So far, T×W frames have been employed to provide a semantics for a language of tense logic that includes a modal operator that expresses historical necessity. The operator is defined in terms of quantification over possible courses of events that satisfy a certain constraint, namely, that of being alike up to a given point. However, a modal operator can as well be defined without placing that constraint. This paper outlines a T×W logic where an operator of the latter kind is (...) used to express the epistemic property of definiteness. Section 1 provides the theoretical background. Sections 2 and 3 set out the semantics. Sections 4 and 5 show, drawing on established results, that there is a sound and complete axiomatization of the logic outlined. (shrink)
When I tell you that it’s raining, I describe a way the world is—viz., rainy. I say something whose truth turns on how things are with the weather in the world. Likewise when I tell you that the weatherman thinks that it’s raining. Here the truth of what I say turns on how things are with the weatherman’s state of mind in the world. Likewise when I tell you that I think that it’s raining. Here the truth of what I (...) say turns on how things are with my state of mind in the world. (shrink)
Within the linguistics literature it is often claimed that epistemicmodality, unlike other kinds of modality, does not contribute to truth-conditional content. In this paper I challenge this view. I reanalyze a variety of arguments which have been used in support of the non-truth-conditional view and show that they can be handled on an alternative analysis of epistemicmodality. # 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
A dynamic semantics for epistemically modalized sentences is an attractive alternative to the orthodox view that our best theory of meaning ascribes to such sentences truth-conditions relative to what is known. This essay demonstrates that a dynamic theory about might and must offers elegant explanations of a range of puzzling observations about epistemic modals. The first part of the story offers a unifying treatment of disputes about epistemicmodality and disputes about matters of fact while at the (...) same time avoiding the complexities of alternative theories. The second part of the story extends the basic framework to cover some complicated data about retraction and the interaction between epistemicmodality and tense. A comparison between the suggestion made in this essay and current versions of the orthodoxy is provided. (shrink)
This article presents a formal semantic analysis of the Bulgarian evidential. The analysis is motivated by a number of facts that have gone unnoticed in the literature on evidentiality in Bulgarian and which cannot be explained by previous analyses (Izvorski 1997; Sauerland & Schenner 2007; Koev 2011). First, I show that the same evidential construction in Bulgarian can express direct, reportative and inferential information sources. These data challenge the current analysis of the Bulgarian evidential as indirect (Izvorski 1997), and show (...) that in some languages a single evidential morpheme can express both direct and indirect information sources (contra Willett 1988; Aikhenvald 2004). Second, I show that the Bulgarian evidential expresses temporal meaning: it functions as a relative tense. Finally, while I retain the insights of Izvorski’s modal analysis, I substantially change the modal component to account for reports of false information in reportative contexts (I analyze them as de dicto reports). Ultimately, I argue that the evidential construction in Bulgarian has a tripartite meaning: it encodes information source, temporality and epistemicmodality. This article contributes to the understanding of the semantics of evidentials cross-linguistically (cf. Faller 2002; McCready & Ogata 2007; Matthewson et al. 2007) by showing how the interaction of the modal and the temporal component affects the distribution and meaning of evidentials in discourse. (shrink)
This paper is concerned with the acquisition of certain aspects of the meaning of epistemic modal verbs. Epistemic modals encode the probability, predictability or certainty of the proposition embedded under the modal verb. The sentences in (1) are examples of epistemic modality1.
way on the information available in the contexts in which they are used, it’s not surprising that there is a minor but growing industry of work in semantics and the philosophy of language concerned with the precise nature of the context-dependency of epistemically modalized sentences. Take, for instance, an epistemic might-claim like..
way on the information available in the contexts in which they are used, it’s not surprising that there is a minor but growing industry of work in semantics and the philosophy of language concerned with the precise nature of the context-dependency of epistemically modalized sentences. Take, for instance, an epistemic might-claim like..
