Conditional sentences are among the most intriguing and puzzling features of language, and analysis of their meaning and function has important implications for, and uses in, many areas of philosophy. Jonathan Bennett, one of the world's leading experts, distils many years' work and teaching into this Philosophical Guide to Conditionals, the fullest and most authoritative treatment of the subject. An ideal introduction for undergraduates with a philosophical grounding, it also offers a rich source of illumination and stimulation for graduate (...) students and professional philosophers. (shrink)
I present two Triviality results for Kratzer's standard “restrictor” analysis of indicative conditionals. I both refine and undermine the common claim that problems of Triviality do not arise for Kratzer conditionals since they are not strictly conditionals at all.
More than a decade of research has found strong evidence for P(if A, then C) = P(C|A) (“the Equation”). We argue, however, that this hypothesis provides an overly simplified picture due to its inability to account for relevance. We manipulated relevance in the evaluation of the probability and acceptability of indicative conditionals and found that relevance moderates the effect of P(C|A). This corroborates the Default and Penalty Hypothesis put forward in this paper. Finally, the probability and acceptability of concessive (...)conditionals (“Even if A, then still C”) were investigated and it was found that the Equation provides a better account of concessive conditionals than of indicatives across relevance manipulations. (shrink)
This collection introduces the reader to some of the most interesting current work on conditionals. Particular attention is paid to possible world semantics for conditionals, the role of conditional probability in helping us to understand conditionals, implicature and the material conditional, and subjunctive versus indicative conditionals. Contributors include V.H. Dudman, Dorothy Edgington, Nelson Goodman, H.P. Grice, David Lewis, and Robert Stalnaker.
According to what is now commonly referred to as “the Equation” in the literature on indicative conditionals, the probability of any indicative conditional equals the probability of its consequent of the conditional given the antecedent of the conditional. Philosophers widely agree in their assessment that the triviality arguments of Lewis and others have conclusively shown the Equation to be tenable only at the expense of the view that indicative conditionals express propositions. This study challenges the correctness of that (...) assessment by presenting data that cast doubt on an assumption underlying all triviality arguments. (shrink)
Conditionals somehow express conditional beliefs. However, conditional belief is a bi-propositional attitude that is generally not truth-evaluable, in contrast to unconditional belief. Therefore, this article opts for an expressivistic semantics for conditionals, grounds this semantics in the arguably most adequate account of conditional belief, that is, ranking theory, and dismisses probability theory for that purpose, because probabilities cannot represent belief. Various expressive options are then explained in terms of ranking theory, with the intention to set out a general (...) interpretive scheme that is able to account for the most variegated usage of conditionals. The Ramsey test is only the first option. Relevance is another, familiar, but little understood item, which comes in several versions. This article adds a further family of expressive options, which is able to subsume also counterfactuals and causal conditionals, and indicates at the end how this family allows for partial recovery of truth conditions for conditionals. (shrink)
The Ramseyan thesis that the probability of an indicative conditional is equal to the corresponding conditional probability of its consequent given its antecedent is both widely confirmed and subject to attested counterexamples (e.g., McGee 2000, Kaufmann 2004). This raises several puzzling questions. For instance, why are there interpretations of conditionals that violate this Ramseyan thesis in certain contexts, and why are they otherwise very rare? In this paper, I raise some challenges to Stefan Kaufmann's account of why the Ramseyan (...) thesis sometimes fails, and motivate my own theory. On my theory, the proposition expressed by an indicative conditional is partially determined by a background partition, and hence its probability depends on the choice of such a partition. I hold that this background partition is contextually determined, and in certain conditions is set by a salient question under discussion in the context. I show how the resulting theory offers compelling answers to the puzzling questions raised by failures of the Ramseyan thesis. (shrink)
Moti Mizrahi (2013) presents some novel counterexamples to Hypothetical Syllogism (HS) for indicative conditionals. I show that they are not compelling as they neglect the complicated ways in which conditionals and modals interact. I then briefly outline why HS should nevertheless be rejected.
