Modality, expected utility, and hypothesis testing

Synthese 202 (1):1-40 (2023)
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We introduce an expected-value theory of linguistic modality that makes reference to expected utility and a likelihood-based confirmation measure for deontics and epistemics, respectively. The account is a probabilistic semantics for deontics and epistemics, yet it proposes that deontics and epistemics share a common core modal semantics, as in traditional possible-worlds analysis of modality. We argue that this account is not only theoretically advantageous, but also has far-reaching empirical consequences. In particular, we predict modal versions of reasoning fallacies from the heuristics and biases literature. Additionally, we derive the modal semantics in an entirely transparent manner, as it is based on the compositional semantics of Korean modal expressions that are morphosyntactically decomposed into a conditional and an evaluative predicate.

Author Profiles

WooJin Chung
Seoul National University
Salvador Mascarenhas
Institut Jean Nicod


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