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The second chapter, "Truth Conditions: The Event Theory", is devoted to a description of Lycan's theory of conditionals. It is the longest chapter in the book and is indeed pivotal. The theory is a semantic theory in the sense that it intends to propose a systematic assignment of truth-conditions to sentences with "if", "unless", "only if" and "even if".

Indicative Conditionals

This is supposed to account for the implications of such sentences, to explain the dependence of their truth-values on context and to agree with their syntactic properties. All of these formulas involve universal quantification over a domain of events in which Q. Event is here to be taken as situation, in a sense similar to that of situation theory.

Formalizations of the paraphrases express the truth-conditions of the corresponding sentences. The universal quantifiers should be restricted to a reference class of "real possibilities", i. The reference class, however, should contain only "relevant" properties, which leads Lycan to a discussion of semifactuals and "weak" conditionals.

A second problem is that the utterer might be wrong about possibilities. A solution to the first problem the relevance of events is to restrict the reference class to events where either P, non-P, Q or non-Q is true Moderate Relevance Restriction or to restrict it to events where either P or non-P is true Strict Relevance Restriction.

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Both of these conditions probably apply to different classes of conditionals. The reference class is thus "a hidden parameter that will vary with context" The second difficulty is more serious. A way out is to see that "with the inclusion or non-inclusion of all actual relevant event in R [the reference class], stands or falls the validity of Modus Ponens" Lycan postpones the issue till chapter 3. Lycan's theory henceafter the "Event theory" does not meet with the syntactic objections outlined in the first chapter against the unstructured-sentential-operator theory and has quite a few semantic benefits, among which avoidance of the paradoxes of material implication, accomodation with some suplementation of Stalnaker invalidities antecedent- strengthening and transitivity , contraposition, semi-factuals and weak conditionals, explanation of the direction of conditionship, parametric differences between apparent equivalents, simplification of disjunctive antecedents and impossible antecedents.

The third chapter, "Truth Conditions: Reality and Modus Ponens", returns to the problem left aside in chapter 2. It critically examines the three major essays in the refoundation of conditional investigation, i. Adams , Stalnaker and Lewis As Lycan points out, two different major paradigms emerged from these essays: the first one from Adams in terms of an epistemic assertibility semantics non- truth-conditional ; the second one Stalnaker and Lewis in terms of a possible worlds truth-conditional semantics.

Both Adams' and Stalnaker's accounts stem from Ramsey's test.

The Tyranny of the Subjunctive

Ramsey's test consists in adding the antecedent hypothetically to one's present set of beliefs, revising this set where necessary, and checking whether the consequent is part of the revised set of belief. If it is, the conditional is assertible, if not, it is not. Adams translated it in terms of conditional probability relative to one's belief set, considering that indicative conditionals are restricted to epistemic assertibility and do not have truth-values.

He said nothing of subjunctive conditionals. Stalnaker recasted Ramsey Test in terms of alternative possible worls with a selection function based on similarity.

LINGUIST List 13.1632

Conditionals would be evaluated by checking whether C holds in the world most similar to ours where A holds. Notably, Stalnaker defends this as a truth- conditional account of conditionals which he afterward adapted for subjunctive conditionals. Lewis rejected the notion of a uniquely nearest world with the accompanying acceptance of Conditional Excluded Middle. He replaced it with the notion of comparative similarity. Lewis' account was criticized for its reliance on an intuitive notion of overall similarity, through a number of counterexamples.

He responded by discarding the everyday notion of similarity and advocating a brand of similarity specific to counterfactuals, though he was not specific about it. This is deeply unsatisfactory as noted by Lycan.

On the Analysis of Conditionals

The Ramsey Test is not immune from counterexamples either, though they mostly center on the relativity to epistemic situations it introduces. There are also counterexamples to the proximity between the Ramsey Test taken to establish truth-value and not mere assertibility and Similarity Theory, based on the fact that the two accounts do not always yield the same results. Notably, some exemples examined through the Ramsey Test will contradict Modus Ponens.

This might be taken as an indication of the worthlessness of the Ramsey Test in establishing truth-value. This would lead to the choice of restricting the Reference class to ALL actual relevant events, whether or not they are envisaged or not the Reality Requirement. However, Lycan points out that Modus Ponens does raise more problems than it solves, notably relative to Sobel sequences i.

This problem does not arise for Similarity accounts. However, it does for Ramsey Test accounts.


  • Defending a simple theory of conditionals.
  • Lying with Conditionals - Sorensen - - The Philosophical Quarterly - Wiley Online Library.
  • SOMETHING BLUE.
  • Defending a simple theory of conditionals - Enlighten: Publications;
  • Review: Philosophy of Lang, Semantics: Lycan (2001).

Lycan, after discussing a few objections, turns to further counterexemples against Modus Ponens. This paper extends the defense of a simple theory of indicative conditionals previously proposed by the author, in which the truth conditions are material, and Grice-style assertability conditions are given to explain the paradoxes of material implication. The paper discusses various apparent counter-examples to the material account in which conditionals are not asserted, and so the original theory cannot be applied; it is argued that, nevertheless, the material theory can be defended.

Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic

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Conditionals: the material conditional

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