A uniform theory of conditionals is one which compositionally captures the behavior of both indicative and subjunctive conditionals without positing ambiguities. This paper raises new problems for the closest thing to a uniform analysis in the literature (Stalnaker, Philosophia, 5, 269–286 (1975)) and develops a new theory which solves them. I also show that this new analysis provides an improved treatment of three phenomena (the import-export equivalence, reverse Sobel-sequences and disjunctive antecedents). While these results concern central issues in (...) the study of conditionals, broader themes in the philosophy of language and formal semantics are also engaged here. This new analysis exploits a dynamic conception of meaning where the meaning of a symbol is its potential to change an agent’s mental state (or the state of a conversation) rather than being the symbol’s content (e.g. the proposition it expresses). The analysis of conditionals is also built on the idea that the contrast between subjunctive and indicative conditionals parallels a contrast between revising and consistently extending some body of information. (shrink)
I argue that taking the Practical Conditionals Thesis seriously demands a new understanding of the semantics of such conditionals. Practical Conditionals Thesis: A practical conditional [if A][ought] expresses B’s conditional preferability given A Paul Weirich has argued that the conditional utility of a state of affairs B on A is to be identified as the degree to which it is desired under indicative supposition that A. Similarly, exploiting the PCT, I will argue that the proper analysis of (...) indicative practical conditionals is in terms of what is planned, desired, or preferred, given suppositional changes to an agent’s information. Implementing such a conception of conditional preference in a semantic analysis of indicative practical conditionals turns out to be incompatible with any approach which treats the indicative conditional as expressing non-vacuous universal quantification over some domain of relevant antecedent-possibilities. Such analyses, I argue, encode a fundamental misunderstanding of what it is to be best, given some condition. The analysis that does the best vis-à-vis the PCT is, instead, one that blends a Context-Shifty account of indicative antecedents with an Expressivistic, or non-propositional, treatment of their practical consequents. (shrink)
At the center of the literature on conditionals lies the division between indicative and subjunctive conditionals, and Ernest Adams’ famous minimal pair: If Oswald didn’t shoot Kennedy, someone else did. If Oswald hadn’t shot Kennedy, someone else would have. While a lot of attention is paid to figuring out what these different kinds of conditionals mean, significantly less attention has been paid to the question of why their grammatical differences give rise to their semantic differences. In this (...) paper, I articulate and defend an answer to this question that illuminates and unifies the meanings of both kinds of conditionals. The basic idea is that epistemic and metaphysical possibilities differ with respect to their interaction with time, such that there can be present epistemic possibilities with different pasts, while present metaphysical possibilities share the same past. The interpretation of conditionals is subject to a pragmatic constraint that rules out interpretations in which their consequents are directly settled by information used to build their domains. The past + future morphology on subjunctives, but not indicatives, is what allows them to receive a metaphysical interpretation in light of this pragmatic constraint. The resulting theory predicts several surprising features of indicatives and subjunctives, which I argue are correct. (shrink)
There is a long tradition in formal epistemology and in the psychology of reasoning to investigate indicative conditionals. In psychology, the propositional calculus was taken for granted to be the normative standard of reference. Experimental tasks, evaluation of the participants’ responses and psychological model building, were inspired by the semantics of the material conditional. Recent empirical work on indicative conditionals focuses on uncertainty. Consequently, the normative standard of reference has changed. I argue why neither logic nor standard probability (...) theory provide appropriate rationality norms for uncertain conditionals. I advocate coherence based probability logic as an appropriate framework for investigating uncertain conditionals. Detailed proofs of the probabilistic non-informativeness of a paradox of the material conditional illustrate the approach from a formal point of view. I survey selected data on human reasoning about uncertain conditionals which additionally support the plausibility of the approach from an empirical point of view. (shrink)
We investigated how people interpret conditionals and how stable their interpretation is over a long series of trials. Participants were shown the colored patterns on each side of a six-sided die, and were asked how sure they were that a conditional holds of the side landing upwards when the die is randomly thrown. Participants were presented with 71 trials consisting of all combinations of binary dimensions of shape (e.g., circles and squares) and color (e.g., blue and red) painted onto (...) the sides of each die. In two experiments (N1 = 66, N2 = 65), the conditional event was the dominant interpretation, followed by conjunction, and material conditional responses were negligible. In both experiments, the percentage of participants giving a conditional event response increased from around 40% at the beginning of the task to nearly 80% at the end, with most participants shifting from a conjunction interpretation. The shift was moderated by the order of shape and color in each conditional’s antecedent and consequent: participants were more likely to shift if the antecedent referred to a color. In Experiment 2 we collected response times: conditional event interpretations took longer to process than conjunction interpretations (mean diﬀerence 500 ms). We discuss implications of our results for mental models theory and probabilistic theories of reasoning. (shrink)
