How to Embed Epistemic Modals without Violating Modus Tollens

Abstract

Epistemic modals in consequent place of indicative conditionals give rise to apparent counterexamples to Modus Ponens and Modus Tollens. Familiar assumptions of fa- miliar truth conditional theories of modality facilitate a prima facie explanation—viz., that the target cases harbor epistemic modal equivocations. However, these explana- tions go too far. For they foster other predictions of equivocation in places where in fact there are no equivocations. It is argued here that the key to the solution is to drop the assumption that modal claims are inherently relational (i.e., that they ex- press a logical relation between a prejacent and a premise-set) in favor of a view that treats them as inherently quantificational. In particular it is suggested that modals are mass noun descriptions of information. We demonstrate how this approach unlocks the equivocation problem.

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Joe Salerno
Saint Louis University

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References found in this work

Counterfactuals.David Lewis - 1973 - Foundations of Language 13 (1):145-151.
What 'must' and 'can' must and can mean.Angelika Kratzer - 1977 - Linguistics and Philosophy 1 (3):337--355.
Indicative conditionals.Robert Stalnaker - 1975 - Philosophia 5 (3):269-286.
Embedding Epistemic Modals.Cian Dorr & John Hawthorne - 2013 - Mind 122 (488):867-914.

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