Counterfactuals are somewhat tolerant. Had Socrates been at least six feet tall, he need not have been exactly six feet tall. He might have been a little taller—he might have been six one or six two. But while he might have been a little taller, there are limits to how tall he would have been. Had he been at least six feet tall, he would not have been more than a hundred feet tall, for example. Counterfactuals are not just tolerant, (...) then, but bounded. This paper presents a surprising paradox: If counterfactuals are tolerant and bounded, then we can prove a flat contradiction using natural rules of inference. Something has to go then. But what? (shrink)
The main goal of this paper is to investigate the relation between the meaning of a sentence and its truth conditions. We report on a comprehension experiment on counterfactual conditionals, based on a context in which a light is controlled by two switches. Our main finding is that the truth-conditionally equivalent clauses (i) "switch A or switch B is down" and (ii) "switch A and switch B are not both up" make different semantic contributions when embedded in a conditional antecedent. (...) Assuming compositionality, this means that (i) and (ii) differ in meaning, which implies that the meaning of a sentential clause cannot be identified with its truth conditions. We show that our data have a clear explanation in inquisitive semantics: in a conditional antecedent, (i) introduces two distinct assumptions, while (ii) introduces only one. Independently of the complications stemming from disjunctive antecedents, our results also challenge analyses of counterfactuals in terms of minimal change from the actual state of affairs: we show that such analyses cannot account for our findings, regardless of what changes are considered minimal. (shrink)
The purposes of this paper are first, to develop clearly the problem of mental conditionals for Millikan’s theory; second, to show why existing approaches to conditional semantics face serious challenges from a teleosemantic perspective; and third, to offer an account of the function of mental conditionals that meets the requirements of Millikan’s theory. We end up not only with a solution to a standing problem for teleosemantics, but also with a novel avenue for research in conditional semantics.
Vann McGee has presented a putative counterexample to modus ponens. I show that (a slightly modified version of) McGee’s election scenario has the same structure as a famous lottery scenario by Kyburg. More specifically, McGee’s election story can be taken to show that, if the Lockean Thesis holds, rational belief is not closed under classical logic, including classical-logic modus ponens. This conclusion defies the existing accounts of McGee’s puzzle.
It is commonly accepted that unconditional statements are clearer and less problematic than conditional ones. This article challenges this belief by proposing that all unconditional statements can be reduced to conditional ones since epistemic justification is inherently conditional in nature. The distinction between unconditional and conditional statements is similar to the distinction between assumptions and premises, which is an idealization that results from our attempts to limit epistemic complexity. This has perplexing consequences: (1) since any ordinary statement can be viewed (...) as a disguised conditional, this sets off a chain of epistemic regress that results in a larger conditional that encompasses our entire belief systems; (2) this monster conditional can’t never be justified since it always expands in the process of justification; (3) since there is no such thing as unconditional statements, conditionals themselves become meaningless, which implies that arguments and even entire belief systems become meaningless as well; (4) the only way to avoid these disastrous results is to admit that the meaning of conditionals and, ultimately, of our belief systems is a matter of convention. (shrink)
The material account proposes that indicative conditionals are material, but it is widely believed that this account cannot be applied to subjunctive conditionals. There are three reasons for this consensus: (1) the concern that most subjunctive conditionals would be vacuously true if they were material, which seems implausible; (2) the inconsistency with Adams pair, which suggests that indicative and subjunctive conditionals have different truth conditions; and (3) the belief that the possible world theories are a superior alternative to the material (...) account. In this paper, I will argue against (1) by showing that the counterintuitive aspects of vacuously true conditionals can be explained away in a consistent manner, regardless of whether they are indicative or subjunctive. I will support this argument by demonstrating that the positive arguments for the material account of indicatives also apply to subjunctives. I will counter (2) by explaining the Adams pair as logically equivalent conditionals that may be appropriate at different times, depending on the speaker’s epistemic situation. Finally, I will challenge (3) by arguing that the possible world account faces insurmountable issues and that a comprehensive material account of both indicatives and subjunctives is ultimately a more elegant solution. (shrink)