A study is reported testing two hypotheses about a close parallel relation between indicative conditionals, if A then B, and conditional bets, I bet you that if A then B. The first is that both the indicative conditional and the conditional bet are related to the conditional probability, P(B|A). The second is that de Finetti's three-valued truth table has psychological reality for both types of conditional – true, false, or void for indicative conditionals and win, lose or void (...) for conditional bets. The participants were presented with an array of chips in two different colours and two different shapes, and an indicative conditional or a conditional bet about a random chip. They had to make judgments in two conditions: either about the chances of making the indicative conditional true or false or about the chances of winning or losing the conditional bet. The observed distributions of responses in the two conditions were generally related to the conditional probability, supporting the first hypothesis. In addition, a majority of participants in further conditions chose the third option, “void”, when the antecedent of the conditional was false, supporting the second hypothesis. (shrink)
We present a puzzle about knowledge, probability and conditionals. We show that in certain cases some basic and plausible principles governing our reasoning come into conflict. In particular, we show that there is a simple argument that a person may be in a position to know a conditional the consequent of which has a low probability conditional on its antecedent, contra Adams’ Thesis. We suggest that the puzzle motivates a very strong restriction on the inference of a conditional from (...) a disjunction. (shrink)
Compare the following conditionals: 'If John is not in Paris, he is in France' versus 'If John is in France, he is not in Paris.' The second sounds entirely natural, whereas the first sounds quite strange. This contrast is puzzling, because these two conditionals have the same structure at a certain level of logical abstraction, namely 'If ¬p+, then p.' -/- We argue that existing theories of informational oddness do not distinguish between these conditionals. We do not (...) have an account of the divergence in judgments about the two, but we think this is a fascinating puzzle which we pose here in the hope others will be able to solve it. (shrink)
The aim is to theoretically motivate a relevance approach to (indicative) conditionals in a comparative discussion of the main alternatives. In particular, it will be argued that a relevance approach to conditionals is better motivated than the suppositional theory currently enjoying wide endorsement. In the course of this discussion, an argument will be presented of why failures of the epistemic relevance of the antecedent for the consequent should be counted as genuine semantic defects (as opposed to be relegated (...) to pragmatics). Furthermore, strategies for dealing with compositionality and the perceived objective purport of indicative conditionals will be put forward. (shrink)
According to so-called epistemic theories of conditionals, the assertability/acceptability/acceptance of a conditional requires the existence of an epistemically significant relation between the conditional’s antecedent and its consequent. This paper points to some linguistic data that our current best theories of the foregoing type appear unable to explain. Further, it presents a new theory of the same type that does not have that shortcoming. The theory is then defended against some seemingly obvious objections.
In an earlier paper in these pages (2008), we explored the puzzling link between dispositions and conditionals. First, we rehearsed the standard counterexamples to the simple conditional analysis and the refined conditional analysis defended by David Lewis. Second, we attacked a tempting response to these counterexamples: what we called the ‘getting specific strategy’. Third, we presented a series of structural considerations that pose problems for many attempts to understand the link between dispositions and conditionals. Finally, we developed our (...) own account of this link, which avoids all of the standard counterexamples and comports with the relevant structural considerations. In this paper, we reply to some objections. (shrink)
The fact that the standard probabilistic calculus does not define probabilities for sentences with embedded conditionals is a fundamental problem for the probabilistic theory of conditionals. Several authors have explored ways to assign probabilities to such sentences, but those proposals have come under criticism for making counterintuitive predictions. This paper examines the source of the problematic predictions and proposes an amendment which corrects them in a principled way. The account brings intuitions about counterfactual conditionals to bear on (...) the interpretation of indicatives and relies on the notion of causal (in)dependence. (shrink)
Conditionals whose antecedent and consequent are not somehow internally connected tend to strike us as odd. The received doctrine is that this felt oddness is to be explained pragmatically. Exactly how the pragmatic explanation is supposed to go has remained elusive, however. This paper discusses recent philosophical and psychological work that attempts to account semantically for the apparent oddness of conditionals lacking an internal connection between their parts.
