Epistemic modal operators give rise to something very like, but also very unlike, Moore's paradox. I set out the puzzling phenomena, explain why a standard relational semantics for these operators cannot handle them, and recommend an alternative semantics. A pragmatics appropriate to the semantics is developed and interactions between the semantics, the pragmatics, and the definition of consequence are investigated. The semantics is then extended to probability operators. Some problems and prospects for probabilistic representations of content and context are explored.
By “epistemic modals,” I mean epistemic uses of modal words: adverbs like “necessarily,” “possibly,” and “probably,” adjectives like “necessary,” “possible,” and “probable,” and auxiliaries like “might,” “may,” “must,” and “could.” It is hard to say exactly what makes a word modal, or what makes a use of a modal epistemic, without begging the questions that will be our concern below, but some examples should get the idea across. If I say “Goldbach’s conjecture might be true, and it might be (...) false,” I am not endorsing the Cartesian view that God could have made the truths of arithmetic come out differently. I make the claim not because I believe in the metaphysical contingency of mathematics, but because I know that Goldbach’s conjecture has not yet been proved or refuted. Similarly, if I say “Joe can’t be running,” I am not saying that Joe’s constitution prohibits him from running, or that Joe is essentially a non-runner, or that Joe isn’t allowed to run. My basis for making the claim may be nothing more than that I see Joe’s running shoes hanging on a hook. (shrink)
I think that there are good reasons to adopt a relativist semantics for epistemic modal claims such as ``the treasure might be under the palm tree'', according to which such utterances determine a truth value relative to something finer-grained than just a world (or a <world, time> pair). Anyone who is inclined to relativise truth to more than just worlds and times faces a problem about assertion. It's easy to be puzzled about just what purpose would be served by assertions (...) of this kind, and how to understand what we'd be up to in our use of sentences like ``the treasure might be under the palm tree'', if they have such peculiar truth conditions. After providing a very quick argument to motivate a relativist view of epistemic modals, I bring out and attempt to resolve this problem in making sense of the role of assertions with relativist truth conditions. Solving this problem should be helpful in two ways: first, it eliminates an apparently forceful objection to relativism, and second, spelling out the relativist account of assertion and communication will help to make clear just what the relativist position is, exactly, and why it's interesting. (shrink)
A very simple contextualist treatment of a sentence containing an epistemic modal, e.g. a might be F, is that it is true iff for all the contextually salient community knows, a is F. It is widely agreed that the simple theory will not work in some cases, but the counterexamples produced so far seem amenable to a more complicated contextualist theory. We argue, however, that no contextualist theory can capture the evaluations speakers naturally make of sentences containing epistemic modals. (...) If we want to respect these evaluations, our best option is a relativist theory of epistemic modals. On a relativist theory, an utterance of a might be F can be true relative to one context of evaluation and false relative to another. We argue that such a theory does better than any rival approach at capturing all the behaviour of epistemic modals. (shrink)
This essay proposes a new theory of agentive modals: ability modals and their duals, compulsion modals. After criticizing existing approaches—the existential quantificational analysis, the universal quantificational analysis, and the conditional analysis—it presents a new account that builds on both the existential and conditional analyses. On this account, the act conditional analysis, a sentence like ‘John can swim across the river’ says that there is some practically available action that is such that if John tries to do it, (...) he swims across the river. The essay argues that the act conditional analysis avoids the problems faced by existing accounts of agentive modality and shows how the act conditional analysis can be extended to an account of generic agentive modal claims. The upshot is a new vantage point on the role of agentive modal ascriptions in practical discourse: ability ascriptions serve as a kind of hypothetical guarantee, and compulsion ascriptions as a kind of nonhypothetical guarantee. (shrink)