It is usually accepted that deductions are non-informative and monotonic, inductions are informative and nonmonotonic, abductions create hypotheses but are epistemically irrelevant, and both deductions and inductions can’t provide new insights. In this article, I attempt to provide a more cohesive view of the subject with the following hypotheses: (1) the paradigmatic examples of deductions, such as modus ponens and hypothetical syllogism, are not inferential forms, but coherence requirements for inferences; (2) since any reasoner aims to be coherent, any inference (...) must be deductive; (3) a coherent inference is an intuitive process where the premises should be taken as sufficient evidence for the conclusion, which on its turn should be viewed as necessary evidence for the premises in some modal range; (4) inductions, properly understood, are abductions, but there are no abductions beyond the fact that in any inference the conclusion should be regarded as necessary evidence for the premises; (5) monotonicity is not only compatible with the retraction of past inferences given new information, but it is a requirement for it; (6) this explanation of inferences holds true for discovery processes, predictions and trivial inferences. (shrink)
Four intuitions are recurrent and influential in theories about conditionals: the Ramsey’s test, the Adams’ Thesis, the Equation, and the robustness requirement. For simplicity’s sake, I call these intuitions ‘the big four’. My aim is to show that: (1) the big four are interdependent; (2) they express our inferential dispositions to employ a conditional on a modus ponens; (3) the disposition to employ conditionals on a modus ponens doesn’t have the epistemic significance that is usually attributed to it, since the (...) acceptability or truth conditions of a conditional is not necessarily associated with its employability on a modus ponens. (shrink)
Russell’s role in the controversy about the paradoxes of material implication is usually presented as a tale of how even the greatest minds can fall prey to basic conceptual confusions. Quine accused him of making a silly mistake in Principia Mathematica. He interpreted “if- then” as a version of “implies” and called it material implication. Quine’s accusation is that this decision involved a use-mention fallacy because the antecedent and consequent of “if-then” are used instead of being mentioned as the premise (...) and the conclusion of an implication relation. It was his opinion that the criticisms and alternatives to the material implication presented by C. I. Lewis and others would never be made in the first place if Russell simply called the Philonian construction “material conditional” instead of “material implication”. Quine’s interpretation of the topic became hugely influential if not universally accepted. This paper will present the following criticisms against this interpretation: (1) the notion of material implication does not involve a use-mention fallacy, since the components of “if-then” are mentioned and not used; (2) Quine’s belief that the components of “if-then” are used was motivated by a conditional-assertion view of conditionals that is widely controversial and faces numerous difficulties; (3) if anything, it was Quine who could be accused of fallacious reasoning: he ignored that in the assertion of a conditional is the whole proposition that is asserted and not its constituents; (4) the Philonian construction remains counter-intuitive even if it is called “material conditional”; (5) the Philonian construction is more plausible when it is interpreted as a material implication. (shrink)
There is a profound, but frequently ignored relationship between logical consequence (formal implication) and material implication. The first repeats the patterns of the latter, but with a wider modal reach. It is argued that this kinship between formal and material implication simply means that they express the same kind of implication, but differ in scope. Formal implication is unrestricted material implication. This apparently innocuous observation has some significant corollaries: (1) conditionals are not connectives, but arguments; (2) the traditional examples of (...) valid argumentative forms are metalogical principles that express the properties of logical consequence; (3) formal logic is not a useful guide to detect valid arguments in the real world; (4) it is incoherent to propose alternatives to the material implication while accepting the classical properties of formal implication; (5) some of the counter-examples to classical argumentative forms and known conditional puzzles are unsound. (shrink)