The material interpretation of conditionals is commonly recognized as involving some paradoxical results. I here argue that the truth functional approach to natural language is the reason for the inadequacy of this material interpretation, since the truth or falsity of some pair of statements ‘p’ and ‘q’ cannot per se be decisive for the truth or falsity of a conditional relation ‘if p then q’. This inadequacy also affects the ability of the overall formal system to establish whether or (...) not arguments involving conditionals are valid. I also demonstrate that the Paradox of Indicative Conditionals does not actually involve a paradox, but instead contains some paralogistic elements that make it appear to be a paradox. The discussion of the paradox in this paper further reveals that the material interpretation of conditionals adversely affects the treatment of disjunctions. -/- Much has been said about these matters in the literature that point in the same direction. However, there seems to be some reluctance against fully complying with the arguments against the truth functional account of conditionals, since many of the alternative accounts rely on the material conditional, or at least on an understanding of the conditional as a function of antecedent and consequent in a similar sense as the material conditional. My argument against truth functionality indicates that it may in general involve similar problems to treat conditionals as such functions, whether one deals with theories of truth, assertability or probability. (shrink)
(2014). Capturing the relationship between conditionals and conditional probability with a trivalent semantics. Journal of Applied Non-Classical Logics: Vol. 24, Three-Valued Logics and their Applications, pp. 144-152. doi: 10.1080/11663081.2014.911535.
Conditionals has at its center an extended essay on this problematic and much-debated subject in the philosophy of language and logic, which the widely respected Oxford philosopher Michael Woods had been preparing for publication at the time of his death in 1993. It appears here edited by his eminent colleague David Wiggins, and is accompanied by a commentary specially written by a leading expert on the topic, Dorothy Edgington. This masterly and original treatment of conditionals will demand the (...) attention of all philosophers working in this area. (shrink)
We examine the notion of conditionals and the role of conditionals in inductive logics and arguments. We identify three mistakes commonly made in the study of, or motivation for, non-classical logics. A nonmonotonic consequence relation based on evidential probability is formulated. With respect to this acceptance relation some rules of inference of System P are unsound, and we propose refinements that hold in our framework.
This paper presents a new theory of the truth conditions for indicative conditionals. The theory allows us to give a fairly unified account of the semantics for indicative and subjunctive conditionals, though there remains a distinction between the two classes. Put simply, the idea behind the theory is that the distinction between the indicative and the subjunctive parallels the distinction between the necessary and the a priori. Since that distinction is best understood formally using the resources of two-dimensional (...) modal logic, those resources will be brought to bear on the logic of conditionals. (shrink)
Conditional structures lie at the heart of the sciences, humanities, and everyday reasoning. It is hence not surprising that conditional logics – logics specifically designed to account for natural language conditionals – are an active and interdisciplinary area. The present book gives a formal and a philosophical account of indicative and counterfactual conditionals in terms of Chellas-Segerberg semantics. For that purpose a range of topics are discussed such as Bennett’s arguments against truth value based semantics for indicative (...) class='Hi'>conditionals. (shrink)
This paper discusses and relates two puzzles for indicative conditionals: a puzzle about indeterminacy and a puzzle about triviality. Both puzzles arise because of Ramsey's Observation, which states that the probability of a conditional is equal to the conditional probability of its consequent given its antecedent. The puzzle of indeterminacy is the problem of reconciling this fact about conditionals with the fact that they seem to lack truth values at worlds where their antecedents are false. The puzzle of (...) triviality is the problem of reconciling Ramsey's Observation with various triviality proofs which establish that Ramsey's Observation cannot hold in full generality. In the paper, I argue for a solution to the indeterminacy puzzle and then apply the resulting theory to the triviality puzzle. On the theory I defend, the truth conditions of indicative conditionals are highly context dependent and such that an indicative conditional may be indeterminate in truth value at each possible world throughout some region of logical space and yet still have a nonzero probability throughout that region. (shrink)
We argue that distinct conditionals—conditionals that are governed by different logics—are needed to formalize the rules of Truth Introduction and Truth Elimination. We show that revision theory, when enriched with the new conditionals, yields an attractive theory of truth. We go on to compare this theory with one recently proposed by Hartry Field.