This paper motivates and develops a novel semantic framework for deontic modals. The framework is designed to shed light on two things: the relationship between deontic modals and substantive theories of practical rationality and the interaction of deontic modals with conditionals, epistemic modals and probability operators. I argue that, in order to model inferential connections between deontic modals and probability operators, we need more structure than is provided by classical intensional theories. In particular, we need (...) probabilistic structure that interacts directly with the compositional semantics of deontic modals. However, I reject theories that provide this probabilistic structure by claiming that the semantics of deontic modals is linked to the Bayesian notion of expectation. I offer a probabilistic premise semantics that explains all the data that create trouble for the rival theories. (shrink)
Recently, a number of theorists (MacFarlane (2003, 2011), Egan et al. (2005), Egan (2007), Stephenson (2007a,b)) have argued that an adequate semantics and pragmatics for epistemic modals calls for some technical notion of relativist truth and/or relativist content. Much of this work has relied on an empirical thesis about speaker judgments, namely that competent speakers tend to judge a present-tense bare epistemic possibility claim true only if the prejacent is compatible with their information. Relativists have in particular appealed to (...) judgments elicited in so-called eavesdropping and retraction cases to support this empirical thesis. But opposing theorists have denied the judgments, and at present there is no consensus in the literature about how the speaker judgments in fact pattern. Consequently there is little agreement on what exactly a semantics and pragmatics for epistemic modals should predict about the pattern of judgments in these cases. Further theorizing requires greater clarity on the data to be explained. To clarify the data, we subjected eavesdropping and retraction cases to experimental evaluation. Our data provide evidence against the claim that competent speakers tend to judge a present-tense bare epistemic possibility claim true only if the prejacent is compatible with their information. Theories designed to predict this result are accordingly undermined. (shrink)
Modals in St’át’imcets (Lillooet Salish) show two differences from their counterparts in English. First, they have variable quantificational force, systematically allowing both possibility and necessity interpretations; and second, they lexically restrict the conversational background, distinguishing for example between deontic and (several kinds of) epistemic modality. We provide an analysis of the St’át’imcets modals according to which they are akin to specific indefinites in the nominal domain. They introduce choice function variables which select a subset of the accessible worlds. (...) Following Klinedinst, we assume distributivity over the resulting set of worlds. St’át’imcets modals thus receive a uniform interpretation as (distributive) pluralities. The appearance of variability in modal force arises because the choice function can select a larger or smaller subset of accessible worlds. Finally, we discuss the implications of our analysis for the investigation of modal systems in other languages. (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.
Recently, Yalcin (Epistemic modals. Mind, 116 , 983–1026, 2007) put forward a novel account of epistemic modals. It is based on the observation that sentences of the form ‘ & Might ’ do not embed under ‘suppose’ and ‘if’. Yalcin concludes that such sentences must be contradictory and develops a notion of informational consequence which validates this idea. I will show that informational consequence is inadequate as an account of the logic of epistemic modals: it cannot deal (...) with reasoning from uncertain premises. Finally, I offer an alternative way of explaining the relevant linguistic data. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to present an explanation for the impact of normative considerations on people’s assessment of certain seemingly purely descriptive matters. The explanation is based on two main claims. First, a large category of expressions are tacitly modal: they are contextually equivalent to modal proxies. Second, the interpretation of predominantly circumstantial or teleological modals is subject to certain constraints which make certain possibilities salient at the expense of others.
