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Embedding Epistemic Modals

Mind 122 (488):867-914 (2013)

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  1. Witnesses.Matthew Mandelkern - manuscript
    The meaning of definite descriptions (like ‘the King of France’, ‘the girl’, etc.) has been a central topic in philosophy and linguistics for the past century. Indefinites (‘Something is on the floor’, ‘A child sat down’, etc.) have been relatively neglected in philosophy, under the assumption that they can be unproblematically treated as existential quantifiers. However, an important tradition in linguistic semantics, drawing from Stoic logic, draws out patterns which suggest that indefinites are not well treated simply as existential quantifiers. (...)
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  • How to Embed an Epistemic Modal: Attitude Problems and Other Defects of Character.Alex Silk - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (7):1773-1799.
    This paper develops a contextualist account of certain recalcitrant embedding phenomena with epistemic modals. I focus on three prominent objections to contextualism from embedding: first, that contextualism mischaracterizes subjects’ states of mind; second, that contextualism fails to predict how epistemic modals are obligatorily linked to the subject in attitude ascriptions; and third, that contextualism fails to explain the persisting anomalousness of so-called “epistemic contradictions” in suppositional contexts. Contextualists have inadequately appreciated the force of these objections. Drawing on a more general (...)
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  • Dynamic Non-Classicality.Matthew Mandelkern - 2020 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 98 (2):382-392.
    I show that standard dynamic approaches to the semantics of epistemic modals invalidate the classical laws of excluded middle and non-contradiction, as well as the law of ‘epistemic non-contradicti...
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  • What the Future ‘Might’ Brings.David Boylan - 2020 - Mind 129 (515):809-829.
    This paper concerns a puzzle about the interaction of epistemic modals and future tense. In cases of predictable forgetfulness, speakers cannot describe their future states of mind with epistemic modals under future tense, but promising theories of epistemic modals do not predict this. In §1, I outline the puzzle. In §2, I argue that it undermines a very general approach to epistemic modals that draws a tight connection between epistemic modality and evidence. In §3, I defend the assumption that tense (...)
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  • Semantic expressivism for epistemic modals.Peter Hawke & Shane Steinert-Threlkeld - forthcoming - Linguistics and Philosophy:1-37.
    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 (...)
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  • The Necessity of Mathematics.Juhani Yli‐Vakkuri & John Hawthorne - 2020 - Noûs 54 (3):549-577.
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  • The Necessity of Mathematics.Juhani Yli‐Vakkuri & John Hawthorne - 2018 - Noûs 52.
    Some have argued for a division of epistemic labor in which mathematicians supply truths and philosophers supply their necessity. We argue that this is wrong: mathematics is committed to its own necessity. Counterfactuals play a starring role.
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  • Embedded Attitudes.Kyle Blumberg & Ben Holguín - 2019 - Journal of Semantics 36 (3):377-406.
    This paper presents a puzzle involving embedded attitude reports. We resolve the puzzle by arguing that attitude verbs take restricted readings: in some environments the denotation of attitude verbs can be restricted by a given proposition. For example, when these verbs are embedded in the consequent of a conditional, they can be restricted by the proposition expressed by the conditional’s antecedent. We formulate and motivate two conditions on the availability of verb restrictions: a constraint that ties the content of restrictions (...)
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  • Generalized Update Semantics.Simon Goldstein - 2019 - Mind 128 (511):795-835.
    This paper explores the relationship between dynamic and truth conditional semantics for epistemic modals. It provides a generalization of a standard dynamic update semantics for modals. This new semantics derives a Kripke semantics for modals and a standard dynamic semantics for modals as special cases. The semantics allows for new characterizations of a variety of principles in modal logic, including the inconsistency of ‘p and might not p’. Finally, the semantics provides a construction procedure for transforming any truth conditional semantics (...)
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  • Revisionist Reporting.Kyle Blumberg & Harvey Lederman - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies.