There is a lot that we don’t know. That means that there are a lot of possibilities that are, epistemically speaking, open. For instance, we don’t know whether it rained in Seattle yesterday. So, for us at least, there is an epistemic possibility where it rained in Seattle yesterday, and one where it did not. It’s tempting to give a very simple analysis of epistemic possibility: • A possibility is an epistemic possibility if we do not know (...) that it does not obtain. But this is problematic for a few reasons. One issue, one that we’ll come back to, concerns the first two words. The analysis appears to quantify over possibilities. But what are they? As we said, that will become a large issue pretty soon, so let’s set it aside for now. A more immediate problem is that it isn’t clear what it is to have de re attitudes towards possibilities, such that we know a particular possibility does or doesn’t obtain. Let’s try rephrasing our analysis so that it avoids this complication. (shrink)
Epistemic modals in consequent place of indicative conditionals give rise to apparent counterexamples to Modus Ponens and Modus Tollens. Familiar assumptions of fa- miliar truth conditional theories of modality facilitate a prima facie explanation—viz., that the target cases harbor epistemic modal equivocations. However, these explana- tions go too far. For they foster other predictions of equivocation in places where in fact there are no equivocations. It is argued here that the key to the solution is to drop (...) the assumption that modal claims are inherently relational (i.e., that they ex- press a logical relation between a prejacent and a premise-set) in favor of a view that treats them as inherently quantificational. In particular it is suggested that modals are mass noun descriptions of information. We demonstrate how this approach unlocks the equivocation problem. (shrink)
On Kratzer’s canonical account, modal expressions (like “might” and “must”) are represented semantically as quantifiers over possibilities. Such expressions are themselves neutral; they make a single contribution to determining the propositions expressed across a wide range of uses. What modulates the modality of the proposition expressed—as bouletic, epistemic, deontic, etc.—is context.2 This ain’t the canon for nothing. Its power lies in its ability to figure in a simple and highly unified explanation of a fairly wide range of language (...) use. Recently, though, the canon’s neat story has come under attack. The challenge cases involve the epistemic use of a modal sentence for which no single resolution of the contextual parameter appears capable of accommodating all our intuitions.3 According to these revisionaries, such cases show that the canonical story needs to be amended in some way that makes multiple bodies of information relevant to the assessment of such statements. Here I show that how the right canonical, flexibly contextualist account of modals can accommodate the full range of challenge cases. The key will be to extend Kratzer’s formal semantic account with an account of how context selects values for a modal’s.. (shrink)
Of late, evidentiality has received great attention in formal semantics. In this paper I develop ‘evidentiality-informed’ truth conditions for modal operators such as must and may . With language data drawn from Luoping Nase (a Tibeto-Burman language spoken in the P.R. of China and belonging to the Yi Nationality), I illustrate that epistemic modals clash with clauses articulating first-hand information. I then demonstrate that existing models such as Kratzer’s graded possible-worlds semantics fail to provide accurate truth conditions for modals (...) tagging clauses with first-hand information. As a remedy I propose a fuzzy version of possible-worlds semantics with various grades of belief and knowledge. In addition to preserving the expressive power of graded possible-worlds semantics, the fuzzy model will be shown to supply appropriate truth conditions for epistemic modals appended to evidential clauses (i.e. clauses expressing first-hand information). (shrink)
The argument from faultless disagreement employed by the relativist purports to show that contextualism falls short of explaining cases of faultless disagreement. The demonstration is intended to give credence to the relativist semantics of epistemicmodality expressions. In this paper we present some cases showing that even though cases of faultless disagreement do reveal some intrinsic features of epistemicmodality claims, they do not support the relativist semantics. The sophistication of faultless disagreement goes beyond what the (...) relativist semantics can cope with. We also advance an epistemologically oriented proposal to account for faultless disagreement. (shrink)
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 epistemicmodality. 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 relativists mount against contextualist theories. (shrink)
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 derived by extending Kratzer’s framework to feature a third conversational background and claiming that the relevant reading of ‘ought’ is sensitive to this parameter. (shrink)
By “epistemic modals,” I mean epistemic uses of modal words: adverbs like “necessarily,” “possibly,” and “probably,” adjectives like “necessary,” “possible,” and “probable,” and auxiliaries like “might,” “may,” “must,” and “could.” It is hard to say exactly what makes a word modal, or what makes a use of a modal epistemic, without begging the questions that will be our concern below, but some examples should get the idea across. If I say “Goldbach’s conjecture might be true, and it (...) might be false,” I am not endorsing the Cartesian view that God could have made the truths of arithmetic come out differently. I make the claim not because I believe in the metaphysical contingency of mathematics, but because I know that Goldbach’s conjecture has not yet been proved or refuted. Similarly, if I say “Joe can’t be running,” I am not saying that Joe’s constitution prohibits him from running, or that Joe is essentially a non-runner, or that Joe isn’t allowed to run. My basis for making the claim may be nothing more than that I see Joe’s running shoes hanging on a hook. (shrink)
