Oswald revisited: the effect of focus and context

Synthese 200 (1):1-15 (2022)
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Abstract

In this paper, we will present an analysis of the Oswald example that takes a closer look at the antecedents of the Oswald minimal pair. We will argue that diverging foci in the antecedents of the Oswald example result in different truth conditions of the conditionals, explaining the difference in truth values between the two sentences. Although the explanation will incorporate aspects of Stalnaker’s theory of conditionals, it will go beyond Stalnaker’s analysis of the Oswald example on one crucial point. The difference in focus assignments between the two sentences will not be explained by a difference in appropriateness conditions between indicative and subjunctive mood. Instead, the diverging foci will stem from pragmatic requirements imposed on the presuppositions of indicative and subjunctive antecedents. This analysis will be further confirmed by extending it to similar examples with ascriptions of hopes and wishes, pointing towards a more clear-cut separation of and the effect of the Oswald example conditionality.

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Stefan Rinner
University of Hamburg

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References found in this work

Logic and Conversation.H. P. Grice - 1975 - In Donald Davidson & Gilbert Harman (eds.), The Logic of Grammar. Encino, CA: pp. 64-75.
Scorekeeping in a language game.David Lewis - 1979 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 8 (1):339--359.
Counterfactuals.David Lewis - 1973 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 36 (3):602-605.
Counterfactuals.David Lewis - 1973 - Foundations of Language 13 (1):145-151.

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