    Several theorists have observed that attitude reports have what we call “revisionist” uses. For example, even if Pete has never met Ann and has no idea that she exists, Jane can still say to Jim ‘Pete believes Ann can learn to play tennis in ten lessons’ if Pete believes all 6-year-olds can learn to play tennis in ten lessons and it is part of Jane and Jim’s background knowledge that Ann is a 6-year-old. Jane’s assertion seems acceptable because the claim (...)
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  • Credence: A Belief-First Approach.Andrew Moon & Elizabeth Jackson - 2020 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 50 (5):652–669.
    This paper explains and defends a belief-first view of the relationship between belief and credence. On this view, credences are a species of beliefs, and the degree of credence is determined by the content of what is believed. We begin by developing what we take to be the most plausible belief-first view. Then, we offer several arguments for it. Finally, we show how it can resist objections that have been raised to belief-first views. We conclude that the belief-first view is (...)
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  • Knowledge in the Face of Conspiracy Conditionals.Ben Holguín - forthcoming - Linguistics and Philosophy:1-35.
    A plausible principle about the felicitous use of indicative conditionals says that there is something strange about asserting an indicative conditional when you know whether its antecedent is true. But in most contexts there is nothing strange at all about asserting indicative conditionals like ‘If Oswald didn’t shoot Kennedy, then someone else did’. This paper argues that the only compelling explanation of these facts requires the resources of contextualism about knowledge.
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  • General Dynamic Triviality Theorems.Jeffrey Sanford Russell & John Hawthorne - 2016 - Philosophical Review 125 (3):307-339.
    Famous results by David Lewis show that plausible-sounding constraints on the probabilities of conditionals or evaluative claims lead to unacceptable results, by standard probabilistic reasoning. Existing presentations of these results rely on stronger assumptions than they really need. When we strip these arguments down to a minimal core, we can see both how certain replies miss the mark, and also how to devise parallel arguments for other domains, including epistemic “might,” probability claims, claims about comparative value, and so on. A (...)
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  • Talking About Worlds.Matthew Mandelkern - 2018 - Philosophical Perspectives 32 (1):298-325.
    I explore the logic of the conditional, using credence judgments to argue against Duality and in favor of Conditional Excluded Middle. I then explore how to give a theory of the conditional which validates the latter and not the former, developing a variant on Kratzer (1981)'s restrictor theory, as well as a proposal which combines Stalnaker (1968)'s theory of the conditional with the theory of epistemic modals I develop in Mandelkern 2019a. I argue that the latter approach fits naturally with (...)
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  • Weak Assertion.Luca Incurvati & Julian J. Schlöder - 2019 - Philosophical Quarterly 69 (277):741-770.
    We present an inferentialist account of the epistemic modal operator might. Our starting point is the bilateralist programme. A bilateralist explains the operator not in terms of the speech act of rejection ; we explain the operator might in terms of weak assertion, a speech act whose existence we argue for on the basis of linguistic evidence. We show that our account of might provides a solution to certain well-known puzzles about the semantics of modal vocabulary whilst retaining classical logic. (...)
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  • If P, Then P!Matthew Mandelkern - manuscript
    The Identity principle says that conditionals with the form 'If p, then p' are logical truths. Identity is overwhelmingly plausible, and has rarely been explicitly challenged. But a wide range of conditionals nonetheless invalidate it. I explain the problem, and argue that the culprit is the principle known as Import-Export, which we must thus reject. I then explore how we can reject Import-Export in a way that still makes sense of the intuitions that support it, arguing that the differences between (...)
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  • Updating as Communication.Sarah Moss - 2012 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 85 (2):225-248.
    Traditional procedures for rational updating fail when it comes to self-locating opinions, such as your credences about where you are and what time it is. This paper develops an updating procedure for rational agents with self-locating beliefs. In short, I argue that rational updating can be factored into two steps. The first step uses information you recall from your previous self to form a hypothetical credence distribution, and the second step changes this hypothetical distribution to reflect information you have genuinely (...)
