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Ifs and Oughts

Journal of Philosophy 107 (3):115-143 (2010)

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  1. The counterfactual direct argument.Simon Goldstein - 2020 - Linguistics and Philosophy 43 (2):193-232.
    Many have accepted that ordinary counterfactuals and might counterfactuals are duals. In this paper, I show that this thesis leads to paradoxical results when combined with a few different unorthodox yet increasingly popular theses, including the thesis that counterfactuals are strict conditionals. Given Duality and several other theses, we can quickly infer the validity of another paradoxical principle, ‘The Counterfactual Direct Argument’, which says that ‘A> ’ entails ‘A> ’. First, I provide a collapse theorem for the ‘counterfactual direct argument’. (...)
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  • Indicative Conditionals and Graded Information.Ivano Ciardelli - 2020 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 49 (3):509-549.
    I propose an account of indicative conditionals that combines features of minimal change semantics and information semantics. As in information semantics, conditionals are interpreted relative to an information state in accordance with the Ramsey test idea: “if p then q” is supported at a state s iff q is supported at the hypothetical state s[p] obtained by restricting s to the p-worlds. However, information states are not modeled as simple sets of worlds, but by means of a Lewisian system of (...)
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  • An Acquittal for Epistemicism.Hesam Mohamadi - 2018 - International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue Internationale de Sémiotique Juridique 31 (4):905-928.
    Scott Soames argues that consideration of the practice of legal judgement gives us good reason to favor the partial-definition/context-sensitive theory of vagueness against epistemicism. Despite the fact that the value of power-delegation through vagueness is evidenced in practice, Soames says, epistemicism cannot account for it theoretically, while the partial-definition/context-sensitive theory is capable of it. In this paper, I examine the two possible arguments against epistemicism that can be extracted from Soames’s account: (i) an argument based on unknown obligations, and (ii) (...)
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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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  • Hard and Blind: On Wittgenstein's Genealogical View of Logical Necessity.Sorin Bangu - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, EarlyView.
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  • Evaluating the Multiple Proposition Strategy.Benjamin Lennertz - forthcoming - Ratio.
    Contextualism about many expressions faces a common objection: in some discourses it appears that there is no single interpretation which can explain how a speaker is justified in making her assertion and how a hearer with different information or standards is justified in negatively evaluating what the speaker said. According to the Multiple Proposition Strategy , contextualists may attempt to explain these competing features pragmatically in terms of different propositions in play. In this paper I argue against the Multiple Proposition (...)
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  • Modus Ponens and the Logic of Decision.Nate Charlow - manuscript
    If modus ponens is valid, then you should take up smoking.
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  • A Carnapian Approach to Counterexamples to Modus Ponens.Constantin C. Brîncuș & Iulian D. Toader - 2013 - Romanian Journal of Analytic Philosophy 7:78-85.
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  • Talking with Vultures.Filippo Ferrari & Crispin Wright - 2017 - Mind 126 (503):911-936.
    Relativism and Monadic Truth, by CappelenHerman and HawthorneJohn. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Pp. vii + 170.
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  • Epistemic Modality, Mind, and Mathematics.Hasen Khudairi - 2017 - Gutenberg.
    This book concerns the foundations of epistemic modality. I examine the nature of epistemic modality, when the modal operator is interpreted as concerning both apriority and conceivability, as well as states of knowledge and belief. The book demonstrates how phenomenal consciousness and gradational possible-worlds models in Bayesian perceptual psychology relate to epistemic modal space. The book demonstrates, then, how epistemic modality relates to the computational theory of mind; metaphysical modality; deontic modality; the types of mathematical modality; to the epistemic status (...)
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  • Inferential Expressivism and the Negation Problem.Luca Incurvati & Julian J. Schlöder - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 16.
    We develop a novel solution to the negation version of the Frege-Geach problem by taking up recent insights from the bilateral programme in logic. Bilateralists derive the meaning of negation from a primitive *B-type* inconsistency involving the attitudes of assent and dissent. Some may demand an explanation of this inconsistency in simpler terms, but we argue that bilateralism’s assumptions are no less explanatory than those of *A-type* semantics that only require a single primitive attitude, but must stipulate inconsistency elsewhere. Based (...)
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  • ‘Ought’ and Control.Matthew Chrisman - 2012 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (3):433-451.
