Synthese 192 (8):2617-2646 (2015)

Alex Worsnip
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Many philosophers think that requirements of rationality are “wide-scope”. That is to say: they are requirements to satisfy some material conditional, such that one counts as satisfying the requirement iff one either makes the conditional’s antecedent false or makes its consequent true. These contrast with narrow-scope requirements, where the requirement takes scope only over the consequent of the conditional. Many of the philosophers who have preferred wide-scope requirements to narrow-scope requirements have also endorsed a corresponding semantic claim, namely that ordinary talk about rationality, despite appearances to the contrary, expresses wide-scope claims. In doing so, they seek to avoid attributing massive error to ordinary speakers. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the wide-scope semantics inadequately captures the meaning of ordinary talk about rationality. It seems, then, that we are left with a dilemma: either give up the view that requirements of rationality are wide-scope, or accept an implausible semantics for ordinary talk about rationality, or attribute massive error to speakers. In this paper, I argue that this dilemma is only apparent, since we can appeal to a standard kind of contextualist semantics for modals to explain why narrow-scope talk comes out true in virtue of the wide-scope requirements. My view, then, combines wide-scoping about the explanatorily fundamental requirements of rationality with a contextualist variant of a narrow-scope semantics. I argue that this view gives us the best of both worlds, as well as solving related puzzles and challenges for the extant views in the literature.
Keywords Rational requirements  Deontic modals  Wide-scope  Narrow-scope  Contextualism  Coherentism
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-015-0681-9
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References found in this work BETA

What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Intention, Plans, and Practical Reason.Michael Bratman - 1987 - Cambridge: Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
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Citations of this work BETA

Being More Realistic About Reasons: On Rationality and Reasons Perspectivism.Clayton Littlejohn - 2019 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 99 (3):605-627.
Degrees of Assertability.Sam Carter - 2022 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 104 (1):19-49.
Instrumental Rationality.John Brunero & Niko Kolodny - 2013 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Moral Reasons, Epistemic Reasons, and Rationality.Alex Worsnip - 2016 - Philosophical Quarterly 66 (263):341-361.

View all 8 citations / Add more citations

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