What we know and what to do

Synthese 190 (12):2291-2323 (2013)
Download Edit this record How to cite View on PhilPapers
Abstract
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 requires rethinking the relationship between relevant information (what we know) and practical rankings of possibilities and actions (what to do). I argue that (i) relevant information determines whether considerations of value may be treated as reasons for actions that realize them and against actions that don’t, (ii) incorporating this normative fact requires a revision of the standard ordering semantics for weak (but not for strong) deontic necessity modals, and (iii) an off-the-shelf semantics for weak deontic necessity modals, due to von Fintel and Iatridou, which distinguishes “basic” and “higher-order” ordering sources, and interprets weak deontic necessity modals relative to both, is well-suited to this task. The prominence of normative considerations in our proposal suggests a more general methodological lesson: formal semantic analysis of natural language modals expressing normative concepts demands that close attention be paid to the nature of the underlying normative phenomena
PhilPapers/Archive ID
CHAWWK
Revision history
Archival date: 2013-04-03
View upload history
References found in this work BETA
Counterfactuals.Lewis, David K.
Knowledge and Action.Hawthorne, John & Stanley, Jason
Epistemic Modals.Yalcin, Seth
Ifs and Oughts.Kolodny, Niko & MacFarlane, John

View all 18 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

View all 38 citations / Add more citations

Added to PP index
2011-07-27

Total downloads
567 ( #3,508 of 37,113 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
24 ( #14,517 of 37,113 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks to external links.