In this paper I will be concerned with the question as to whether expressivist theories of meaning can coherently be combined with deflationist theories of truth. After outlining what I take expressivism to be and what I take deflationism about truth to be, I’ll explain why I don’t take the general version of this question to be very hard, and why the answer is ‘yes’. Having settled that, I’ll move on to what I take to be a more pressing and (...) interesting version of the question, arising from a prima facie tension between deflationism about truth and the motivations underlying expressivism for what I take to be two of its most promising applications: to indicative conditionals and epistemic modals. Here I’ll argue that the challenge is substantive, but that there is no conceptual obstacle to its being met, provided that one’s expressivism takes the right form. (shrink)
In “Epistemic Modals,” Seth Yalcin argues that what explains the deficiency of sentences containing epistemic modals of the form ‘p and it might be that not-p’ is that sentences of this sort are strictly contradictory, and thus are not instances of a Moore-paradox as has been previous suggested. Benjamin Schnieder, however, argues in his Yalcin’s explanation of these sentences’ deficiency turns out to be insufficiently general, as it cannot account for less complex but still defective sentences, such as (...) ‘Suppose it might be raining.’ Consequently, Schnieder proposes his own, expressivist treatment of epistemic modals which he thinks can explain the deficiency of both the original sentence type as well as more complex cases of embedded sentences containing epistemic modals. In this study, I argue that although Schnieder is right to draw our attention to the explanatory failure of Yalcin’s account, we aren’t forced to adopt Schnieder’s expressivist account of epistemic modals. I defend instead a contextualist-friendly alternative which explains the deficiencies of all the relevant sentence types, while avoiding both the defects of Yalcin’s account and the intuitive costs of expressivism. (shrink)
Recently, Yalcin (Epistemic modals. Mind, 116 , 983–1026, 2007) put forward a novel account of epistemic modals. It is based on the observation that sentences of the form ‘ & Might ’ do not embed under ‘suppose’ and ‘if’. Yalcin concludes that such sentences must be contradictory and develops a notion of informational consequence which validates this idea. I will show that informational consequence is inadequate as an account of the logic of epistemic modals: it cannot deal (...) with reasoning from uncertain premises. Finally, I offer an alternative way of explaining the relevant linguistic data. (shrink)
This paper presents and discusses a range of counterexamples to the common view that quantifiers cannot take scope over epistemic modals. Some of the counterexamples raise problems for ‘force modifier’ theories of epistemic modals. Some of the counterexamples raise problems for Robert Stalnaker’s theory of counterfactuals, according to which a special kind of epistemic modal must be able to scope over a whole counterfactual. Finally, some of the counterexamples suggest that David Lewis must countenance ‘would’ counterfactuals in (...) which a covert ‘would’ scopes over the whole consequent of the counterfactual, including an overt ‘might.’. (shrink)
A primary challenge from the relativist to the contextualist about epistemic modals is to explain eavesdropping data—i.e., why the eavesdropper is inclined to judge the speaker as having uttered an epistemic modal falsehood (when she is so inclined), even though the speaker’s utterance is true according to reasonable contextualist truth conditions. The issue turns in large part on the strength and shape of the data, both of which are in dispute. One complaint is that an eavesdropper’s truth value (...) judgments fluctuate with variations of non- epistemic fact (even after the relevant epistemic/information states are determined). The project here is to strengthen and reframe this complaint in a debate-neutral way, and to show how a sober contextualism can uniformly accommodate it and the standard eavesdropping data. Along the way we reject John Hawthorne’s danger-theoretic explanation of these subtleties. (shrink)
Michael Huemer (2007) has articulated a provocative account of the concept of "epistemic possibility" which he hopes will explicate the explanatory value of the concept while also lending support to a broader anti-skeptical strategy. While I think his account has a number of advantages, many of which Huemer himself identifies, there are also significant disadvantages which should prompt us to seek an alternative. In this paper I describe an alternative which builds on some of the better features of Huemer's (...) account, while avoiding its shortcomings. After having explained why this alternative avoids the problems I attribute to Huemer's position, I will conclude by presenting some independent considerations in favor of my account, which recommends that epistemic possibility claims be subjected to the same evidentialist standards to which belief and assertion are usually held accountable. (shrink)
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.