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  • Knowledge, Hope, and Fallibilism.Matthew A. Benton - 2018, early view - Synthese:1-17.
    Hope, in its propositional construction "I hope that p," is compatible with a stated chance for the speaker that not-p. On fallibilist construals of knowledge, knowledge is compatible with a chance of being wrong, such that one can know that p even though there is an epistemic chance for one that not-p. But self-ascriptions of propositional hope that p seem to be incompatible, in some sense, with self-ascriptions of knowing whether p. Data from conjoining hope self-ascription with outright assertions, with (...)
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  • Bounded Modality.Matthew Mandelkern - 2019 - Philosophical Review 128 (1):1-61.
    What does 'might' mean? One hypothesis is that 'It might be raining' is essentially an avowal of ignorance like 'For all I know, it's raining'. But it turns out these two constructions embed in different ways, in particular as parts of larger constructions like Wittgenstein's 'It might be raining and it's not' and Moore's 'It's raining and I don't know it', respectively. A variety of approaches have been developed to account for those differences. All approaches agree that both Moore sentences (...)
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  • How to Embed Epistemic Modals Without Violating Modus Tollens.Joe Salerno - manuscript
    Epistemic modals in consequent place of indicative conditionals give rise to apparent counterexamples to Modus Ponens and Modus Tollens. Familiar assumptions of fa- miliar truth conditional theories of modality facilitate a prima facie explanation—viz., that the target cases harbor epistemic modal equivocations. However, these explana- tions go too far. For they foster other predictions of equivocation in places where in fact there are no equivocations. It is argued here that the key to the solution is to drop the assumption that (...)
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  • Modality and Expressibility.Matthew Mandelkern - 2019 - Review of Symbolic Logic 12 (4):768-805.
    When embedding data are used to argue against semantic theory A and in favor of semantic theory B, it is important to ask whether A could make sense of those data. It is possible to ask that question on a case-by-case basis. But suppose we could show that A can make sense of all the embedding data which B can possibly make sense of. This would, on the one hand, undermine arguments in favor of B over A on the basis (...)
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  • An Update on Epistemic Modals.Malte Willer - 2015 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 44 (6):835–849.
    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.
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  • Dynamics of Epistemic Modality.Malte Willer - 2013 - Philosophical Review 122 (1):45-92.
    A dynamic semantics for epistemically modalized sentences is an attractive alternative to the orthodox view that our best theory of meaning ascribes to such sentences truth-conditions relative to what is known. This essay demonstrates that a dynamic theory about might and must offers elegant explanations of a range of puzzling observations about epistemic modals. The first part of the story offers a unifying treatment of disputes about epistemic modality and disputes about matters of fact while at the same time avoiding (...)
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  • Evaluational Adjectives.Alex Silk - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research:1-35.
    This paper demarcates a theoretically interesting class of "evaluational adjectives." This class includes predicates expressing various kinds of normative and epistemic evaluation, such as predicates of personal taste, aesthetic adjectives, moral adjectives, and epistemic adjectives, among others. Evaluational adjectives are distinguished, empirically, in exhibiting phenomena such as discourse-oriented use, felicitous embedding under the attitude verb `find', and sorites-susceptibility in the comparative form. A unified degree-based semantics is developed: What distinguishes evaluational adjectives, semantically, is that they denote context-dependent measure functions ("evaluational (...)
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  • Updating Data Semantics.Anthony S. Gillies - 2020 - Mind 129 (513):1-41.
    This paper has three main goals. First, to motivate a puzzle about how ignorance-expressing terms like maybe and if interact: they iterate, and when they do they exhibit scopelessness. Second, to argue that there is an ambiguity in our theoretical toolbox, and that exposing that opens the door to a solution to the puzzle. And third, to explore the reach of that solution. Along the way, the paper highlights a number of pleasing properties of two elegant semantic theories, explores some (...)
