Please join us this Friday as Paolo Santorio (Philosophy, University of Leeds) presents work on conditionals.
Date and time: Friday, November 20, 10:30 a.m. – 12:20 p.m.
Location: Rosenwald 208 (Linguistics seminar room)
Title: Alternatives and truth-makers in conditional semantics
Most contemporary theories of conditionals are descendants of Stanaker/Lewis/Kratzer’s comparative closeness analysis. I start by revisiting a classical problem for this analysis. Conditionals with disjunctive antecedents (“if p or q, r”) seem to entail the two conditionals whose antecedents are the individual disjuncts (“if p, r” and “if q, r”); yet comparative closeness semantics can’t vindicate this entailment. It is often assumed that the puzzle can be accommodated via one of two local fixes: (a) a scalar implicature in the antecedent, or (b) a non-Boolean meaning for “or”. I show that none of these two strategies can work. The puzzle requires modifying comparative closeness semantics. I suggest an analysis on which conditionals are alternative-sensitive: their truth conditions are computed in part by manipulating syntactic alternatives to the antecedent. Crucially, the algorithm for manipulating alternatives is different from the so-called “innocent excludability” algorithm in use for scalar implicatures, and involves a new notion that I call “specificity”. The resulting semantics for conditionals is hyperintensional (it doesn’t vindicate substitution of necessarily equivalent propositions), but in a way that is different from, and much tamer than, other hyperintensional accounts.