Directional Bias

Abstract

There is almost a consensus among conditional experts that indicative conditionals are not material. Their thought hinges on the idea that if indicative conditionals were material, A → B could be vacuously true when A is false, even if B would be false in a context where A is true. But since this consequence is implausible, the material account is usually regarded as false. It is argued that this point of view is motivated by the grammatical form of conditional sentences and the symbols used to represent their logical form, which misleadingly suggest a one-way inferential direction from A to B. That conditional sentences mislead us into a directionality bias is a phenomenon that is well-documented in the literature about conditional reasoning. It is argued that this directional appearance is deceptive and does not reflect the underlying truth conditions of conditional sentences. This directional bias is responsible for both the unpopularity of the material account of conditionals and some of the main alternative principles and themes in conditional theory, including the Ramsey’s test, the Equation, Adams’ thesis, conditional-assertion and possible world theories. The directional mindset forgets a hard- earned lesson that made classical logic possible in the first place, namely, that grammatical form of sentences can mislead us about its truth conditions. There is a case to be made for a material account of indicative conditionals when we break the domination of words over the human mind.

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What do philosophers believe?David Bourget & David J. Chalmers - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 170 (3):465-500.
Counterfactuals.David Lewis - 1973 - Foundations of Language 13 (1):145-151.

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