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  • Believing Epistemic Contradictions.Beddor Bob & Simon Goldstein - 2018 - Review of Symbolic Logic (1):87-114.
    What is it to believe something might be the case? We develop a puzzle that creates difficulties for standard answers to this question. We go on to propose our own solution, which integrates a Bayesian approach to belief with a dynamic semantics for epistemic modals. After showing how our account solves the puzzle, we explore a surprising consequence: virtually all of our beliefs about what might be the case provide counterexamples to the view that rational belief is closed under logical (...)
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  • Practical Moore Sentences.Matthew Mandelkern - forthcoming - Noûs.
    I discuss what I call practical Moore sentences: sentences like ‘You must close your door, but I don’t know whether you will’, which combine an order together with an avowal of agnosticism about whether the order will be obeyed. I show that practical Moore sentences are generally infelicitous. But this infelicity is surprising: it seems like there should be nothing wrong with giving someone an order while acknowledging that you do not know whether it will obeyed. I suggest that this (...)
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  • Belief and Credence: A Defense of Dualism.Elizabeth Jackson - 2019 - Dissertation, University of Notre Dame
    Belief is a familiar attitude: taking something to be the case or regarding it as true. But we are more confident in some of our beliefs than in others. For this reason, many epistemologists appeal to a second attitude, called credence, similar to a degree of confidence. This raises the question: how do belief and credence relate to each other? On a belief-first view, beliefs are more fundamental and credences are a species of beliefs, e.g. beliefs about probabilities. On a (...)
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  • A New Puzzle About Belief and Credence.Andrew Moon - 2019 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 49 (2):272-291.
    I present a puzzle about belief and credence, which takes the form of three independently supported views that are mutually inconsistent. The first is the view that S has a modal belief that p if and only if S has a corresponding credence that p. The second is the view that S believes that p only if S has some credence that p. The third is the view that, possibly, S believes that p without a modal belief that p. [Word (...)
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  • Subjunctive Credences and Semantic Humility.Sarah Moss - 2013 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 87 (2):251-278.
    This paper argues that several leading theories of subjunctive conditionals are incompatible with ordinary intuitions about what credences we ought to have in subjunctive conditionals. In short, our theory of subjunctives should intuitively display semantic humility, i.e. our semantic theory should deliver the truth conditions of sentences without pronouncing on whether those conditions actually obtain. In addition to describing intuitions about subjunctive conditionals, I argue that we can derive these ordinary intuitions from justified premises, and I answer a possible worry (...)
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  • Content in a Dynamic Context.Una Stojnić - 2019 - Noûs 53 (2):394-432.
    The standing tradition in theorizing about meaning, since at least Frege, identifies meaning with propositions, which are, or determine, the truth-conditions of a sentence in a context. But a recent trend has advocated a departure from this tradition: in particular, it has been argued that modal claims do not express standard propositional contents. This non-propositionalism has received different implementations in expressivist semantics and certain kinds of dynamic semantics. They maintain that the key aspect of interpretation of modal claims is the (...)
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  • Might Do Better: Flexible Relativism and the QUD.Bob Beddor & Andy Egan - 2018 - Semantics and Pragmatics 11.
    The past decade has seen a protracted debate over the semantics of epistemic modals. According to contextualists, epistemic modals quantify over the possibilities compatible with some contextually determined group’s information. Relativists often object that contextualism fails to do justice to the way we assess utterances containing epistemic modals for truth or falsity. However, recent empirical work seems to cast doubt on the relativist’s claim, suggesting that ordinary speakers’ judgments about epistemic modals are more closely in line with contextualism than relativism (...)
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  • Generalized Free Choice and Missing Alternatives.Marie-Christine Meyer - 2015 - Journal of Semantics:ffv010.
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  • One's Modus Ponens: Modality, Coherence and Logic.Una Stojnić - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 95 (1):167-214.