In this paper, we explore semantics for comparative epistemic modals that avoid the entailment problems shown to result from Kratzer’s (1991) semantics by Yalcin (2006, 2009, 2010). In contrast to the alternative semantics presented by Yalcin and Lassiter (2010, 2011), based on finitely additive probability measures, we introduce semantics based on qualitatively additive measures, as well as semantics based on purely qualitative orderings, including orderings on propositions derived from orderings on worlds in the tradition of Kratzer (1991). All of (...) these semantics avoid the entailment problems that result from Kratzer’s semantics. Our discussion focuses on methodological issues concerning the choice between different semantics. (shrink)
My aim in this paper is to give a philosophical analysis of the relationship between contingently available technology and the knowledge that it makes possible. My concern is with what specific subjects can know in practice, given their particular conditions, especially available technology, rather than what can be known “in principle” by a hypothetical entity like Laplace’s Demon. The argument has two parts. In the first, I’ll construct a novel account of epistemic possibility that incorporates two pragmatic conditions: responsibility (...) and practicability. For example, whether subjects can gain knowledge depends in some circumstances on whether they have the capability of gathering relevant evidence. In turn, the possibility of undertaking such investigative activities depends in part on factors like ethical constraints, economical realities, and available technology. In the second part of the paper, I’ll introduce “technological possibility” to analyze the set of actions made possible by available technology. To help motivate the problem and later test my proposal, I’ll focus on a specific historical case, one of the earliest uses of digital electronic computers in a scientific investigation. I conclude that the epistemic possibility of gaining access to scientific knowledge about certain subjects depends (in some cases) on the technological possibility for making responsible investigations. (shrink)
The similarities between the philosophical debates surrounding assessment sensitivity and moral luck run so deep that one can easily adapt almost any argument from one debate, change some terms, adapt the examples, and end up with an argument relevant to the other. This article takes Brian Rosebury's strategy for resisting moral luck in “Moral Responsibility and ‘Moral Luck' ” (1995) and turns it into a strategy for resisting assessment sensitivity. The article shows that one of Bernard Williams's examples motivating moral (...) luck is very similar to one of the examples John MacFarlane uses to motivate the assessment sensitivity of epistemic modals, and in particular the assessment sensitivity of the auxiliary verb “might.” This means that, if Rosebury is right and we do not actually need moral luck to explain Williams's example, we may not need assessment sensitivity to account for the semantic behaviour of the epistemic modal verb “might” either. (shrink)
Imagine that Ann, asked to name her favorite treat, answers: 1. Licorice is tasty Imagine that Ben, having hidden some licorice in the cupboard, whispers to Ann: 2. There might be licorice in the cupboard. What if any role is played by perspective—whom the licorice is tasty to, whose evidence allows for licorice in the cupboard—in the semantics of such sentences?
