Agentive Duality reconsidered

Philosophical Studies 179 (12):3771-3789 (2022)
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A growing consensus in the literature on agentive modals has it that ability modals like ‘can’ or ‘able to’ have a _dual_, i.e. interpretations of ‘must’ or ‘cannot but’ which stand to _necessity_ as ability stands to _possibility_. We argue that this thesis (which we call ‘Agentive Duality’) is much more controversial than meets the eye. While Agentive Duality follows from the orthodox possibility analysis of ability given natural assumptions, it sits uneasily with a wide range of alternative proposals which are unified by the idea that ability requires _control_. In particular, we show that against the background of a control requirement on ability, Agentive Duality can be used to derive absurd predictions featuring this dual. Far from being a purely definitional thesis, Agentive Duality thus affords a new lens through which to assess the long-standing debate between possibility analyses of ability and their discontents.



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Author Profiles

Annina J. Loets
Humboldt-University, Berlin
Julia Zakkou
Bielefeld University

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A Metaphysics for Freedom.Helen Steward - 2012 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
The Paradoxes of Time Travel.David K. Lewis - 1976 - American Philosophical Quarterly 13 (2):145-152.
What 'must' and 'can' must and can mean.Angelika Kratzer - 1977 - Linguistics and Philosophy 1 (3):337--355.
Agents’ Abilities.Romy Jaster - 2020 - Berlin, New York: De Gruyter.
Agency and deontic logic.John Horty - 2001 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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