Epistemic modals and modus tollens

Philosophical Studies 173 (10):2663-2680 (2016)

Authors
Joe Salerno
Saint Louis University
Abstract
Epistemic modals in consequent place of indicative conditionals give rise to apparent counterexamples to Modus Tollens. Familiar assumptions behind familiar truth conditional theories of embedded modality facilitate a prima facie explanation—viz., that the target cases harbor epistemic modal equivocations. However, this sort of explanation goes too far. It fosters other predictions of equivocation in places where in fact there are none. It is argued that the solution is to drop the credo that modal claims are inherently relational in favor of a view that treats them as inherently quantificational. In particular it is suggested that epistemic modals express covert mass noun descriptions of information of the form “the actionable information stands in logical relation L to prejacent p”. We demonstrate how this approach unlocks the equivocation problem.
Keywords Epistemic modals  Embedded epistemic modals  Modus tollens  Epistemic possibility  Epistemic conditionals
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DOI 10.1007/s11098-016-0669-4
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References found in this work BETA

Epistemic Modals.Seth Yalcin - 2007 - Mind 116 (464):983-1026.
Ifs and Oughts.Niko Kolodny & John MacFarlane - 2010 - Journal of Philosophy 107 (3):115-143.
Embedding Epistemic Modals.Cian Dorr & John Hawthorne - 2013 - Mind 122 (488):867-914.
What 'Must' and 'Can' Must and Can Mean.Angelika Kratzer - 1977 - Linguistics and Philosophy 1 (3):337--355.
A Counterexample to Modus Tollens.Seth Yalcin - 2012 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 41 (6):1001-1024.

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