    Ethical theorists often assume that the verb ?ought? means roughly ?has an obligation?; however, this assumption is belied by the diversity of ?flavours? of ought-sentences in English. A natural response is that ?ought? is ambiguous. However, this response is incompatible with the standard treatment of ?ought? by theoretical semanticists, who classify ?ought? as a member of the family of modal verbs, which are treated uniformly as operators. To many ethical theorists, however, this popular treatment in linguistics seems to elide an (...)
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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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  • Knowledge of Objective 'Oughts': Monotonicity and the New Miners Puzzle.Daniel Muñoz & Jack Spencer - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    In the classic Miners case, an agent subjectively ought to do what they know is objectively wrong. This case shows that the subjective and objective ‘oughts’ are somewhat independent. But there remains a powerful intuition that the guidance of objective ‘oughts’ is more authoritative—so long as we know what they tell us. We argue that this intuition must be given up in light of a monotonicity principle, which undercuts the rationale for saying that objective ‘oughts’ are an authoritative guide for (...)
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  • Dilating and Contracting Arbitrarily.David Builes, Sophie Horowitz & Miriam Schoenfield - forthcoming - Noûs.
    Standard accuracy-based approaches to imprecise credences have the consequence that it is rational to move between precise and imprecise credences arbitrarily, without gaining any new evidence. Building on the Educated Guessing Framework of Horowitz (2019), we develop an alternative accuracy-based approach to imprecise credences that does not have this shortcoming. We argue that it is always irrational to move from a precise state to an imprecise state arbitrarily, however it can be rational to move from an imprecise state to a (...)
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  • Two Ways to Want?Ethan Jerzak - 2019 - Journal of Philosophy 116 (2):65-98.
    I present unexplored and unaccounted for uses of 'wants'. I call them advisory uses, on which information inaccessible to the desirer herself helps determine what she wants. I show that extant theories by Stalnaker, Heim, and Levinson fail to predict these uses. They also fail to predict true indicative conditionals with 'wants' in the consequent. These problems are related: intuitively valid reasoning with modus ponens on the basis of the conditionals in question results in unembedded advisory uses. I consider two (...)
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  • Normative Requirements and Contrary-to-Duty Obligations.Juan Comesaña - 2015 - Journal of Philosophy 112 (11):600-626.
    I argue that normative requirements should be interpreted as the conditional obligations of dyadic deontic logic. Semantically, normative requirements are conditionals understood as restrictors, the prevailing view of conditionals in linguistics. This means that Modus Ponens is invalid, even when the premises are known.
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  • A Remark on Iffy Oughts.Malte Willer - 2012 - Journal of Philosophy 109 (7):449-461.
    Every adequate semantics for conditionals and deontic ought must offer a solution to the miners paradox about conditional obligations. Kolodny and MacFarlane have recently argued that such a semantics must reject the validity of modus ponens. I demonstrate that rejecting the validity of modus ponens is inessential for an adequate solution to the paradox.
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  • Might Moral Epistemologists Be Asking The Wrong Questions?Caleb Perl - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 100 (3):556-585.
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, EarlyView.
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  • On Probabilistic Knowledge.John MacFarlane - 2020 - Res Philosophica 97 (1):97-108.
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  • Forms of Luminosity.Hasen Khudairi - 2017
    This dissertation concerns the foundations of epistemic modality. I examine the nature of epistemic modality, when the modal operator is interpreted as concerning both apriority and conceivability, as well as states of knowledge and belief. The dissertation demonstrates how phenomenal consciousness and gradational possible-worlds models in Bayesian perceptual psychology relate to epistemic modal space. The dissertation demonstrates, then, how epistemic modality relates to the computational theory of mind; metaphysical modality; deontic modality; logical modality; the types of mathematical modality; to the (...)
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  • The Normativity of Rationality.Benjamin Kiesewetter - 2017 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Kiesewetter defends the normativity of rationality by presenting a new solution to the problems that arise from the common assumption that we ought to be rational. He provides a defence of a reason-response conception of rationality, an evidence-relative account of reason, and an explanation of structural irrationality in relation to these accounts.