Different logic systems are motivated by attempts to fix the counter-intuitive instances of classical argumentative forms, e.g., strengthening of the antecedent, contraposition and conditional negation. These counter-examples are regarded as evidence that classical logic should be rejected in favour of a new logic system in which these argumentative forms are considered invalid. It is argued that these logical revisions are ad hoc, because those controversial argumentative forms are implied by other argumentative forms we want to keep. It is impossible to (...) remove an argumentative form from a logical system without getting entangled in an intricate logical web, since these revisions imply the removal of other parts of a system we want to maintain. Consequently, these revisions are incoherent and unwarranted. At the very least, the usual approach in the analysis of counter-examples of argumentative forms must be seriously reconsidered. (shrink)
According to the so-called ‘standard theory’ of conditions, the conditionship relation is converse, that is, if A is a sufficient condition for B, B is a necessary condition for A. This theory faces well-known counterexamples that appeal to both causal and other asymmetric considerations. I show that these counterexamples lose their plausibility once we clarify two key components of the standard theory: that to satisfy a condition is to instantiate a property, and that what is usually called ‘conditionship relation’ is (...) an inferential relation. Throughout the paper this way of interpreting the standard theory is compared favourably over an alternative interpretation that is outlined in causal terms, since it can be applied to all counterexamples without losing its intuitive appeal. (shrink)
Intensional evidence is any reason to accept a proposition that is not the truth values of the proposition accepted or, if it is a complex proposition, is not the truth values of its propositional contents. Extensional evidence is non-intensional evidence. Someone can accept a complex proposition, but deny its logical consequences when her acceptance is based on intensional evidence, while the logical consequences of the proposition presuppose the acceptance of extensional evidence, e.g., she can refuse the logical consequence of a (...) proposition she accepts because she doesn’t know what are the truth-values of its propositional contents. This tension motivates counterexamples to the negation of conditionals, the propositional analysis of conditionals, hypothetical syllogism, contraposition and or-to-if. It is argued that these counterexamples are non-starters because they rely on a mix of intensionally based premises and extensionally based conclusions. Instead, a genuine counterexample to classical argumentative forms should present circumstances where an intuitively true and extensionally based premise leads to an intuitively false conclusion that is also extensionally based. The other point is that evidentiary concerns about intensionally based beliefs should be constrained by the truth conditions of propositions presented by classical logic, which are nothing more than requirements of coherence in distributions of truth value. It is argued that this restriction also dissolves some known puzzles such as conditional stand-offs, the Adams pair, the opt-out property and the burglar’s puzzle. (shrink)
The material account of indicative conditionals faces a legion of counterexamples that are the bread and butter in any entry about the subject. For this reason, the material account is widely unpopular among conditional experts. I will argue that this consensus was not built on solid foundations, since these counterexamples are contextual fallacies. They ignore a basic tenet of semantics according to which when evaluating arguments for validity we need to maintain the context constant, otherwise any argumentative form can be (...) rendered invalid. If we maintain the context fixed, the counterexamples to the material account are disarmed. Throughout the paper I also consider the ramifications of this defence, make suggestions to prevent contextual fallacies, and anticipate some possible misunderstandings and objections. (shrink)
The Equation (TE) states that the probability of A → B is the probability of B given A. Lewis (1976) has shown that the acceptance of TE implies that the probability of A → B is the probability of B, which is implausible: the probability of a conditional cannot plausibly be the same as the probability of its consequent, e.g., the probability that the match will light given that is struck is not intuitively the same as the probability that it (...) will light. Here I want to counter Lewis’ claim. My aim is to argue that: (1) TE express the coherence requirements implicit in the probability distributions of a modus ponens inference (MP); (2) the triviality result is not implausible because it is a result from these requirements; (3) these coherence requirements measure MP employability, so TE significance is tied to it; (4) MP employability doesn’t provide either the acceptability or the truth conditions of conditionals, since MP employability depends on previous independent reasons to accept the conditional and some acceptable conditionals are not MP friendly. Consequently, TE doesn’t have the logical significance that is usually attributed to it. (shrink)
