Certain and Uncertain Inference with Indicative Conditionals

Australasian Journal of Philosophy (forthcoming)
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Abstract

This paper develops a trivalent semantics for the truth conditions and the probability of the natural language indicative conditional. Our framework rests on trivalent truth conditions first proposed by Cooper (1968) and Belnap (1973) and it yields two logics of conditional reasoning: (i) a logic C of certainty-preserving inference; and (ii) a logic U for uncertain reasoning that preserves the probability of the premises. We show systematic correspondences between trivalent and probabilistic representations of inferences in either framework, and we use the distinction between the two systems to cast light on the validity of inferences such as Modus Ponens, Or-To-If, and Conditional Excluded Middle. Specifically, the conditional behaves monotonically in C, but non-monotonically in U; Modus Ponens is valid in C, but valid in U only for non-nested conditionals. The result is a unified account of the semantics and epistemology of indicative conditionals that can be fruitfully applied to analyzing the validity of conditional inferences.

Author Profiles

Jan Sprenger
University of Turin
Lorenzo Rossi
Università di Torino

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