Bounded Modality

Philosophical Review 128 (1):1-61 (2019)
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Abstract

What does 'might' mean? One hypothesis is that 'It might be raining' is essentially an avowal of ignorance like 'For all I know, it's raining'. But it turns out these two constructions embed in different ways, in particular as parts of larger constructions like Wittgenstein's 'It might be raining and it's not' and Moore's 'It's raining and I don't know it', respectively. A variety of approaches have been developed to account for those differences. All approaches agree that both Moore sentences and Wittgenstein sentences are classically consistent. In this paper I argue against this consensus. I adduce a variety of new data which I argue can best be accounted for if we treat Wittgenstein sentences as being classically inconsistent. This creates a puzzle, since there is decisive reason to think that 'Might p' is classically consistent with 'Not p'. How can it also be that 'Might p and not p' and 'Not p and might p' are classically inconsistent? To make sense of this situation, I propose a new theory of epistemic modals and their interaction with embedding operators. This account makes sense of the subtle embedding behavior of epistemic modals, shedding new light on their meaning and, more broadly, the dynamics of information in natural language.

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Matthew Mandelkern
New York University

Citations of this work

Epistemic Multilateral Logic.Luca Incurvati & Julian J. Schlöder - 2022 - Review of Symbolic Logic 15 (2):505-536.
What it takes to believe.Daniel Rothschild - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (5):1345-1362.
If P, Then P!Matthew Mandelkern - 2021 - Journal of Philosophy 118 (12):645-679.
Semantic expressivism for epistemic modals.Peter Hawke & Shane Steinert-Threlkeld - 2020 - Linguistics and Philosophy 44 (2):475-511.
Degrees of Assertability.Sam Carter - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 104 (1):19-49.

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References found in this work

Philosophical Investigations.Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1953 - New York, NY, USA: Wiley-Blackwell. Edited by G. E. M. Anscombe.
Knowledge and belief.Jaakko Hintikka - 1962 - Ithaca, N.Y.,: Cornell University Press.
Semantics in generative grammar.Irene Heim & Angelika Kratzer - 1998 - Malden, MA: Blackwell. Edited by Angelika Kratzer.
Probabilistic Knowledge.Sarah Moss - 2018 - Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

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