Probabilities of conditionals in context

Linguistics and Philosophy 39 (1):1-43 (2016)
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The Ramseyan thesis that the probability of an indicative conditional is equal to the corresponding conditional probability of its consequent given its antecedent is both widely confirmed and subject to attested counterexamples (e.g., McGee 2000, Kaufmann 2004). This raises several puzzling questions. For instance, why are there interpretations of conditionals that violate this Ramseyan thesis in certain contexts, and why are they otherwise very rare? In this paper, I raise some challenges to Stefan Kaufmann's account of why the Ramseyan thesis sometimes fails, and motivate my own theory. On my theory, the proposition expressed by an indicative conditional is partially determined by a background partition, and hence its probability depends on the choice of such a partition. I hold that this background partition is contextually determined, and in certain conditions is set by a salient question under discussion in the context. I show how the resulting theory offers compelling answers to the puzzling questions raised by failures of the Ramseyan thesis.



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Justin Khoo
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Vagueness.Timothy Williamson - 1994 - New York: Routledge.
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The Foundations of Mathematics and Other Logical Essays.Frank Plumpton Ramsey - 1925 - London, England: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Edited by R. B. Braithwaite.

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