Given his hostility to intensional locutions, it is not surprising that Quine was suspicious of the subjunctive conditional. Although he admitted its usefulness as a heuristic device, in order to introduce dispositional terms, he held that it had no place in a finished scientific theory. In this paper I argue in support of something like Quine’s position. Many contemporary philosophers are unreflectively realist about subjunctives, regarding them as having objective truth values. I contest this. “Moderate realist” theorists, such as Lewis (...) and Stalnaker, admit that subjunctives are context-relative and often indeterminate; I argue, using some examples from the contemporary literature on conditionals, that these features are deeper and more widespread than they think. “Ultra-realist” theories, which deny any indeterminacy, are not credible. Hence subjunctives are unsuitable for certain purposes, in particular the description of mind-independent reality. (shrink)
A part of Stalnaker (1968)’s influential theory of conditionals has been neglected, namely the role for an accessibility relation between worlds. I argue that the accessibility relation does not play the role intended for it in the theory as stated, and propose a minimal revision which solves the problem, and brings the theory in line with the formulation in Stalnaker & Thomason 1970.
Differences in the interpretation of would-conditionals with simple (perfective) and perfect antecedent clauses are marked enough to discourage a unified view. However, this paper presents a unified, Lewis–Stalnaker style semantics for the modal in such constructions. Differences in the interpretation of the conditionals are derived from the interaction between the interpretation of different types of aspect and the modal. The paper makes a distinction between perfective and perfect aspect in terms of whether they make reference to or quantify (...) over Lewis-style events. In making reference to Lewis-events, perfective aspect is shown to be incompatible with counterfactual would-conditionals. The so-called ‘epistemic flavor’ of perfective conditionals about the future is derived from the use of diagonalization as an interpretive strategy called upon to resolve reference. (shrink)
I outline and motivate a way of implementing a closest world theory of indicatives, appealing to Stalnaker's framework of open conversational possibilities. Stalnakerian conversational dynamics helps us resolve two outstanding puzzles for a such a theory of indicative conditionals. The first puzzle -- concerning so-called 'reverse Sobel sequences' -- can be resolved by conversation dynamics in a theoryneutral way: the explanation works as much for Lewisian counterfactuals as for the account of indicatives developed here. Resolving the second puzzle, by (...) contrast, relies on the interplay between the particular theory of indicative conditionals developed here and Stalnakerian dynamics. The upshot is an attractive resolution of the so-called "Gibbard phenomenon" for indicative conditionals. (shrink)
Grice argues that indicative conditionals ‘if p then q’ have conventional, truth conditional meaning according to the material conditional ‘p q’. In order to explain away the known paradoxes with this interpretation, he distinguishes between truth conditions and assertion conditions, attempting to demonstrate that the assumed connection between ‘p’ and ‘q’ (the Indirectness Condition) is a conversational implicature; hence a matter only relevant for the assertion conditions of a conditional. This paper argues that Grice fails to demonstrate i) (...) that the Indirectness Condition is cancellable, hence a conversational implicature, ii) that the Indirectness Condition is not part of the conventional, truth-relevant meaning of ‘if’, and accordingly, iii) semantic or logical equivalence between indicative and material conditionals. (shrink)
This collection of essays is on the relation between probabilities, especially conditional probabilities, and conditionals. It provides negative results which sharply limit the ways conditionals can be related to conditional probabilities. There are also positive ideas and results which will open up areas of research. The collection is intended to honour Ernest W. Adams, whose seminal work is largely responsible for creating this area of inquiry. As well as describing, evaluating, and applying Adams's work the contributions extend his (...) ideas in directions he may or may not have anticipated, but that he certainly inspired. In addition to a wide range of philosophers of science, the volume should interest computer scientists and linguists. (shrink)
