Proportional dispositional predicates

Synthese 199 (5-6):12363-12383 (2021)
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Ordinary disposition ascriptions appear to form a semantically heterogeneous class of clauses some of which can be straightforwardly analyzed as possibility claims, and some of which resist a simple quantificational treatment. For example, while “The block is breakable” is true if the block breaks at a relevant possible world, for “The block is fragile” to be true it doesn’t suffice that the block breaks at one of the worlds that matter to the evaluation of the ascription, since the block could break accidentally and yet be sturdy. The contrast has been taken to indicate that sentences like “The block is fragile” don’t introduce mere existential quantification over sets of worlds, and should be represented as claims about sufficient ratios or proportions of worlds. However, recent work has suggested that by pairing the recalcitrant DAs with modified manifestation phrases, we can generalize the standard analysis of existential DAs to the problematic examples, and state a uniform characterization of DAs as claims of possibility. The paper discusses some counterexamples to the view that allegedly non-existential DAs are covert claims of fine-grained possibility, and sketches a hybrid account combining proportional quantification with fine-grained manifestations.



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Luca Gasparri
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

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