Indicative Conditionals: Probabilities and Relevance

Philosophical Studies (11):3697-3730 (2021)
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We propose a new account of indicative conditionals, giving acceptability and logical closure conditions for them. We start from Adams’ Thesis: the claim that the acceptability of a simple indicative equals the corresponding conditional probability. The Thesis is widely endorsed, but arguably false and refuted by empirical research. To fix it, we submit, we need a relevance constraint: we accept a simple conditional 'If φ, then ψ' to the extent that (i) the conditional probability p(ψ|φ) is high, provided that (ii) φ is relevant for ψ. How (i) should work is well-understood. It is (ii) that holds the key to improve our understanding of conditionals. Our account has (i) a probabilistic component, using Popper functions; (ii) a relevance component, given via an algebraic structure of topics or subject matters. We present a probabilistic logic for simple indicatives, and argue that its (in)validities are both theoretically desirable and in line with empirical results on how people reason with conditionals.

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Author Profiles

Franz Berto
University of St. Andrews
Aybüke Özgün
University of Amsterdam

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