Conventional wisdom has it that many intriguing features of indicative conditionals aren’t shared by subjunctive conditionals. Subjunctive morphology is common in discussions of wishes and wants, however, and conditionals are commonly used in such discussions as well. As a result such discussions are a good place to look for subjunctive conditionals that exhibit features usually associated with indicatives alone. Here I offer subjunctive versions of J. L. Austin’s ‘biscuit’ conditionals—e.g., “There are biscuits on the sideboard (...) if you want them”—and subjunctive versions of Allan Gibbard’s ‘stand-off’ or ‘Sly Pete’ conditionals, in which speakers with no relevant false beliefs can in the same context felicitously assert conditionals with the same antecedents and contradictory consequents. My cases undercut views according to which the indicative/subjunctive divide marks a great difference in the meaning of conditionals. They also make trouble for treatments of indicative conditionals that cannot readily be generalized to subjunctives. (shrink)
Bayes nets are formal representations of causal systems that many psychologists have claimed as plausible mental representations. One purported advantage of Bayes nets is that they may provide a theory of counterfactual conditionals, such as If Calvin had been at the party, Miriam would have left early. This article compares two proposed Bayes net theories as models of people's understanding of counterfactuals. Experiments 1-3 show that neither theory makes correct predictions about backtracking counterfactuals (in which the event of the (...) if-clause occurs after the event of the then-clause), and Experiment 4 shows the same is true of forward counterfactuals. An amended version of one of the approaches, however, can provide a more accurate account of these data. (shrink)
Two experiments (N1 = 141, N2 = 40) investigate two versions of Aristotle’s Thesis for the first time. Aristotle’s Thesis is a negated conditional, which consists of one propositional variable with a negation either in the antecedent (version 1) or in the consequent (version 2). This task allows to infer if people interpret indicative conditionals as material conditionals or as conditional events. In the first experiment I investigate between-participants the two versions of Aristotle’s Thesis crossed with abstract versus (...) concrete task material. The modal response for all four groups is consistent with the conditional event and inconsistent with the material conditional interpretation. This observation is replicated in the second experiment. Moreover, the second experiment rules out scope ambiguities of the negation of conditionals. Both experiments provide new evidence against the material conditional interpretation of conditionals and support the conditional event interpretation. Finally, I discuss implications for modeling indicative conditionals and the relevance of this work for experimental philosophy. (shrink)
Many conditionals seem to convey the existence of a link between their antecedent and consequent. We draw on a recently proposed typology of conditionals to argue for an old philosophical idea according to which the link is inferential in nature. We show that the proposal has explanatory force by presenting empirical results on the evidential meaning of certain English and Dutch modal expressions.
This paper replies to Politzer’s ( 2007 ) criticisms of the mental model theory of conditionals. It argues that the theory provides a correct account of negation of conditionals, that it does not provide a truth-functional account of their meaning, though it predicts that certain interpretations of conditionals yield acceptable versions of the ‘paradoxes’ of material implication, and that it postulates three main strategies for estimating the probabilities of conditionals.
In this paper I will be concerned with the question as to whether expressivist theories of meaning can coherently be combined with deflationist theories of truth. After outlining what I take expressivism to be and what I take deflationism about truth to be, I’ll explain why I don’t take the general version of this question to be very hard, and why the answer is ‘yes’. Having settled that, I’ll move on to what I take to be a more pressing and (...) interesting version of the question, arising from a prima facie tension between deflationism about truth and the motivations underlying expressivism for what I take to be two of its most promising applications: to indicative conditionals and epistemic modals. Here I’ll argue that the challenge is substantive, but that there is no conceptual obstacle to its being met, provided that one’s expressivism takes the right form. (shrink)
A few purported counterexamples to the Adams thesis have cropped up in the literature in the last few decades. I propose a theory that accounts for them, in a way that makes the connections between indicative conditionals and counterfactuals clearer.