Considerations involving disagreement, as well as related considerations involving correction and retraction, have played an important role in recent debates about epistemic modals. For instance, it has been argued that contextualist views about epistemic modals have problems when it comes to explaining cases of disagreement. In response to these challenges, I explore the idea that the relevant cases of disagreement may involve credal disagreement. In a case of credal disagreement, the parties have different degrees of belief or credences. (...) There does not have to be a difference in outright beliefs in order for the parties to disagree. I argue that the idea of credal disagreement allows us to make sense of otherwise problematic cases of disagreement involving epistemic modals. I also discuss how these ideas can be extended to cases of correction and retraction. (shrink)
This chapter provides a selective survey of prominent theories of the semantics of deontic modals in logic and natural language. We focus on Kratzer’s (1977; 1981; 1991) semantics and extensions to this analysis. Kratzer’s semantics has been far and away the most influential theory of deontic modals, which provide a base case for the interpretation of normative language in general. Understanding the logic and truth-conditions of normative language is one of the core areas of metaethics. It informs our (...) understanding of normative arguments and normative reasoning. As this chapter will emphasize, some forms of normative language don’t allow for the inferences that classical logic trains philosophers to expect. Understanding what inferences are valid for normative language should impact our under-standing of how we reason, and should reason, about the normative. We will first look at how deontic modals are understood in the context of modal logic and natural language. Then we’ll survey some recent debates and discoveries in the literature on deontic modals in natural language. We close with some considerations about the relevance of natural language to metaethics. (shrink)
Predicates of personal taste (fun, tasty) and epistemic modals (might, must) share a similar analytical difficulty in determining whose taste or knowledge is being expressed. Accordingly, they have parallel behavior in attitude reports and in a certain kind of disagreement. On the other hand, they differ in how freely they can be linked to a contextually salient individual, with epistemic modals being much more restricted in this respect. I propose an account of both classes using Lasersohn’s (Linguistics and (...) Philosophy 28: 643–686, 2005) “judge” parameter, at the same time arguing for crucial changes to Lasersohn’s view in order to allow the extension to epistemic modals and address empirical problems faced by his account. (shrink)
I distinguish (§1) two projects in modal epistemology—one about how we come to know modal truths, and one about why we have the ability so to come to know. The latter, I suggest, (§§2–3) is amenable to an evolutionary treatment in terms of general capacities developed to evaluate quotidian modal claims. I compare (§4) this approach to a recent suggestion in a similar spirit by Christopher Hill and Timothy Williamson, emphasizing counterfactual conditionals instead of quotidian modals; I argue that (...) while there are some reasons to prefer the quotidian modals approach, there are none favoring the Hill/Williamson counterfactual approach. I conclude (§5) with a suggestion that the remaining questions both approaches leave unanswered ought not to be too troubling. (shrink)
Seth Yalcin has pointed out some puzzling facts about the behaviour of epistemic modals in certain embedded contexts. For example, conditionals that begin ‘If it is raining and it might not be raining, … ’ sound unacceptable, unlike conditionals that begin ‘If it is raining and I don’t know it, … ’. These facts pose a prima facie problem for an orthodox treatment of epistemic modals as expressing propositions about the knowledge of some contextually specified individual or group. (...) This paper develops an explanation of the puzzling facts about embedding within an orthodox framework. (shrink)
This paper develops an account of the meaning of `ought', and the distinction between weak necessity modals (`ought', `should') and strong necessity modals (`must', `have to'). I argue that there is nothing specially ``strong'' about strong necessity modals per se: uses of `Must p' predicate the (deontic/epistemic/etc.) necessity of the prejacent p of the actual world (evaluation world). The apparent ``weakness'' of weak necessity modals derives from their bracketing whether the necessity of the prejacent is verified (...) in the actual world. `Ought p' can be accepted without needing to settle that the relevant considerations (norms, expectations, etc.) that actually apply verify the necessity of p. I call the basic account a modal-past approach to the weak/strong necessity modal distinction (for reasons that become evident). Several ways of implementing the approach in the formal semantics/pragmatics are critically examined. The account systematizes a wide range of linguistic phenomena: it generalizes across flavors of modality; it elucidates a special role that weak necessity modals play in discourse and planning; it captures contrasting logical, expressive, and illocutionary properties of weak and strong necessity modals; and it sheds light on how a notion of `ought' is often expressed in other languages. These phenomena have resisted systematic explanation. In closing I briefly consider how linguistic inquiry into differences among necessity modals may improve theorizing on broader philosophical issues. (shrink)