Adam Rieger (2013) has carried out a survey of arguments in favour of the material account of indicative conditionals. These arguments involve simple and direct demonstrations of the material account. I extend the survey with new arguments and clarify the logical connections among them. I also show that the main counter-examples against these arguments are not successful either because their premises are just as counter-intuitive as the conclusions, or because they depend on contextual fallacies. The conclusion is that the unpopularity (...) of the material account is unjustified and that a more systematic approach in the analysis of arguments is long overdue in our attempts to understand the nature of conditionals. (shrink)
In this article I define a strong conditional for classical sentential logic, and then extend it to three non-classical sentential logics. It is stronger than the material conditional and is not subject to the standard paradoxes of material implication, nor is it subject to some of the standard paradoxes of C. I. Lewis’s strict implication. My conditional has some counterintuitive consequences of its own, but I think its pros outweigh its cons. In any case, one can always augment one’s language (...) with more than one conditional, and it may be that no single conditional will satisfy all of our intuitions about how a conditional should behave. Finally, I suspect the strong conditional will be of more use for logic rather than the philosophy of language, and I will make no claim that the strong conditional is a good model for any particular use of the indicative conditional in English or other natural languages. Still, it would certainly be a nice bonus if some modified version of the strong conditional could serve as one. -/- I begin by exploring some of the disadvantages of the material conditional, the strict conditional, and some relevant conditionals. I proceed to define a strong conditional for classical sentential logic. I go on to adapt this account to Graham Priest’s Logic of Paradox, to S. C. Kleene’s logic K3, and then to J. Łukasiewicz’s logic Ł, a standard version of fuzzy logic. (shrink)
Conditional perfection is the phenomenon in which conditionals are strengthened to biconditionals. In some contexts, “If A, B” is understood as if it meant “A if and only if B.” We present and discuss a series of experiments designed to test one of the most promising pragmatic accounts of conditional perfection. This is the idea that conditional perfection is a form of exhaustification—that is a strengthening to an exhaustive reading, triggered by a question that the conditional answers. If a speaker (...) is asked how B comes about, then the answer “If A, B” is interpreted exhaustively to meaning that A is the only way to bring about B. Hence, “A if and only if B.” We uncover evidence that conditional perfection is a form of exhaustification, but not that it is triggered by a relationship to a salient question. (shrink)
Williamson proposes that a "suppositional procedure" is a central heuristic we use to evaluate the truth of conditionals, though he also argues that this method often leads us astray. An alternative approach to the link between supposition and conditionals is to claim that we are guided by our antecedent conditional judgements in our supposing, and in particular in our determining which things follow from an initial supposition. This alternative explanation of the close link between conditionals and supposition is developed and (...) compared to Williamson's proposal. (shrink)
Deontic necessity modals (e.g. 'have to', 'ought to', 'must', 'need to', 'should', etc.) seem to vary in how they interact with negation. According to some accounts, what forces modals like 'ought' and 'should' to outscope negation is their polarity sensitivity -- modals that scope over negation do so because they are positive polarity items. But there is a conflict between this account and a widely assumed theory of if-clauses, namely the restrictor analysis. In particular, the conflict arises for constructions containing (...) a bound pronoun in the if-clause. This note spells out the core conflict. (shrink)
This paper develops a probabilistic analysis of conditionals which hinges on a quantitative measure of evidential support. In order to spell out the interpreta- tion of ‘if’ suggested, we will compare it with two more familiar interpretations, the suppositional interpretation and the strict interpretation, within a formal framework which rests on fairly uncontroversial assumptions. As it will emerge, each of the three interpretations considered exhibits specific logical features that deserve separate consideration.
