Conditional preferences and practical conditionals

Linguistics and Philosophy 36 (6):463-511 (2013)
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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 is in terms of what is planned, desired, or preferred, given suppositional changes to an agent’s information. Implementing such a conception of conditional preference in a semantic analysis of indicative practical conditionals turns out to be incompatible with any approach which treats the indicative conditional as expressing non-vacuous universal quantification over some domain of relevant antecedent-possibilities. Such analyses, I argue, encode a fundamental misunderstanding of what it is to be best, given some condition. The analysis that does the best vis-à-vis the PCT is, instead, one that blends a Context-Shifty account of indicative antecedents with an Expressivistic, or non-propositional, treatment of their practical consequents
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