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  • From McGee's Puzzle to the Lottery Paradox.Lina Maria Lissia - manuscript
    Vann McGee (1985) presents a putative counterexample to modus ponens. After clarifying that McGee actually targets an epistemic version of such a principle, I show that, contrary to a view commonly held in the literature, assuming the material conditional as an interpretation of the natural language conditional “if … then …” does not dissolve the puzzle. Indeed, I provide a slightly modified version of McGee’s famous election scenario in which (1) the relevant features of the scenario are preserved and (2) (...)
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  • Scientific Ontology. [REVIEW]Vera Flocke - 2020 - Philosophical Review 129 (1):144-149.
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  • The Problem of Granularity for Scientific Explanation.David Kinney - 2019 - Dissertation, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
    This dissertation aims to determine the optimal level of granularity for the variables used in probabilistic causal models. These causal models are useful for generating explanations in a number of scientific contexts. In Chapter 1, I argue that there is rarely a unique level of granularity at which a given phenomenon can be causally explained, thereby rejecting various causal exclusion arguments. In Chapter 2, I consider several recent proposals for measuring the explanatory power of causal explanations, and show that these (...)
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  • Non-Descriptive Relativism: Adding Options to the Expressivist Marketplace.Matthew Bedke - 2018 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 13:48-70.
    This chapter identifies a novel family of metaethical theories that are non-descriptive and that aim to explain the action-guiding qualities of normative thought and language. The general strategy is to consider different relations language might bear to a given content, where we locate descriptivity (or lack of it) in these relations, rather than locating it in a theory that begins with the expression of states of mind, or locating it in a special kind of content that is not way-things-might-be content. (...)
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  • Tempered Pragmatism.Ian Rumfitt - forthcoming - In Cheryl Misak & Huw Price (eds.), The Practical Turn: Pragmatism in Britain in the Long Twentieth Century. British Academy.
    This paper assesses the prospects of a pragmatist theory of content. I begin by criticising the theory presented in D.H. Mellor’s essay ‘Successful Semantics’. I then identify problems and lacunae in the pragmatist theory of meaning sketched in Chapter 13 of Dummett’s The Logical Basis of Metaphysics. The prospects are brighter, I contend, for a tempered pragmatism, in which the theory of content is permitted to draw upon irreducible notions of truth and falsity. I sketch the shape of such a (...)
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  • Deontic Modality and the Semantics of Choice.Melissa Fusco - 2015 - Philosophers' Imprint 15.
    I propose a unified solution to two puzzles: Ross's puzzle and free choice permission. I begin with a pair of cases from the decision theory literature illustrating the phenomenon of act dependence, where what an agent ought to do depends on what she does. The notion of permissibility distilled from these cases forms the basis for my analysis of 'may' and 'ought'. This framework is then combined with a generalization of the classical semantics for disjunction — equivalent to Boolean disjunction (...)
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  • Logic and Semantics for Imperatives.Nate Charlow - 2014 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 43 (4):617-664.
    In this paper I will develop a view about the semantics of imperatives, which I term Modal Noncognitivism, on which imperatives might be said to have truth conditions (dispositionally, anyway), but on which it does not make sense to see them as expressing propositions (hence does not make sense to ascribe to them truth or falsity). This view stands against “Cognitivist” accounts of the semantics of imperatives, on which imperatives are claimed to express propositions, which are then enlisted in explanations (...)
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  • Conditional Preferences and Practical Conditionals.Nate Charlow - 2013 - Linguistics and Philosophy 36 (6):463-511.
    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 (...)
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  • Practical Language: Its Meaning and Use.Nate Charlow - 2011 - Dissertation, University of Michigan
    I demonstrate that a "speech act" theory of meaning for imperatives is—contra a dominant position in philosophy and linguistics—theoretically desirable. A speech act-theoretic account of the meaning of an imperative !φ is characterized, broadly, by the following claims. -/- LINGUISTIC MEANING AS USE !φ’s meaning is a matter of the speech act an utterance of it conventionally functions to express—what a speaker conventionally uses it to do (its conventional discourse function, CDF). -/- IMPERATIVE USE AS PRACTICAL !φ's CDF is to (...)
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  • Towards a Radically Pragmatic Theory of If-Conditionals.Gunnar Björnsson - 2011 - In K. P. Turner (ed.), Making Semantics Pragmatic (CRiSPI, Vol. 24). Emerald.