    Recently, there has been a shift away from traditional truth-conditional accounts of meaning towards non-truth-conditional ones, e.g., expressivism, relativism and certain forms of dynamic semantics. Fueling this trend is some puzzling behavior of modal discourse. One particularly surprising manifestation of such behavior is the alleged failure of some of the most entrenched classical rules of inference; viz., modus ponens and modus tollens. These revisionary, non-truth-conditional accounts tout these failures, and the alleged tension between the behavior of modal vocabulary and classical (...)
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  • Comments on Transient Truths: An Essay in the Metaphysics of Propositions.John Hawthorne - 2015 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 58 (6):619-626.
    This paper distinguishes two importantly different kinds of temporalism. According to one version, the truth value of propositions is parameterized to times. According to a second version, propositions have a truth value simpliciter, but some propositions that are true will be or were false. I point out that the second version is neglected in Berit Brogaard's Transient Truths, and explore whether there are good arguments against it implicit in that work. I also critically engage with various arguments presented by Brogaard (...)
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  • Full Belief and Loose Speech.Sarah Moss - 2019 - Philosophical Review 128 (3):255-291.
    This paper defends an account of full belief, including an account of its relationship to credence. Along the way, I address several familiar and difficult questions about belief. Does fully believing a proposition require having maximal confidence in it? Are rational beliefs closed under entailment, or does the preface paradox show that rational agents can believe inconsistent propositions? Does whether you believe a proposition depend partly on your practical interests? My account of belief resolves the tension between conflicting answers to (...)
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  • Choice Points for a Modal Theory of Disjunction.Fabrizio Cariani - 2017 - Topoi 36 (1):171-181.
    This paper investigates the prospects for a semantic theory that treats disjunction as a modal operator. Potential motivation for such a theory comes from the way in which modals embed within disjunctions. After reviewing some of the relevant data, I go on to distinguish a variety of modal theories of disjunction. I analyze these theories by considering pairs of conflicting desiderata, highlighting some of the tradeoffs they must face.
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  • Fatalism and the Logic of Unconditionals.Justin Bledin - forthcoming - Noûs.
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  • Some Remarks on Imagination and Convention.John Hawthorne - 2016 - Mind and Language 31 (5):625-634.
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  • Belief is Weak.John Hawthorne, Daniel Rothschild & Levi Spectre - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (5):1393-1404.
    It is tempting to posit an intimate relationship between belief and assertion. The speech act of assertion seems like a way of transferring the speaker’s belief to his or her audience. If this is right, then you might think that the evidential warrant required for asserting a proposition is just the same as the warrant for believing it. We call this thesis entitlement equality. We argue here that entitlement equality is false, because our everyday notion of belief is unambiguously a (...)
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  • Informational Dynamics of Epistemic Possibility Modals.Peter Hawke & Shane Steinert-Threlkeld - 2018 - Synthese 195 (10):4309-4342.
    We investigate, in a logical setting, the expressivist proposal that assertion primarily functions to express and coordinate doxastic states and that ‘might’ fundamentally expresses lack of belief. We provide a formal model of an agent’s doxastic state and novel assertability conditions for an associated formal language. We thereby prove that an arbitrary assertion always succeeds in expressing a well-defined doxastic state, and propose a fully general and intuitive update operation as a model of an agent coming to accept an arbitrary (...)
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  • Epistemic Modals and Sensitivity to Contextually‐Salient Partitions.Andy Demfree Yu - 2016 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 5 (2):134-146.
    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.
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  • Closure and Epistemic Modals.Justin Bledin & Tamar Lando - 2018 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 97 (1):3-22.
    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 (...)
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  • Epistemic Modals and Modus Tollens.Joseph Salerno - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (10):2663-2680.
    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 (...)
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  • Strong Epistemic Possibility and Evidentiality.Katrina Przyjemski - 2017 - Topoi 36 (1):183-195.
    The paper distinguishes between weak and strong epistemic possibility and argues that the notion of strong epistemic possibility is the key to solving some of the most vexing puzzles about the semantics of epistemic modality.
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