On the standard analysis, a counterfactual conditional such as “If P had been the case, then Q would have been the case” is true in the actual world if, in all nearest possible worlds in which its antecedent (P) is true, its consequent (Q) is also true. Despite its elegance, this analysis faces a difficulty if the laws of nature are deterministic. Then the antecedent could not have been true, given prior conditions. So, it is unclear what the relevant “nearest (...) possible worlds” are. David Lewis suggested that they are ones in which a local breach of the laws occurred: a “small miracle”. Others have suggested that they are ones in which the initial conditions were different (“backtracking”). I propose another response. It builds on the idea that the special sciences, where counterfactual reasoning is most common, operate at a higher level of description from fundamental physics, and that the world may behave indeterministically at higher levels even if it behaves deterministically at the fundamental physical one. The challenge from determinism can then be bypassed for many special-science counterfactuals. (shrink)
Triviality results threaten plausible principles governing our credence in epistemic modal claims. This paper develops a new account of modal credence which avoids triviality. On the resulting theory, probabilities are assigned not to sets of worlds, but rather to sets of information state-world pairs. The theory avoids triviality by giving up the principle that rational credence is closed under conditionalization. A rational agent can become irrational by conditionalizing on new evidence. In place of conditionalization, the paper develops a new account (...) of updating: conditionalization with normalization. (shrink)
This chapter was written in 2013 and was posted in the Semantics Archive in January 2014. The preprint of the published version has been in the Semantics Archive since 2016. The Semantics Archive is an electronic preprint archive hosted by the Linguistics Society of America. -/- The chapter looks at indicative conditionals embedded under quantifiers, with a special emphasis on ‘one-case’, episodic, conditionals as in "No query was answered if it came from a doubtful address." It agrees with earlier assessments (...) that a complete conditional (with antecedent and consequent) is embedded under a quantifier in those constructions, but then proceeds to create a dilemma by showing that we can’t always find the right interpretation for that conditional. Contrary to earlier assessments, Stalnaker’s conditional won’t always do. The paper concludes that the embedded conditional in the sentence above is a material implication, but the "if"-clause also plays a pragmatic role in restricting the domain of the embedding quantifier. That an appeal to pragmatics should be necessary at all goes with Edgington’s verdict that “we do not have a satisfactory general account of sentences with conditional constituents.” -/- One of the conclusions drawn at the end of the chapter is that the English modal "will" should be given a Stalnaker selection function analysis. The idea is implemented by attaching to "will" an accessibility function variable that receives its value from the context of use and can be dynamically updated by preceding "if"-clauses, as proposed in von Fintel (1994). The argument for a Stalnaker selection function analysis of "will" provided by the paper is that, together with the restrictor analysis of "if"-clauses, it yields the correct truth-conditions for "will"-conditionals (as opposed to episodic, 'one case', conditionals) embedded under quantifiers. The proposal that the English modal "will" should be given a Stalnaker selection function analysis has since been taken up and elaborated considerably in Cariani & Santorio's (2018) paper on "will" in Mind, and is a central idea in Cariani's (2021) book The Modal Future. (shrink)
Dorothy Edgington’s work has been at the centre of a range of ongoing debates in philosophical logic, philosophy of mind and language, metaphysics, and epistemology. This work has focused, although by no means exclusively, on the overlapping areas of conditionals, probability, and paradox. In what follows, I briefly sketch some themes from these three areas relevant to Dorothy’s work, highlighting how some of Dorothy’s work and some of the contributions of this volume fit in to these debates.