    It is generally agreed that constructions of the form “if P, Q” are capable of conveying a number of different relations between antecedent and consequent, with pragmatics playing a central role in determining these relations. Controversy concerns what the conventional contribution of the if-clause is, how it constrains the pragmatic processes, and what those processes are. In this essay, I begin to argue that the conventional contribution of if-clauses to semantics is exhausted by the fact that these clauses introduce a (...)
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  • Explosion and the Normativity of Logic.Florian Steinberger - 2016 - Mind 125 (498):385-419.
    Logic has traditionally been construed as a normative discipline; it sets forth standards of correct reasoning. Explosion is a valid principle of classical logic. It states that an inconsistent set of propositions entails any proposition whatsoever. However, ordinary agents presumably do — occasionally, at least — have inconsistent belief sets. Yet it is false that such agents may, let alone ought to, believe any proposition they please. Therefore, our logic should not recognize explosion as a logical law. Call this the (...)
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  • Revisiting the Argument From Action Guidance.Philip Fox - 2019 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 15 (3).
    According to objectivism about the practical 'ought', what one ought to do depends on all the facts; according to perspectivism, it depends only on epistemically available facts. This essay presents a new argument against objectivism. The first premise says that it is at least sometimes possible for a normative theory to correctly guide action. The second premise says that, if objectivism is true, this is never possible. From this it follows that objectivism is false. Perspectivism, however, turns out to be (...)
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  • Logic Informed.Justin Bledin - 2014 - Mind 123 (490):277-316.
    Do logically valid arguments necessarily preserve truth? Certain inferences involving informational modal operators and indicative conditionals suggest that truth preservation and good deductive argument come apart. Given this split, I recommend an alternative to the standard truth preservation view of logic on which validity and good deductive argument coincide: logic is a descriptive science that is fundamentally concerned not with the preservation of truth, but with the preservation of structural features of information. Along the way, I defend modus ponens for (...)
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  • Embedding Epistemic Modals.Cian Dorr & John Hawthorne - 2013 - Mind 122 (488):867-914.
    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 (...)
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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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  • Reversibility or Disagreement.Jacob Ross & Mark Schroeder - 2013 - Mind 122 (485):43-84.
    The phenomenon of disagreement has recently been brought into focus by the debate between contextualists and relativist invariantists about epistemic expressions such as ‘might’, ‘probably’, indicative conditionals, and the deontic ‘ought’. Against the orthodox contextualist view, it has been argued that an invariantist account can better explain apparent disagreements across contexts by appeal to the incompatibility of the propositions expressed in those contexts. This paper introduces an important and underappreciated phenomenon associated with epistemic expressions — a phenomenon that we call (...)
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  • Chancy Modus Ponens.Sven Neth - 2019 - Analysis 79 (4):632-638.
    Chancy modus ponens is the following inference scheme: ‘probably φ’, ‘if φ, then ψ’, therefore, ‘probably ψ’. I argue that Chancy modus ponens is invalid in general. I further argue that the invalidity of Chancy modus ponens sheds new light on the alleged counterexample to modus ponens presented by McGee. I close by observing that, although Chancy modus ponens is invalid in general, we can recover a restricted sense in which this scheme of inference is valid.
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  • ‘Ought’ and Resolution Semantics.Fabrizio Cariani - 2013 - Noûs 47 (3):534-558.
    I motivate and characterize an intensional semantics for ‘ought’ on which it does not behave as a universal quantifier over possibilities. My motivational argument centers on taking at face value some standard challenges to the quantificational semantics, especially to the idea that ‘ought’-sentences satisfy the principle of Inheritance. I argue that standard pragmatic approaches to these puzzles are either not sufficiently detailed or unconvincing.
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  • Deontic Logic as a Study of Conditions of Rationality in Norm-Related Activities.Berislav Žarnić - 2016 - In Olivier Roy, Allard Tamminga & Malte Willer (eds.), Deontic Logic and Normative Systems. College Publications. pp. 272-287.
    The program put forward in von Wright's last works defines deontic logic as ``a study of conditions which must be satisfied in rational norm-giving activity'' and thus introduces the perspective of logical pragmatics. In this paper a formal explication for von Wright's program is proposed within the framework of set-theoretic approach and extended to a two-sets model which allows for the separate treatment of obligation-norms and permission norms. The three translation functions connecting the language of deontic logic with the language (...)
