Noûs 56 (3):570-601 (2022)

David Boylan
Texas Tech University
This paper is about the principle that success entails ability, which I call Success. I argue the status of Success is highly puzzling: when we focus on past instances of actually successful action, Success is very compelling; but it is in tension with the idea that true ability claims require an action be in the agent's control. I make the above tension precise by considering the logic of ability. I argue Success is appealing because it is classically equivalent to two genuinely valid inferences, which I call Past Success and Can't-Entails-Won't; but also that Success itself has counterexamples. I show how to invalidate Success while validating Past Success and Can't-Entails-Won't by connecting the meaning of ‘can’ to facts about what is settled or open. I define an operator W with features attributed to ‘will’ in the literature on future contingents. I then give a conditional analysis of ability ascriptions stated with W-conditionals, where "S can A" says, roughly, there’s some action available to S such that if S does it, then W(S A). I show this semantics invalidates Success while still explaining its appeal.
Keywords ability  ability modals  logic of ability  open future  indeterminacy
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DOI 10.1111/nous.12370
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References found in this work BETA

Knowledge and Its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2005 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 70 (2):452-458.
Knowledge and its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 64 (1):200-201.
Inquisitive Semantics.Ivano Ciardelli, Jeroen Groenendijk & Floris Roelofsen - 2018 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Past, Present and Future.Arthur N. Prior - 1967 - Oxford, England: Clarendon Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Agentive Free Choice.Melissa Fusco - forthcoming - Journal of Philosophical Logic:1-31.
Agential Free Choice.Melissa Fusco - 2021 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 50 (1):57-87.
Ability’s Two Dimensions of Robustness.Sophie Kikkert - forthcoming - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society.
Agentive Duality reconsidered.Annina Loets & Julia Zakkou - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies:1-19.

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