According to Kratzer’s influential account of epistemic 'must' and 'might', these operators involve quantification over domains of possibilities determined by a modal base and an ordering source. Recently, this account has been challenged by invoking contexts of ‘epistemic tension’: i.e., cases in which an assertion that 'must p' is conjoined with the possibility that 'not p', and cases in which speakers try to downplay a previous assertion that 'must p', after finding out that 'not p'. Epistemic tensions have been invoked (...) from two directions. Von Fintel and Gillies (2010) propose a return to a simpler modal logic-inspired account: 'must' and 'might' still involve universal and existential quantification, but the domains of possibilities are determined solely by realistic modal bases. In contrast, Lassiter (2016), following Swanson, proposes a more revisionary account which treats 'must' and 'might' as probabilistic operators. In this paper, we present a series of experiments to obtain reliable data on the degree of acceptability of various contexts of epistemic tension. Our experiments include novel variations that, we argue, are required to make progress in this debate. We show that restricted quantificational accounts à la Kratzer fit the overall pattern of results better than either of their recent competitors. In addition, our results help us identify the key components of restricted quantificational accounts, and on that basis propose some refinements and general constraints that should be satisfied by any account of the modal auxiliaries. (shrink)
According to a recent challenge to Kratzer's canonical contextualist semantics for deontic modal expressions, no contextualist view can make sense of cases in which such a modal must be information-sensitive in some way. Here I show how Kratzer's semantics is compatible with readings of the targeted sentences that fit with the data. I then outline a general account of how contexts select parameter values for modal expressions and show, in terms of that account, how the needed, contextualist-friendly readings might plausibly (...) get selected in the challenge cases. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that deontic modals are hyperintensional, i.e. logically equivalent contents cannot be substituted in their scope. I give two arguments, one deductive and the other abductive. First, I show that the contrary thesis leads to falsity; second, I argue that a hyperintensional theory of deontic modals fares better than its rivals in terms of elegance, theoretical simplicity and explanatory power. I then propose a philosophical analysis of this thesis and outline some consequences. In Section (...) 1 I introduce and define deontic modality and hyperintensionality. In Section 2 I give a reductio for the hyperintensionality of deontic modals. If the argument is sound, a useful corollary is that deontic modals are also non-intensional, and therefore possible-world semantics accounts are illfitted for them. I then show how the main result can be strengthened or weakened by varying the definition of logical validity. In Section 3 I give an abductive argument for the hyperintensionality of deontic modals, arguing that with a single move we are able to solve many paradoxes and puzzles traditionally troubling deontic logic. I present a version of a hyperintensional deontic logic in an appendix, which I prove is sound and complete with respect to a version of truthmaker semantics. (shrink)
Imperatives may be interpreted with many subvarieties of directive force, for example as orders, invitations, or pieces of advice. I argue that the range of meanings that imperatives can convey should be identiﬁed with the variety of interpretations that are possible for non-dynamic root modals (what I call ‘priority modals’), including deontic, bouletic, and teleological readings. This paper presents an analysis of the relationship between imperatives and priority modals in discourse which asserts that, just as declaratives contribute (...) to the Common Ground and thus provide information relevant to the interpretation of epistemic modals in subsequent discourse, imperatives contribute to another component of the discourse context, the addressee’s To-Do List, which serves as a contextual resource for the interpretation of priority modals. This analysis predicts that the interpretation of imperatives and modals in discourse is constrained in surprising ways; these predictions are borne out. (shrink)
Expressivists and relativists about epistemic modals often motivate their view by arguing against contextualist treatments of certain cases. However, I argue that even expressivists and relativists should consider being a kind of contextualist. Specifically, data involving mixed disjunctions motivate taking epistemic modals to be sensitive to contextually-salient partitions, and thus context-sensitive.