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  • Dynamic Expressivism About Deontic Modality.William B. Starr - 2016 - In Nate Charlow Matthew Chrisman (ed.), Deontic Modality. Oxford University Press. pp. 355-394.
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  • Epistemic Contextualism Defended.Robin McKenna - 2015 - Synthese 192 (2):363-383.
    Epistemic contextualists think that the extension of the expression ‘knows’ depends on and varies with the context of utterance. In the last 15 years or so this view has faced intense criticism. This paper focuses on two sorts of objections. The first are what I call the ‘linguistic objections’, which purport to show that the best available linguistic evidence suggests that ‘knows’ is not context-sensitive. The second is what I call the ‘disagreement problem’, which concerns the behaviour of ‘knows’ in (...)
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  • Decision-Theoretic Relativity in Deontic Modality.Nate Charlow - 2018 - Linguistics and Philosophy 41 (3):251-287.
    This paper explores the idea that a semantics for ‘ought’ should be neutral between different ways of deciding what an agent ought to do in a situation. While the idea is, I argue, well-motivated, taking it seriously leads to surprising, even paradoxical, problems for theorizing about the meaning of ‘ought’. This paper describes and defends one strategy—a form of Expressivism for the modal ‘ought’—for navigating these problems.
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  • Credence for Epistemic Discourse.Paolo Santorio - manuscript
    Many recent theories of epistemic discourse exploit an informational notion of consequence, i.e. a notion that defines entailment as preservation of support by an information state. This paper investigates how informational consequence fits with probabilistic reasoning. I raise two problems. First, all informational inferences that are not also classical inferences are, intuitively, probabilistically invalid. Second, all these inferences can be exploited, in a systematic way, to generate triviality results. The informational theorist is left with two options, both of them radical: (...)
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  • Semantics and Metasemantics in the Context of Generative Grammar.Seth Yalcin - 2014 - In Alexis Burgess & Brett Sherman (eds.), Metasemantics: New Essays on the Foundations of Meaning. Oxford University Press. pp. 17-54.
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  • What We Know and What to Do.Nate Charlow - 2013 - Synthese 190 (12):2291-2323.
    This paper discusses an important puzzle about the semantics of indicative conditionals and deontic necessity modals (should, ought, etc.): the Miner Puzzle (Parfit, ms; Kolodny and MacFarlane, J Philos 107:115–143, 2010). Rejecting modus ponens for the indicative conditional, as others have proposed, seems to solve a version of the puzzle, but is actually orthogonal to the puzzle itself. In fact, I prove that the puzzle arises for a variety of sophisticated analyses of the truth-conditions of indicative conditionals. A comprehensive solution (...)
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  • Sobel on Pleasure, Reason, and Desire.Attila Tanyi - 2011 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 14 (1):101-115.
    The paper begins with a well-known objection to the idea that reasons for action are provided by desires. The objection holds that since desires are based on reasons (first premise), which they transmit but to which they cannot add (second premise), they cannot themselves provide reasons for action. In the paper I investigate an attack that has recently been launched against the first premise of the argument by David Sobel. Sobel invokes a counterexample: hedonic desires, i.e. the likings and dislikings (...)
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  • Deontic Logic and Normative Systems.Olivier Roy, Allard Tamminga & Malte Willer (eds.) - 2016 - London, UK: College Publications.
    The biennial DEON conferences are designed to promote interdisciplinary cooperation amongst scholars interested in linking the formal-logical study of normative concepts and normative systems with computer science, artificial intelligence, linguistics, philosophy, organization theory and law. In addition to these general themes, DEON 2016 encouraged a special focus on the topic "Reasons, Argumentation and Justification.".
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  • Semantic with Assignment Variables.Alex Silk - forthcoming - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    This book develops a syntactic and semantic framework for natural language. The principal focus is a spectrum of "shifting" phenomena in which the context relevant for interpreting certain expressions seems to depend on features of the linguistic environment. A key innovation is to introduce explicit representations of context in linguistic structure and meanings. Central applications include local and non-local contextual dependencies with quantifiers, attitude ascriptions, conditionals, questions, and relativization. The project integrates conceptual insights from contemporary philosophy of language, formal tools (...)
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