Month: April 2021

Minimal change theories of conditionals, the import-export law, and modus ponens

Alessandro Zucchi

Stalnaker’s minimal change semantics for conditionals fails to support the import-export law, according to which (a) and (b) are logically equivalent:

    (a) if A, then if B, then C
    (b) if A and B, then C

However, natural language conditionals seem to abide by the law. McGee (1985) outlines a minimal change semantics for conditionals that supports it. I argue that, in fact, the equivalence between (a) and (b) does not hold unrestrictedly, and I suggest that the facts follow from the interaction between the semantics of conditionals and the ways suppositions may affect the context. I conclude by describing the consequences of my account for the issue of the validity of modus ponens.

Impossibility without impossibilia

Bjørn Jespersen

Circumstantialists already have a logical semantics for impossibilities. They expand their logical space of possible worlds by adding impossible worlds. These are impossible circumstances serving as indices of evaluation, at which impossibilities are true. A variant of circumstantialism, namely modal Meinongianism, adds impossible objects as well. The opposite of circumstantialism, namely structuralism, has some catching-up to do. What might a structuralist logical semantics without impossible worlds or impossible objects look like? This paper makes a structuralist counterproposal. I present a semantics based on a procedural interpretation of the typed l-calculus. The fundamental idea is that talk about impossibilities should be construed in terms of procedures yielding as their product a condition that could not possibly have a satisfier, or else failing to yield a product at all. Dispensing with a ‘bottom’ of impossibilia requires instead a ‘top’ consisting of structured hyperintensions, intensions, intensions defining other intensions, a typed universe, and dual predication. I explain how the theory works by going through a couple of cases.

Bilateralist Truth-Maker Semantics for ST, TS, LP, K3, …

Ulf Hlobil

The talk advocates a marriage of inferentialist bilateralism and truth-maker bilateralism. Inferentialist bilateralists like Restall and Ripley say that a collection of sentences, Y, follows from a collection of sentences, X, iff it is incoherent (or out-of-bounds) to assert all the sentences in X and, at the same time, deny all the sentences in Y. In Fine’s truth-maker theory, we have a partially ordered set of states that exactly verify and falsify sentences, and some of these states are impossible. We can think of making-true as the worldly analogue of asserting, of making-false as the worldly analogue of denying, and of impossibility as the worldly analogue of incoherence. This suggests that we may say that, in truth-maker theory, a collection of sentences, Y, follows (logically) from a collection of sentences, X, iff (in all models) any fusion of exact verifiers of the members of X and exact falsifiers of the member of Y is impossible. Under routine assumptions about truth-making, this yields classical logic. Relaxing one such assumption yields the non-transitive logic ST. Relaxing another assumption yields the non-reflexive logic TS. We can use known facts about the relation between ST, LP, and K3, to provide an interpretation of LP as the logic of falsifiers and K3 as the logic of verifiers. The resulting semantics for ST is more flexible than its usual three-valued semantics because it allows us, e.g., to reject monotonicity. We can also recover fine-grained logics, like Correia’s logic of factual equivalence.

Interacting alternatives: referential indeterminacy and questions

Floris Roelofsen

One of the major challenges involved in developing semantic theories is that many constructions in natural language given rise to alternatives. Different sources of alternatives have been identified—e.g., questions, indeterminacy, focus, scalarity—and have been investigated in quite some depth. Less attention, however, has been given so far to the question how these different kinds of alternatives interact. I will focus in this talk one one such interaction, namely between referential indeterminacy and questions. Several formal semantic frameworks have been developed to capture referential indeterminacy (dynamic semantics, alternative semantics) and the content of questions (e.g., alternative semantics, structured meanings, partition semantics, inquisitive semantics). I will report on ongoing work with Jakub Dotlacil, which aims to merge dynamic and inquisitive semantics in a principled way. I will present a basic system and suggest some potential applications and extensions.