According to the Ramsey Test, conditionals reflect changes of beliefs: α > β is accepted in a belief state iff β is accepted in the minimal revision of it that is necessary to accommodate α. Since Gärdenfors’s seminal paper of 1986, a series of impossibility theorems (“triviality theorems”) has seemed to show that the Ramsey test is not a viable analysis of conditionals if it is combined with AGM-type belief revision models. I argue that it is possible to (...) endorse that Ramsey test for conditionals while staying true to the spirit of AGM. A main focus lies on AGM’s condition of Preservation according to which the original belief set should be fully retained after a revision by information that is consistent with it. I use concrete representations of belief states and (iterated) revisions of belief states as semantic models for (nested) conditionals. Among the four most natural qualitative models for iterated belief change, two are identified that indeed allow us to combine the Ramsey test with Preservation in the language containing only flat conditionals of the form α > β. It is shown, however, that Preservation for this simple language enforces a violation of Preservation for nested conditionals of the form α > (β > γ). In such languages, no two belief sets are ordered by strict subset inclusion. I argue that it has been wrong right from the start to expect that Preservation holds in languages containing nested conditionals. (shrink)
Making sense of our reasoning in disputes about necessary truths requires admitting nonvacuous counterpossibles. One class of these is the counteressentials, which ask us to make contrary to fact suppositions about essences. A popular strategy in accounting for nonvacuous counterpossibles is to extend the standard possible worlds semantics for subjunctive conditionals by the addition of impossible worlds. A conditional A □-> C is then taken to be true if all of the nearest A worlds are C worlds. I argue (...) that a straightforward extension of the standard possible worlds semantics to impossible worlds does not result in a viable account of counteressentials and propose an alternative covering law semantics for counteressentials. (shrink)
This paper defends the thesis that counterfactuals are strict conditionals. Its purpose is to show that there is a coherent view according to which counterfactuals are strict conditionals whose antecedent is stated elliptically. Section 1 introduces the view. Section 2 outlines a response to the main argument against the thesis that counterfactuals are strict conditionals. Section 3 compares the view with a proposal due to Aqvist, which may be regarded as its direct predecessor. Sections 4 and 5 (...) explain how the view di ers from the theories of counterfactuals advocated by Stalnaker and Lewis, and from some contextualist strict conditional accounts of counterfactuals that have emerged recently. Finally, section 6 addresses the thorny issue of disjunctive antecedents. (shrink)
According to probabilistic theories of reasoning in psychology, people's degree of belief in an indicative conditional `if A, then B' is given by the conditional probability, P(B|A). The role of language pragmatics is relatively unexplored in the new probabilistic paradigm. We investigated how consequent relevance a ects participants' degrees of belief in conditionals about a randomly chosen card. The set of events referred to by the consequent was either a strict superset or a strict subset of the set of (...) events referred to by the antecedent. We manipulated whether the superset was expressed using a disjunction or a hypernym. We also manipulated the source of the dependency, whether in long-term memory or in the stimulus. For subset-consequent conditionals, patterns of responses were mostly conditional probability followed by conjunction. For superset-consequent conditionals, conditional probability responses were most common for hypernym dependencies and least common for disjunction dependencies, which were replaced with responses indicating inferred consequent irrelevance. Conditional probability responses were also more common for knowledge-based than stimulus-based dependencies. We suggest. (shrink)
This essay proposes a semantic analysis of biscuit-conditionals, such as Austin's classic example "there are biscuits in the cupboard if you want some". The analysis is grounded on the ideas of contextual restrictions, and of non-character encoded aspects of meaning, and provides a rigorous framework for the widespread intuitions that the if-clause in a biscuit-conditional is truth-conditionally idle, but it 'qualifies' the speech-act in question. In the concluding section of this essay, the analysis is also applied to the importantly (...) similar phenomenon of speech-act adverbs. (shrink)
I give an account of the compositional semantics of unconditionals that explains their relationship to if -conditionals in the Lewis/Kratzer/Heim tradition. Unconditionals involve an alternative-denoting adjunct that supplies domain restrictions pointwise to a main-clause operator such as a modal. The differences from if -clauses follow from the structure of the adjuncts; both are conditionals in the Lewisian sense. In the course of treating unconditionals, I provide a concrete implementation of conditionals where conditional adjuncts in general are a (...) species of correlative, and show what detaching this hypothesis from if involves. (shrink)