I defend a contextualist account of bare epistemic modal claims against recent objections. I argue that in uttering a sentence of the form ‘It might be that p,’ a speaker is performing two speech acts. First, she is (directly) asserting that in view of the knowledge possessed by some relevant group, it might be that p. The content of this first speech act is accounted for by the contextualist view. But the speaker's utterance also generates an indirect speech act that (...) consists in a weak suggestive that p. Since this second speech act is typically the main point of a bare epistemic modal utterance, our (negative or positive) responses to the utterance actually target this second speech act. I show how this two-speech-act account can explain the data recently adduced against contextualism. (shrink)
Epistemic modals are a prominent topic in the literature on natural language semantics, with wide-ranging implications for issues in philosophy of language and philosophical logic. Considerations about the role that epistemic "might" and "must" play in discourse and reasoning have led to the development of several important alternatives to classical possible worlds semantics for natural language modal expressions. This is an opinionated overview of what I take to be some of the most exciting issues and developments in the field.
The article proposes an analysis of imperatives and possibility and necessity statements that (i) explains their differences with respect to the licensing of free choice any and (ii) accounts for the related phenomena of free choice disjunction in imperatives, permissions, and statements. Any and or are analyzed as operators introducing sets of alternative propositions. Free choice licensing operators are treated as quantifiers over these sets. In this way their interpretation can be sensitive to the alternatives any and or introduce in (...) their scope. (shrink)
Expressivists about epistemic modals deny that ‘Jane might be late’ canonically serves to express the speaker’s acceptance of a certain propositional content. Instead, they hold that it expresses a lack of acceptance. Prominent expressivists embrace pragmatic expressivism: the doxastic property expressed by a declarative is not helpfully identified with that sentence’s compositional semantic value. Against this, we defend semantic expressivism about epistemic modals: the semantic value of a declarative from this domain is the property of doxastic attitudes it (...) canonically serves to express. In support, we synthesize data from the critical literature on expressivism—largely reflecting interactions between modals and disjunctions—and present a semantic expressivism that readily predicts the data. This contrasts with salient competitors, including: pragmatic expressivism based on domain semantics or dynamic semantics; semantic expressivism à la Moss ; and the bounded relational semantics of Mandelkern . (shrink)
According to Kratzer’s influential account of epistemic must and might, these operators involve quantification over domains of possibilities determined by a modal base and an ordering source. Recently, this account has been challenged by invoking contexts of ‘epistemic tension’: i.e., cases in which an assertion that must\ is conjoined with the possibility that \, and cases in which speakers try to downplay a previous assertion that must\, after finding out that \. Epistemic tensions have been invoked from two directions. Von (...) Fintel and Gillies :351–383, 2010) propose a return to a simpler modal logic-inspired account: must and might still involve universal and existential quantification, but the domains of possibilities are determined solely by realistic modal bases. In contrast, Lassiter :117–163, 2016), following Swanson, proposes a more revisionary account which treats must and might as probabilistic operators. In this paper, we present a series of experiments to obtain reliable data on the degree of acceptability of various contexts of epistemic tension. Our experiments include novel variations that, we argue, are required to make progress in this debate. We show that restricted quantificational accounts à la Kratzer fit the overall pattern of results better than either of their recent competitors. In addition, our results help us identify the key components of restricted quantificational accounts, and on that basis propose some refinements and general constraints that should be satisfied by any account of the modal auxiliaries. (shrink)
I develop a new argument for an expressivist account of epistemic modals, which starts from a puzzle about epistemic modals which Seth Yalcin recently presented. I reject Yalcin's own solution to the puzzle, and give a better explanation based on expressivism concerning epistemic modals. I also address two alleged problems for expressivism: do embeddings of epistemic modals pose a serious threat to expressivism, and how can expressivism account for disagreements about statements containing epistemic modals?
This paper considers some questions related to the determination of epistemic modal domains. Specifically, given situations in which groups of agents have epistemic states that bear on a modal domain, how is the domain best restricted? This is a metasemantic project, in which I combine a standard semantics for epistemic modals, as developed by Kratzer, with a standard story about conversational dynamics, as developed by Stalnaker. I show how a standard framework for epistemic logic can model their interaction. I (...) contend that if groups have epistemic states that bear on the modal domain, as the data suggests, then careful attention must be paid to the method of combination selected for the epistemic states of the individuals within the group. Specifically, there should be some explanation of the flow of information in a group-deliberative setting. Through this study we find a novel explanation of modal disagreement and uptake. (shrink)
I begin by reviewing classical semantics and the problems presented by normative conflicts. After a brief detour through default logic, I establish some connections between the treatment of conflicts in each of these two approaches, classical and default, and then move on to consider some further issues: priorities among norms, or reasons, conditional oughts, and reasons about reasons.