This paper has three main goals. First, to motivate a puzzle about how ignorance-expressing terms like maybe and if interact: they iterate, and when they do they exhibit scopelessness. Second, to argue that there is an ambiguity in our theoretical toolbox, and that exposing that opens the door to a solution to the puzzle. And third, to explore the reach of that solution. Along the way, the paper highlights a number of pleasing properties of two elegant semantic theories, explores some (...) meta-theoretic properties of dynamic notions of meaning, dips its toe into some hazardous waters, and offers characterization theorems for the space of meanings an indicative conditional can have. (shrink)
Conditionals and conditional reasoning have been a long-standing focus of research across a number of disciplines, ranging from psychology through linguistics to philosophy. But almost no work has concerned itself with the question of how hearing or reading a conditional changes our beliefs. Given that we acquire much—perhaps most—of what we believe through the testimony of others, the simple matter of acquiring conditionals via others’ assertion of a conditional seems integral to any full understanding of the conditional and conditional reasoning. (...) In this paper we detail a number of basic intuitions about how beliefs might change in response to a conditional being uttered, and show how these are backed by behavioral data. In the remainder of the paper, we then show how these deceptively simple phenomena pose a fundamental challenge to present theoretical accounts of the conditional and conditional reasoning – a challenge which no account presently fully meets. (shrink)
Conditionals pervade every aspect of our thinking, from the mundane and everyday such as ‘if you eat too much cheese, you will have nightmares’ to the most fundamental concerns as in ‘if global warming isn’t halted, sea levels will rise dramatically’. Many decades of research have focussed on the semantics of conditionals and how people reason from conditionals in everyday life. Here it has been rather overlooked how we come to such conditionals in the first place. In many cases, they (...) are learned through testimony: someone warns us about the ill-effects of cheese. Any full account of the conditional must consequently incorporate such learning. Here, we provide a new formal account of belief change in response to a testimonial conditional. (shrink)
This article aims to show that it is impossible to put Cicero’s testimonies regarding The Fabius Argument in a consistent inferential order. Either we must suppose that additional premises are tacitly assumed in the text or we must com-pare it with other sources, which leads to inconsistencies in the proof’s reconstruction. Cicero’s reconstruction of the progression of the argument has formal shortcomings, and the paper draws attention to some of these deficiencies. He interpreted sources in a revised and intentionally simplified (...) way, with the aim of undermining the views of his opponents, casting them as inconsistent and similar to views held by Diodorus. Rather than being a consistently interpreted argument faithfully transcribed from the Stoic sources, Cicero’s Fabius Argument is ultimately anti-Stoic. (shrink)
The last several decades of research on counterfactual conditionals in the fields of philosophy and linguistics have yielded a predominant paradigm according to which the notion of similarity plays the starring role. Roughly, a counterfactual of the form A > C is true iff the closest A-worlds are all C-worlds, where the closeness of a world is a function of its similarity, in a certain sense, to the actual world. I argue that this is deeply misguided. In some cases we (...) may only care about the closest A-worlds, but quite often we care about some broader variety of A-worlds varying in closeness. After presenting several problem cases for the similarity-based paradigm, some new and some known, I propose an alternative paradigm for the semantics of counterfactuals, which introduces the notion of A-scenarios, understood roughly as different ways of making A true. According to this view, A > C is true iff all the contextually relevant ways of making A true also make C true. I then more carefully spell out a working view that formalizes this idea with greater precision, and explore the consequences of that version of the view. (shrink)
This paper presents a puzzle involving embedded attitude reports. We resolve the puzzle by arguing that attitude verbs take restricted readings: in some environments the denotation of attitude verbs can be restricted by a given proposition. For example, when these verbs are embedded in the consequent of a conditional, they can be restricted by the proposition expressed by the conditional’s antecedent. We formulate and motivate two conditions on the availability of verb restrictions: a constraint that ties the content of restrictions (...) to the “dynamic effects” of sentential connectives and a constraint that limits the availability of restriction effects to present tense verbs with first-person subjects. However, we also present some cases that make trouble for these conditions, and outline some possible ways of modifying the view to account for the recalcitrant data. We conclude with a brief discussion of some of the connections between our semantics for attitude verbs and issues concerning epistemic modals and theories of knowledge. (shrink)
McGee argues that it is sometimes reasonable to accept both x and x-> without accepting y->z, and that modus ponens is therefore invalid for natural language indicative conditionals. Here, we examine McGee's counterexamples from a Bayesian perspective. We argue that the counterexamples are genuine insofar as the joint acceptance of x and x-> at time t does not generally imply constraints on the acceptability of y->z at t, but we use the distance-based approach to Bayesian learning to show that applications (...) of modus ponens are nevertheless guaranteed to be successful in an important sense. Roughly, if an agent becomes convinced of the premises of a modus ponens argument, then she should likewise become convinced of the argument's conclusion. Thus we take McGee's counterexamples to disentangle and reveal two distinct ways in which arguments can convince. Any general theory of argumentation must take stock of both. (shrink)
It has recently been argued that indeterminacy and indeterminism make most ordinary counterfactuals false. I argue that a plausible way to avoid such counterfactual skepticism is to postulate the existence of primitive modal facts that serve as truth-makers for counterfactual claims. Moreover, I defend a new theory of ‘might’ counterfactuals, and develop assertability and knowledge criteria to suit such unobservable ‘counterfacts’.
