Disjunctions and Questions

Philosophy 53 (204):264 - 269 (1978)
Abstract
Mr B. H. Slater distinguishes between various pairs of questions: 1 Did they agree either that they would go to the pictures or that they would go out for a meal? 1 Did they agree that either they would go to the pictures or they would go out for a meal? 2 Is it known either that Jones was guilty or that Smith was guilty? 2 Is it known that either Jones was guilty or Smith was guilty? 3 Did he say either that he would get the puzzle solved or that he would eat his hat? 3 Did he say that either he would get the puzzle solved or he would eat his hat? According to Slater, if we can only say ‘Yes’ to 1 or 3), then we immediately know what was agreed, namely, that either they would go to the pictures or they would go out for a meal; but if we can just say ‘Yes’ to 1 or 3), then we cannot immediately say what was agreed; all we know is that either they agreed to go to the pictures or they agreed to go out for a meal. Or, generalizing somewhat, a ‘Yes’ answer to the question ‘Did they agree that either p or q?’ tells us that they agreed that either p or q; but, with the question ‘Did they agree either that p or that q?’, while ‘Yes, they agreed that p’, and ‘Yes they agreed that q’ are possible answers , there is no answer, ‘Yes they agreed that r’, which is invariably correct, when ‘Yes’ is correct. In particular, the answer certainly cannot be ‘Yes, they agreed that p or q’
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