There is a lot that we don’t know. That means that there are a lot of possibilities that are, epistemically speaking, open. For instance, we don’t know whether it rained in Seattle yesterday. So, for us at least, there is an epistemic possibility where it rained in Seattle yesterday, and one where it did not. It’s tempting to give a very simple analysis of epistemic possibility: • A possibility is an epistemic possibility if we do not know that it does (...) not obtain. But this is problematic for a few reasons. One issue, one that we’ll come back to, concerns the first two words. The analysis appears to quantify over possibilities. But what are they? As we said, that will become a large issue pretty soon, so let’s set it aside for now. A more immediate problem is that it isn’t clear what it is to have de re attitudes towards possibilities, such that we know a particular possibility does or doesn’t obtain. Let’s try rephrasing our analysis so that it avoids this complication. (shrink)
This contribution aims at providing an argumentative method to account for epistemic modality and evidentiality. I claim that these two linguistic categories can work as semantic components of defeasible argumentative schemes based on classification processes. This kind of approximate reasoning is, in fact, frequently indicated by appearance verbs which signal that the inferred standpoint is conceived by the speaker as uncertain due to the deceiving nature of perceptual data. Drawing from an analysis at the semantic-argumentative interface, the way in which (...) prototype theory sheds light on the processes of meaning construction underlying defeasible arguments from definition is also shown. (shrink)
In recent years, a number of theorists have claimed that beliefs about probability are transparent. To believe probably p is simply to have a high credence that p. In this paper, I prove a variety of triviality results for theses like the above. I show that such claims are inconsistent with the thesis that probabilistic modal sentences have propositions or sets of worlds as their meaning. Then I consider the extent to which a dynamic semantics for probabilistic modals can (...) capture theses connecting belief, certainty, credence, and probability. I show that although a dynamic semantics for probabilistic modals does allow one to validate such theses, it can only do so at a cost. I prove that such theses can only be valid if probabilistic modals do not satisfy the axioms of the probability calculus. (shrink)
On Kratzer’s canonical account, modal expressions (like “might” and “must”) are represented semantically as quantifiers over possibilities. Such expressions are themselves neutral; they make a single contribution to determining the propositions expressed across a wide range of uses. What modulates the modality of the proposition expressed—as bouletic, epistemic, deontic, etc.—is context.2 This ain’t the canon for nothing. Its power lies in its ability to figure in a simple and highly unified explanation of a fairly wide range of language use. Recently, (...) though, the canon’s neat story has come under attack. The challenge cases involve the epistemic use of a modal sentence for which no single resolution of the contextual parameter appears capable of accommodating all our intuitions.3 According to these revisionaries, such cases show that the canonical story needs to be amended in some way that makes multiple bodies of information relevant to the assessment of such statements. Here I show that how the right canonical, flexibly contextualist account of modals can accommodate the full range of challenge cases. The key will be to extend Kratzer’s formal semantic account with an account of how context selects values for a modal’s.. (shrink)
The original motivation of D. Gabbay’s concept of Fibring concerned the combination of logics, and initially it involved the syntactic introduction of modals into formulations of intuitionistic logic in which modals are syntactically absent. We show, using the notion of structural modals that there are many modals of intuitionism, and logics for subjunctive and epistemic conditionals which are not syntactically evident in our best formulations of them. We discuss some cases when the attempt to make them (...) syntactically evident can have undesirable consequences. (shrink)
The class of true modal verbs in English is usually understood to include auxiliary verbs conveying possibility and necessity (including predictive future) that lack non-finite morphological forms; from a syntactic perspective, these verbs occur only in finite clauses (as opposed to infinitives or gerunds). Nevertheless the true modals do not inflect for third-person singular agreement, unlike normal present-tense verbs. When they are negated, true modals always precede the negative particle not, regardless of their understood scope relative to negation, (...) and never give rise to do-support. (shrink)