A series of recent arguments purport to show that most counterfactuals of the form if A had happened then C would have happened are not true. These arguments pose a challenge to those of us who think that counterfactual discourse is a useful part of ordinary conversation, of philosophical reasoning, and of scientific inquiry. Either we find a way to revise the semantics for counterfactuals in order to avoid these arguments, or we find a way to ensure that the relevant (...) counterfactuals, while not true, are still assertible. I argue that regardless of which of these two strategies we choose, the natural ways of implementing these strategies all share a surprising consequence: they commit us to a particular metaphysical view about chance. (shrink)
In substructural logics, structural principles may hold in some fragments of a consequence relation without holding globally. I look at this phenomenon in my preferred substructural logic, in which Weakening and Cut fail but which is supra-intuitionistic. I introduce object language operators that keep track of the admissibility of Weakening and of intuitionistic implications. I end with some ideas about local transitivity.
I discuss three observations about backtracking counterfactuals not predicted by existing theories, and then motivate a theory of counterfactuals that does predict them. On my theory, counterfactuals quantify over a suitably restricted set of historical possibilities from some contextually relevant past time. I motivate each feature of the theory relevant to predicting our three observations about backtracking counterfactuals. The paper concludes with replies to three potential objections.
Some cases show that counterfactual conditionals (‘counterfactuals’ for short) are inherently ambiguous, equivocating between forward-tracking and backtracking counterfactu- als. Elsewhere, I have proposed a causal modeling semantics, which takes this phenomenon to be generated by two kinds of causal manipulations. (Lee 2015; Lee 2016) In an important paper (Hiddleston 2005), Eric Hiddleston offers a different causal modeling semantics, which he claims to be able to explain away the inherent ambiguity of counterfactuals. In this paper, I discuss these two semantic treatments (...) and argue that my (bifurcated) semantics is theoretically more promising than Hiddleston’s (unified) semantics. (shrink)
The truth-functional hypothesis states that indicative conditional sentences and the material implication have the same truth conditions. Haze (2011) has rejected this hypothesis. He claims that a self-referential conditional, coupled with a plausible assumption about its truth-values and the assumption that the truth-functional hypothesis is true, lead to a liar’s paradox. Given that neither the self-referential conditional nor the assumption about its truth-values are problematic, the culprit of the paradox must be the truth-functional hypothesis. Therefore, we should reject it. In (...) this paper I argue that, contrary to what Haze thinks, the truth-functional hypothesis is not to blame. In fact, no liar’s paradox emerges when the truth-functional hypothesis is true; it emerges only if it is false. (shrink)
Brogaard and Salerno (2008) argued that counter-examples to contraposition, strengthening the antecedent, and hypothetical syllogism involving subjunctive conditionals only seem to work because they involve a contextual fallacy where the context assumed in the premise(s) is illicitly shifted in the conclusion. To avoid such counter-examples they have proposed that the context must remain fixed when evaluating an argument for validity. That is the Brogaard-Salerno Stricture. Tristan Haze (2016), however, has recently objected that intuitively valid argumentative forms such as conjunction introduction (...) do not satisfy this constraint. This paper has two goals. First, it argues that the Brogaard-Salerno Stricture is not violated in Haze’s putative counter-example. Second, it argues that since this stricture blocks the usual counter-examples to instances of classical argumentative forms that involve indicative or subjunctive conditionals, it is reasonable to infer that indicative and subjunctive conditionals are material. (shrink)
