefinite. The conclusion can be played in a variety of ways. It could be regarded as a new reason to be suspicious of the intuitive data about the probability of conditionals; or, holding fixed the data, it could be used to give traction on the philosophical analysis of a contentious notion—indefiniteness. The paper outlines the various (...) options, and shows that ‘rejectionist’ theories of indefiniteness are incompatible with the results. Rejectionist theories include popular accounts such as supervaluationism, non-classical truth-value gap theories, and accounts of indeterminacy that centre on rejecting the law of excluded middle. An appendix compares the results obtained here with the ‘impossibility’ results descending from Lewis ( 1976 ). (shrink)
I outline and motivate a way of implementing a closest world theory of indicatives, appealing to Stalnaker’s framework of open conversational possibilities. Stalnakerian conversational dynamics helps us resolve two outstanding puzzles for a such a theory of indicative conditionals. The first puzzle—concerning so-called ‘reverse Sobel sequences’—can be resolved by conversation dynamics in a theory-neutral way: the explanation works as much for Lewisian counterfactuals as for the account of indicatives developed here. Resolving the second puzzle, by contrast, relies on the interplay (...) between the particular theory of indicative conditionals developed here and Stalnakerian dynamics. The upshot is an attractive resolution of the so-called “Gibbard phenomenon” for indicative conditionals. (shrink)
Might it be that world itself, independently of what we know about it or how we represent it, is metaphysically indeterminate? This article tackles in turn a series of questions: In what sorts of cases might we posit metaphysical indeterminacy? What is it for a given case of indefiniteness to be 'metaphysical'? How does the phenomenon relate to 'ontic vagueness', the existence of 'vague objects', 'de re indeterminacy' and the like? How might the logic work? Are there reasons for postulating (...) this distinctive sort of indefiniteness? Conversely, are there reasons for denying that there is indefiniteness of this sort? (shrink)
How are permutation arguments for the inscrutability of reference to be formulated in the context of a Davidsonian truth-theoretic semantics? Davidson (1979) takes these arguments to establish that there are no grounds for favouring a reference scheme that assigns London to “Londres”, rather than one that assigns Sydney to that name. We shall see, however, that it is far from clear whether permutation arguments work when set out in the context of the kind of truth-theoretic semantics which Davidson favours. The (...) principle required to make the argument work allows us to resurrect Foster problems against the Davidsonian position. The Foster problems and the permutation inscrutability problems stand or fall together: they are one puzzle, not two. (shrink)
John Hawthorne in a recent paper takes issue with Lewisian accounts of counterfactuals, when relevant laws of nature are chancy. I respond to his arguments on behalf of the Lewisian, and conclude that while some can be rebutted, the case against the original Lewisian account is strong.I develop a neo-Lewisian account of what makes for closeness of worlds. I argue that my revised version avoids Hawthorne’s challenges. I argue that this is closer to the spirit of Lewis’s first (non-chancy) proposal (...) than is Lewis’s own suggested modification. (shrink)
Quine (1960, "Word and object". Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, ch. 2) claims that there are a variety of equally good schemes for translating or interpreting ordinary talk. 'Rabbit' might be taken to divide its reference over rabbits, over temporal slices of rabbits, or undetached parts of rabbits, without significantly affecting which sentences get classified as true and which as false. This is the basis of his famous 'argument from below' to the conclusion that there can be no fact of the (...) matter as to how reference is to be divided. Putative counterexamples to Quine's claim have been put forward in the past (see especially Evans (1975, "Journal of Philosophy", LXXII(13), 343-362. Reprinted in McDowell (Ed.), "Gareth Evans: Collected papers." Oxford: Clarendon Press.), Fodor (1993, "The elm and the expert: Mentalese and its semantics." Cambridge, MA: Bradford)), and various patches have been suggested (e. g. Wright (1997, The indeterminacy of translation. In C. Wright & B. Hale (Eds.), "A companion to the philosophy of language" (pp. 397-426). Oxford: Blackwell)). One lacuna in this literature is that one does not find any detailed presentation of what exactly these interpretations are supposed to be. Drawing on contemporary literature on persistence, the present paper sets out detailed semantic treatments for fragments of English, whereby predicates such as 'rabbit' divide their reference over four-dimensional continuants (Quine's rabbits), instantaneous temporal slices of those continuants (Quine's rabbitslices) and the simple elements which compose those slices (undetached rabbit parts) respectively. Once we have the systematic interpretations on the table, we can get to work evaluating them. (shrink)
Two kinds of explanation might be put forward. The ﬁrst goes like this: the necessary connection between the location of a whole and the location of its parts holds because the location of the whole is nothing but the collective location of its parts. The second style of explanation goes like this: the connection holds because what it is for a material whole to have something as a part, is (perhaps among other things) for the whole to contain the part.
Inscrutability arguments threaten to reduce interpretationist metasemantic theories to absurdity. Can we find some way to block the arguments? A highly influential proposal in this regard is David Lewis’ ‘eligibility’ response: some theories are better than others, not because they fit the data better, but because they are framed in terms of more natural properties. The purposes of this paper are (1) to outline the nature of the eligibility proposal, making the case that it is not ad hoc, but instead (...) flows naturally from three independently motivated elements; and (2) to show that severe limitations afflict the proposal. In conclusion, I pick out the element of the eligibility response that is responsible for the limitations: future work in this area should therefore concentrate on amending this aspect of the overall theory. (shrink)
Some argue that theories of universals should incorporate structural universals, in order to allow for the metaphysical possibility of worlds of 'infinite descending complexity' ('onion worlds'). I argue that the possibility of such worlds does not establish the need for structural universals. So long as we admit the metaphysical possibility of emergent universals, there is an attractive alternative description of such cases.
Worlds where things divide forever ("gunk" worlds) are apparently conceivable. The conceivability of such scenarios has been used as an argument against "nihilist" or "near-nihilist" answers to the special composition question. I argue that the mereological nihilist has the resources to explain away the illusion that gunk is possible.
I explore the thesis that the future is open, in the sense that future contingents are neither true nor false. The paper is divided into three sections. In the first, I survey how the thesis arises on a variety of contemporary views on the metaphysics of time. In the second, I explore the consequences for rational belief of the ‘Aristotelian’ view that indeterminacy is characterized by truth-value gaps. In the third, I outline one line of defence for the Aristotelian against (...) the puzzles this induces: treating opinion about future contingents as a matter of fictional belief rather than simple belief. (shrink)
In some sense, survival seems to be an intrinsic matter. Whether or not you survive some event seems to depend on what goes on with you yourself —what happens in the environment shouldn’t make a difference. Likewise, being a person at a time seems intrinsic.
If one believes that vagueness is an exclusively representational phenomenon, one faces the problem of the many. In the vicinity of Kilimanjaro, there are many many ‘mountain candidates’ all, apparently, with more-or-less equal claim to be mountains. David Lewis has defended a radical claim: that all the billions of mountain candidates are mountains. This paper argues that the supervaluationist about vagueness should adopt Lewis’ proposal, on pain of losing their best explanation of the seductiveness of the sorites.
Most views of personal identity allow that sometimes, facts of personal identity can be borderline or indeterminate. Bernard Williams argued that regarding questions of one’s own survival as borderline “had no comprehensible representation” in one’s emotions and expectations. Whether this is the case, I will argue, depends crucially on what account of indeterminacy is presupposed.