Throughout the medieval and modern periods, in various sacred and secular guises, the unification of all forms of knowledge under the rubric of ‘science’ has been taken as the prerogative of humanity as a species. However, as our sense of species privilege has been called increasingly into question, so too has the very salience of ‘humanity’ and ‘science’ as general categories, let alone ones that might bear some essential relationship to each other. After showing how the ascendant Stanford School in (...) the philosophy of science has contributed to this joint demystification of ‘humanity’ and ‘science’, I proceed on a more positive note to a conceptual framework for making sense of science as the art of being human. My understanding of ‘science’ is indebted to the red thread that runs from Christian theology through the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment to the Humboldtian revival of the university as the site for the synthesis of knowledge as the culmination of self-development. Especially salient to this idea is science‘s epistemic capacity to manage modality (i.e. to determine the conditions under which possibilities can be actualised) and its political capacity to organize humanity into projects of universal concern. However, the challenge facing such an ideal in the twentyfirst century is that the predicate ‘human’ may be projected in three quite distinct ways, governed by what I call ‘ecological’, ‘biomedical’ and ‘cybernetic’ interests. Which one of these future humanities would claim today’s humans as proper ancestors and could these futures co-habit the same world thus become two important questions that general philosophy of science will need to address in the coming years. (shrink)
The subject of this article is Modal-Epistemic Arithmetic (MEA), a theory introduced by Horsten to interpret Epistemic Arithmetic (EA), which in turn was introduced by Shapiro to interpret Heyting Arithmetic. I will show how to interpret MEA in EA such that one can prove that the interpretation of EA is MEA is faithful. Moreover, I will show that one can get rid of a particular Platonist assumption. Then I will discuss models for MEA in light of the problems (...) of logical omniscience and logical competence. Awareness models, impossible worlds models and syntactical models have been introduced to deal with the first problem. Certain conditions on the accessibility relations are needed to deal with the second problem. I go on to argue that those models are subject to the problem of quantifying in, for which I will provide a solution. (shrink)
There is a controversy, within social epistemology, over how to handle disagreement among epistemic peers. Call this the problem of peer disagreement. There is a solution, i.e. the equal-weight view, which says that disagreement among epistemic peers is a reason for each peer to lower the credence they place in their respective positions. However, this solution is susceptible to a serious challenge. Call it the merely modal peers challenge. Throughout parts of modal space, which resemble the actual world (...) almost completely, there are hordes of epistemic peers, who disagree with almost any arbitrarily chosen belief had by residents of the actual world. Further, the mere modality of these peers is not itself an epistemic difference-maker. Thus, on the equal-weight view, we should significantly lower the credence we place in most of our beliefs. Surely, this is seriously mistaken. Thus, there are serious considerations that cut against the equal-weight view. (shrink)
Este trabajo presenta las líneas centrales del bidimensionalismo epistémico defendido recientemente por David Chalmers, y considera, en particular, las motivaciones a las que la semántica debería servir en la conexión entre modalidad metafísica y epistémica. Después de esta presentación, se indican tres dificultades: (i) no se ha diferenciado suficientemente de las semánticas bidimensionales contextuales tradicionales; (ii) la noción de justificación a priori sobre la que se ha desarrollado requiere urgentemente mayor precisión; y (iii) los defensores del esquema han olvidado completamente (...) los casos de "contingencias fuertes". /// This work presents the main Unes of epistemic two-dimensionalism recently defended by David Chalmers, discussing, in particular, the motivations that semantics is supposed to serve in the connection between metaphysical modality and epistemicmodality. After presenting the two-dimensional epistemic semantics, three difficulties are leveled against it: (i) it is insufficiently distinguished from the traditional contextual bi-dimensional semantics; (ii) the notion of a priori justification on which it is constructed is badly requiring more precisión; and (iii) the defenders of the semantics have completely despised the cases of "strong contingencies". (shrink)
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 which has led to proposals that hardwire different syntactic positions for epistemics and roots (cf. Cinque’s hierarchy). This paper argues that the range of interpretations a modal receives is even more restricted: a modal must be keyed to certain time-individual pairs, but not others. I show that this can be captured straightforwardly by minimally modifying the Kratzerian account: modals are relative to an event—rather than a world—of evaluation, which readily provides a time (the event’s running time) and (an) individual(s) (the event’s participants). I propose that this event relativity of modals can in turn explain the correlation between type of interpretation and syntactic position, without stipulation of an interpretation-specific height for modals. (shrink)
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.