The standing tradition in theorizing about meaning, since at least Frege, identifies meaning with propositions, which are, or determine, the truth-conditions of a sentence in a context. But a recent trend has advocated a departure from this tradition: in particular, it has been argued that modal claims do not express standard propositional contents. This non-propositionalism has received different implementations in expressivist semantics and certain kinds of dynamic semantics. They maintain that the key aspect of interpretation of modal claims is the (...) characteristic dynamic effect they have on the context. I argue that pessimism about truth-conditions arises from an overly simplistic picture of content, context and their interaction. While I agree with the critics that an important aspect of modal meaning is the dynamic effect modals have on the context, I argue that they have mischaracterized the nature and the complexity of this effect. A more nuanced account of the interaction between modals and context shows that far from being incompatible with propositional meaning, the dynamic aspect of meaning is precisely what allows us to predict the correct propositional content of an utterance. (shrink)
Recently, there has been a shift away from traditional truth-conditional accounts of meaning towards non-truth-conditional ones, e.g., expressivism, relativism and certain forms of dynamic semantics. Fueling this trend is some puzzling behavior of modal discourse. One particularly surprising manifestation of such behavior is the alleged failure of some of the most entrenched classical rules of inference; viz., modus ponens and modus tollens. These revisionary, non-truth-conditional accounts tout these failures, and the alleged tension between the behavior of modal vocabulary and classical (...) logic, as data in support of their departure from tradition, since the revisionary semantics invalidate some of these patterns. I, instead, offer a semantics for modality with the resources to accommodate the puzzling data while preserving classical logic, thus affirming the tradition that modals express ordinary truth-conditional content. My account shows that the real lesson of the apparent counterexamples is not the one the critics draw, but rather one they missed: namely, that there are linguistic mechanisms, reflected in the logical form, that affect the interpretation of modal language in a context in a systematic and precise way, which have to be captured by any adequate semantic account of the interaction between discourse context and modal vocabulary. The semantic theory I develop specifies these mechanisms and captures precisely how they affect the interpretation of modals in a context, and do so in a way that both explains the appearance of the putative counterexamples and preserves classical logic. (shrink)
This paper presents the first possible world semantics for concessive conditionals (i.e., even if A, C conditionals) constructed in a compositional way. First, the meaning of if is formalized through a semantics that builds on the proposal given by Stalnaker (1968). A major difference from Stalnaker’s approach is that irrelevant conditionals (i.e., conditionals where the antecedent and the consequent have no connection) are false in this new setting. Second, the meaning of even is analyzed through a formal semantics based on (...) the notion of scale. This analysis overcomes the problems arising in standard approaches, in which even is analyzed with the help of pragmatic presuppositions. Finally, the two particles are combined in order to provide a formal analysis of even if. This theory predicts the major phenomena concerning the behavior of concessive conditionals and without any call to pragmatic explanations. More generally, this approach creates the possibility of a compositional analysis of other conditionals such as if then or only if forms. (shrink)
The standard Lewis–Stalnaker semantics of counterfactuals, given the Strong Centering Thesis, implies that all true–true counterfactuals are trivially true. McGlynn developed a theory, based on Penczek, to rehabilitate the non-triviality of true–true counterfactuals. I show here that counterfactuals with true but irrelevant components are counterexamples to McGlynn’s account. I argue that an extended version of the connection hypothesis is sustainable, and grounds a full theory of counterfactuals explicable in a broadly standard way, if an indispensable asymmetry between semifacuals and other (...) counterfactuals is acknowledged. (shrink)
By maintaining that a conditional sentence can be taken to express the validity of a rule of inference, we offer a solution to the Miners Paradox that leaves both modus ponens and disjunction elimination intact. The solution draws on Sundholm's recently proposed account of Fitch's Paradox.