Counterfactual Attitudes and Multi-Centered Worlds

Semantics and Pragmatics 5 (5):1-57 (2012)
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Counterfactual attitudes like imagining, dreaming, and wishing create a problem for the standard formal semantic theory of de re attitude ascriptions. I show how the problem can be avoided if we represent an agent's attitudinal possibilities using "multi-centered worlds", possible worlds with multiple distinguished individuals, each of which represents an individual with whom the agent is acquainted. I then present a compositional semantics for de re ascriptions according to which singular terms are "assignment-sensitive" expressions and attitude verbs are "assignment shifters".

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Dilip Ninan
Tufts University


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