Lessons from Sobel sequences

Semantics and Pragmatics 10 (4):1-57 (2017)
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Abstract

Folklore has it that Sobel sequences favor a variably strict analysis of conditionals over its plainly strict alternative. While recent discussions for or against the lore have focussed on Sobel sequences involving counterfactuals, this paper draws attention to the fact that indicative Sobel sequences are just as felicitous as are their counterfactual cousins. The fact, or so I shall argue here, disrupts the folklore: given minimal assumptions about the semantics and pragmatics of indicative conditionals, a textbook variably strict analysis fails to predict that indicative Sobel sequences are felicitous. The correct lesson to draw from Sobel sequences is that their felicity challenges classical implementations of the variably strict and of the plainly strict analysis alike. In response to this challenge I develop a dynamic strict analysis of conditionals that handles indicative Sobel sequences with grace while preserving intuitive constraints on the semantics and pragmatics of their members. A discussion of how such an analysis may handle the challenge from reverse Sobel sequences is provided.

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Malte Willer
University of Chicago

Citations of this work

Abominable KK Failures.Kevin Dorst - 2019 - Mind 128 (512):1227-1259.
Indicative Conditionals and Graded Information.Ivano Ciardelli - 2020 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 49 (3):509-549.
Counterpossibles, Consequence and Context.Daniel Nolan - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
Counterfactuals and modality.Gabriel Greenberg - 2021 - Linguistics and Philosophy 44 (6):1255-1280.

View all 13 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

Counterfactuals.David K. Lewis - 1973 - Malden, Mass.: Blackwell.
A Theory of Conditionals.Robert Stalnaker - 1968 - In Nicholas Rescher (ed.), Studies in Logical Theory. Oxford,: Blackwell. pp. 98-112.
Assertion.Robert Stalnaker - 2013 - In Maite Ezcurdia & Robert J. Stainton (eds.), The Semantics-Pragmatics Boundary in Philosophy. Peterborough, CA: Broadview Press. pp. 179.
Counterfactuals.David Lewis - 1973 - Foundations of Language 13 (1):145-151.
Vagueness, truth and logic.Kit Fine - 1975 - Synthese 30 (3-4):265-300.

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