Natural Language Semantics 27 (2):135-188 (2019)

Authors
Guillermo Del Pinal
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Abstract
According to Kratzer’s influential account of epistemic 'must' and 'might', these operators involve quantification over domains of possibilities determined by a modal base and an ordering source. Recently, this account has been challenged by invoking contexts of ‘epistemic tension’: i.e., cases in which an assertion that 'must p' is conjoined with the possibility that 'not p', and cases in which speakers try to downplay a previous assertion that 'must p', after finding out that 'not p'. Epistemic tensions have been invoked from two directions. Von Fintel and Gillies (2010) propose a return to a simpler modal logic-inspired account: 'must' and 'might' still involve universal and existential quantification, but the domains of possibilities are determined solely by realistic modal bases. In contrast, Lassiter (2016), following Swanson, proposes a more revisionary account which treats 'must' and 'might' as probabilistic operators. In this paper, we present a series of experiments to obtain reliable data on the degree of acceptability of various contexts of epistemic tension. Our experiments include novel variations that, we argue, are required to make progress in this debate. We show that restricted quantificational accounts à la Kratzer fit the overall pattern of results better than either of their recent competitors. In addition, our results help us identify the key components of restricted quantificational accounts, and on that basis propose some refinements and general constraints that should be satisfied by any account of the modal auxiliaries.
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DOI 10.1007/s11050-019-09151-w
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References found in this work BETA

The Origin of Concepts.Susan Carey - 2009 - Oxford University Press.
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Knowledge and its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 64 (1):200-201.
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Citations of this work BETA

Still Going Strong.Kai von Fintel & Anthony S. Gillies - 2021 - Natural Language Semantics 29 (1):91-113.
The Dynamics of Argumentative Discourse.Carlotta Pavese & Alexander W. Kocurek - forthcoming - Journal of Philosophical Logic.

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