Epistemic modal operators give rise to something very like, but also very unlike, Moore's paradox. I set out the puzzling phenomena, explain why a standard relational semantics for these operators cannot handle them, and recommend an alternative semantics. A pragmatics appropriate to the semantics is developed and interactions between the semantics, the pragmatics, and the definition of consequence are investigated. The semantics is then extended to probability operators. Some problems and prospects for probabilistic representations of content and context are (...) explored. (shrink)
Seth Yalcin has pointed out some puzzling facts about the behaviour of epistemic modals in certain embedded contexts. For example, conditionals that begin ‘If it is raining and it might not be raining, …’ sound unacceptable, unlike conditionals that begin ‘If it is raining and I don’t know it, …’. These facts pose a prima facie problem for an orthodox treatment of epistemic modals, according to which they express propositions about the knowledge of some contextually specified individual or (...) group. This paper develops an explanation of the puzzling facts about embedding within an orthodox framework, using broadly Gricean resources. (shrink)
I think that there are good reasons to adopt a relativist semantics for epistemic modal claims such as ``the treasure might be under the palm tree'', according to which such utterances determine a truth value relative to something finer-grained than just a world (or a <world, time> pair). Anyone who is inclined to relativise truth to more than just worlds and times faces a problem about assertion. It's easy to be puzzled about just what purpose would be served by (...) assertions of this kind, and how to understand what we'd be up to in our use of sentences like ``the treasure might be under the palm tree'', if they have such peculiar truth conditions. After providing a very quick argument to motivate a relativist view of epistemic modals, I bring out and attempt to resolve this problem in making sense of the role of assertions with relativist truth conditions. Solving this problem should be helpful in two ways: first, it eliminates an apparently forceful objection to relativism, and second, spelling out the relativist account of assertion and communication will help to make clear just what the relativist position is, exactly, and why it's interesting. (shrink)
I develop a new argument for an expressivist account of epistemic modals, which starts from a puzzle about epistemic modals which Seth Yalcin recently presented. I reject Yalcin's own solution to the puzzle, and give a better explanation based on expressivism concerning epistemic modals. I also address two alleged problems for expressivism: do embeddings of epistemic modals pose a serious threat to expressivism, and how can expressivism account for disagreements about statements containing epistemic modals?
A very simple contextualist treatment of a sentence containing an epistemic modal, e.g. a might be F, is that it is true iff for all the contextually salient community knows, a is F. It is widely agreed that the simple theory will not work in some cases, but the counterexamples produced so far seem amenable to a more complicated contextualist theory. We argue, however, that no contextualist theory can capture the evaluations speakers naturally make of sentences containing epistemic (...) modals. If we want to respect these evaluations, our best option is a relativist theory of epistemic modals. On a relativist theory, an utterance of a might be F can be true relative to one context of evaluation and false relative to another. We argue that such a theory does better than any rival approach at capturing all the behaviour of epistemic modals. (shrink)
Attention to the conversational role of alethic terms seems to dominate, and even sometimes exhaust, many contemporary analyses of the nature of truth. Yet, because truth plays a role in judgment and assertion regardless of whether alethic terms are expressly used, such analyses cannot be comprehensive or fully adequate. A more general analysis of the nature of truth is therefore required – one which continues to explain the significance of truth independently of the role alethic terms play in discourse. We (...) undertake such an analysis in this paper; in particular, we start with certain elements from Kant and Frege, and develop a construct of truth as a normative modality of cognitive acts (e.g., thought, judgment, assertion). Using the various biconditional T-schemas to sanction the general passage from assertions to (equivalent) assertions of truth, we then suggest that an illocutionary analysis of truth can contribute to its locutionary analysis as well, including the analysis of diverse constructions involving alethic terms that have been largely overlooked in the philosophical literature. Finally, we briefly indicate the importance of distinguishing between alethic and epistemic modalities. (shrink)
I want to discuss a puzzle about the semantics of epistemic modals, like “It might be the case that” as it occurs in “It might be the case that Goldbach’s conjecture is false.”1 I’ll argue that the puzzle cannot be adequately explained on standard accounts of the semantics of epistemic modals, and that a proper solution requires relativizing utterance truth to a context of assessment, a semantic device whose utility and coherence I have defended elsewhere for future contingents (...) (MacFarlane.. (shrink)
In assessing the veridicality of utterances, we normally seem to assess the satisfaction of conditions that the speaker had been concerned to get right in making the utterance. However, the debate about assessor-relativism about epistemic modals, predicates of taste, gradable adjectives and conditionals has been largely driven by cases in which seemingly felicitous assessments of utterances are insensitive to aspects of the context of utterance that were highly relevant to the speaker’s choice of words. In this paper, we offer (...) an explanation of why certain locutions invite insensitive assessments, focusing primarily on ’tasty’ and ’might’. We spell out some reasons why felicitous insensitive assessments are puzzling and argue briefly that recent attempts to accommodate such assessments (including attempts by John MacFarlane, Kai von Fintel and Anthony Gillies) all fail to provide more than hints at a solution to the puzzle. In the main part of the paper, we develop an account of felicitous insensitive assessments by identifying a number of pragmatic factors that influence the felicity of assessments. Before closing, we argue that the role of these factors extend beyond cases considered in the debate about assessor-relativism and fit comfortably with standard contextualist analyses of the relevant locutions. (shrink)