Simple 'might's, indicative possibilities and the open future

Philosophical Quarterly 48 (190):67-82 (1998)
Abstract
are ambiguous. In the mouth of someone who cannot remember whether it was Michael, or rather someone else, who was top scorer, (1) can express the epistemic possibility that Michael led the league in scoring. But from someone who knows that Michael did not even play last season, but is wondering what would have happened if he had, (1) means something quite different. Now where it has this quite different meaning, (1) may still turn out to be the expression of some epistemic possibility. Perhaps where (1) does not express the epistemic possibility of ‘Michael led the league in scoring’, it expresses the epistemic possibility of ‘Michael would have led the league in scoring’. Analysis of this ‘would have’ statement, together with an exploration of the suspicion that the ‘might have’ statement is ambiguous between these two epistemic possibilities, will have to await another occasion. (Although a first stab at the ‘would have’ statement’s analysis is this: for some contextually relevant p, if p were true, then Michael would have led the league in scoring.) The important point for present purposes is that (1) is ambiguous between an expression of the epistemic possibility of ‘Michael led the league in scoring’ and some quite different reading.
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References found in this work BETA
Stewart Cohen (1988). How to Be a Fallibilist. Philosophical Perspectives 2:91-123.
Keith DeRose (1992). Contextualism and Knowledge Attributions. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 52 (4):913-929.
David Lewis (1979). Scorekeeping in a Language Game. Journal of Philosophical Logic 8 (1):339--359.
Peter Unger (1986). The Cone Model of Knowledge. Philosophical Topics 14 (1):125-178.
Citations of this work BETA
Keith DeRose (2008). Gradable Adjectives: A Defence of Pluralism. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 86 (1):141-160.
Clayton Littlejohn (2011). Concessive Knowledge Attributions and Fallibilism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83 (3):603-619.

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