What might but must not be

Analysis 80 (4):647-656 (2020)
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Abstract

We examine an objection to analysing the epistemic ‘might’ and ‘may’ as existential quantifiers over possibilities. Some claims that a proposition “might” be the case appear felicitous although, according to the quantifier analysis, they are necessarily false, since there are no possibilities in which the proposition is true. We explain such cases pragmatically, relying on the fact that ‘might’-sentences are standardly used to convey that the speaker takes a proposition as a serious option in reasoning. Our account explains why it makes sense to utter these sentences despite their being literally false and why their falsity is easily missed.

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Author Profiles

Stephen Finlay
Australian Catholic University
Benjamin Lennertz
Colgate University

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References found in this work

Inquiry.Robert C. Stalnaker - 1984 - Cambridge University Press.
The nature of epistemic space.David J. Chalmers - 2011 - In Andy Egan & Brian Weatherson (eds.), Epistemic Modality. Oxford University Press.
Studies in the Way of Words.Paul Grice - 1989 - Philosophy 65 (251):111-113.
The Uses of Argument.Stephen E. Toulmin - 1958 - Philosophy 34 (130):244-245.

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