Indicative Conditionals: Probabilities and Relevance

Philosophical Studies (2021)
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Abstract

We propose a new account of indicative conditionals, giving acceptability and logical closure conditions for them. We start from Adams’ Thesis: the claim that the acceptability of a simple indicative equals the corresponding conditional probability. The Thesis is widely endorsed, but arguably false and refuted by empirical research. To fix it, we submit, we need a relevance constraint: we accept a simple conditional 'If φ, then ψ' to the extent that (i) the conditional probability p(ψ|φ) is high, provided that (ii) φ is relevant for ψ. How (i) should work is well-understood. It is (ii) that holds the key to improve our understanding of conditionals. Our account has (i) a probabilistic component, using Popper functions; (ii) a relevance component, given via an algebraic structure of topics or subject matters. We present a probabilistic logic for simple indicatives, and argue that its (in)validities are both theoretically desirable and in line with empirical results on how people reason with conditionals.

Author Profiles

Franz Berto
University of St. Andrews
Aybüke Özgün
University of Amsterdam

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