Will done Better: Selection Semantics, Future Credence, and Indeterminacy

Mind 127 (505):129-165 (2018)
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Statements about the future are central in everyday conversation and reasoning. How should we understand their meaning? The received view among philosophers treats will as a tense: in ‘Cynthia will pass her exam’, will shifts the reference time forward. Linguists, however, have produced substantial evidence for the view that will is a modal, on a par with must and would. The different accounts are designed to satisfy different theoretical constraints, apparently pulling in opposite directions. We show that these constraints are jointly satisfied by a novel modal account of will. On this account, will is a modal but doesn't work as a quantifier over worlds. Rather, the meaning of will involves a selection function similar to the one used by Stalnaker in his semantics for conditionals. The resulting theory yields a plausible semantics and logic for will and vindicates our intuitive views about the attitudes that rational agents should have towards future-directed contents.

Author Profiles

Paolo Santorio
University of Maryland, College Park
Fabrizio Cariani
University of Maryland, College Park


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