According to a popular closure principle for epistemic justification, if one is justified in believing each of the premises in set Φ and one comes to believe that ψ on the basis of competently deducing ψ from Φ—while retaining justified beliefs in the premises—then one is justified in believing that ψ. This principle is prima facie compelling; it seems to capture the sense in which competent deduction is an epistemically secure means to extend belief. However, even the single-premise version of (...) this closure principle is in conflict with certain seemingly good inferences involving the epistemic possibility modal ♢. According to other compelling principles concerning competent deduction and epistemic justification, one can competently infer ¬♢φ from ¬φ in deliberation even though there are cases in which one can justifiably believe ¬φ but would be unjustified in believing ¬♢φ. Thus, as we argue, philosophers must choose between unrestricted closure for justification and the validity of these other principles. (shrink)
Consider one of several things. Is the one thing necessarily one of the several? This key question in the modal logic of plurals is clarified. Some defenses of an affirmative answer are developed and compared. Various remarks are made about the broader philosophical significance of the question.
I argue against a simple contextualist account of epistemic modals. My argument, like the argument on which it is based , charges that simple contextualism cannot explain all of the conversational data about uses of epistemic modals. My argument improves on its predecessor by insulating itself from recent contextualist attempts by Janice Dowell and Igor Yanovich to get around that argument. In particular, I use linguistic data to show that an utterance of an epistemic modal sentence can be (...) warranted, while an utterance of its suggested simple contextualist paraphrase is not. (shrink)
Possible worlds semantics faces a range of difficulties for at least certain types of modals, especially deontic modals with their distinction between heavy and light permissions and obligations. This paper outlines a new semantics of modals that aims to overcome some of those difficulties. The semantics is based on an a novel ontology of modal objects, entities like obligations, permissions, needs, as well as epistemic states, abilities, and essences. Moreover, it is based on truthmaking, in the sense (...) of Fine’s recent truthmaker semantics. (shrink)
Kolodny and MacFarlane have made a pioneering contribution to our understanding of how the interpretation of deontic modals can be sensitive to evidence and information. But integrating the discussion of information-sensitivity into the standard Kratzerian framework for modals suggests ways of capturing the relevant data without treating deontic modals as “informational modals” in their sense. I show that though one such way of capturing the data within the standard semantics fails, an alternative does not. Nevertheless I (...) argue that we have good reasons to adopt an information-sensitive semantics of the general type Kolodny and MacFarlane describe. Contrary to the standard semantics, relative deontic value between possibilities sometimes depends on which possibilities are live. I develop an ordering semantics for deontic modals that captures this point and addresses various complications introduced by integrating the discussion of information-sensitivity into the standard semantic framework. By attending to these complexities, we can also illuminate various roles that information and evidence play in logical arguments, discourse, and deliberation. (shrink)
ABSTRACTRecent debate over the semantics and pragmatics of epistemic modals has focused on intuitions about cross-contextual truth-value assessments. In this paper, we advocate a different approach to evaluating theories of epistemic modals. Our strategy focuses on judgments of the incompatibility of two different epistemic possibility claims, or two different truth value assessments of a single epistemic possibility claim. We subject the predictions of existing theories to empirical scrutiny, and argue that existing contextualist and relativist theories are unable to (...) account for the full pattern of observed judgments. As a way of illustrating the theoretical upshot of these results, we conclude by developing a novel theory of epistemic modals that is able to predict the results. (shrink)
In a series of recent articles Angelika Kratzer has argued that the standard account of modality along Kripkean lines is inadequate in order to represent context-dependent modals. In particular she argues that the standard account is unable to deliver a non-trivial account of modality capable of overcoming inconsistencies of the underlying conversational background.