Counterfactuals, hyperintensionality and Hurford disjunctions
2022. Linguistics and Philosophy. [PhilPapers] [Journal]

Abstract. This paper investigates propositional hyperintensionality in counterfactuals. It starts with a scenario describing two children playing on a seesaw and studies the truth-value predictions for counterfactuals by four different semantic theories. The theories in question are Kit Fine’s truthmaker semantics, Luis Alonso-Ovalle’s alternative semantics, inquisitive semantics and Paolo Santorio’s syntactic truthmaker semantics. These predictions suggest that the theories that distinguish more of a given set of intensionally equivalent sentences (Fine and Alonso-Ovalle’s) fare better than those that do not (inquisitive semantics and Santorio’s). Then we investigate how inquisitive semantics and Santorio can respond to these results. They can respond to them by helping themselves to considerations from Hurford disjunctions, disjunctions whose disjuncts stand in an entailment relation to one another. I argue that considerations from Hurford disjunctions are ad hoc modifications to less fine-grained theories to predict the expected results and they are not independently motivated. I conclude that the scenarios suggest a need for more fine-grained theories of sentential meaning in general.

That solution to Prior's puzzle
2022. Philosophical Studies. 179(9):2765-2785. [PhilPapers] [Journal]

Abstract. Prior’s puzzle is a puzzle about the substitution of certain putatively synonymous or coreferential expressions in sentences. Prior’s puzzle is important, because a satisfactory solution to it should constitute a crucial part of an adequate semantic theory for both proposition-embedding expressions and attitudinal verbs. I argue that two recent solutions to this puzzle are unsatisfactory. They either focus on the meaning of attitudinal verbs or content nouns. I propose a solution relying on a recent analysis of that-clauses in linguistics. Our solution is superior, as it not only avoids the problems faced by previous solutions, but it also brings developments in linguistics in line to solve an old puzzle in philosophy.

[A paper on truthmakers and epistemic 'must']
Under review

Abstract. Epistemic modal ‘must’ gives rise to two puzzles. The first concerns the evidence required to assert a ‘must’ claim. It is odd for a speaker to assert ‘it must be raining’ and fine to assert ‘it is raining’ when looking directly at rain, even though it is fine to assert either when looking at people walk in with wet clothes. The puzzle is to account for the asymmetry in the evidence required for a ‘must’ claim and its bare prejacent on the assumption that they both seem to communicate the thought that it is raining. The second concerns the informational strength and weakness of ‘must’. Conflicting data suggest that a proposition expressed by ⌜Must P⌝ is both weaker and stronger than the proposition expressed by P. The puzzle is to explain what is going on with this patent impossibility. In this paper I discuss how two prominent solutions face several problems and propose a new solution. I trace the problems for these accounts to a common root: possible world semantics. Neither a semantic nor a pragmatic solution will do as long as they are based on possible worlds. In response I propose a new solution based on truthmaker semantics. This approach solves the strength and weakness puzzles by fine-graining the classical entailment relation into several different consequence relations. It solves the evidential puzzle by modeling the dependence of epistemic modals on interlocutors’ mutual commitments. Despite its appearance as a niche problem for epistemic modals, these puzzles require a rethinking of consequence relations and modality in general.

[A paper on truthmakers and modality]
In preparation

Abstract. The meaning of modal sentences are usually given in possible worlds semantics where a proposition expressed by a sentence is the set of possible worlds where the sentence is true. This framework has two important assumptions: (i) Completeness—the thesis that any sentence is either true or false at any given possible world and (ii) meanings of sentential operators are given by various set theoretic operations. These properties together conserve the classicality of propositional logic for modal logic. I argue that these properties together underlie several issues associated with modals. I take deon- tic and epistemic modality as case studies. After highlighting the issues, I provide a truthmaker semantics for modal sentences which does not suffer from the issues dis- cussed. I also compare modal truthmaker semantics to several alternatives and display the superiority of our proposal. If correct, the issues and our solution call for a revo- lution in the domain of modality by dispensing with worlds altogether.

Archduke Leopold Wilhelm and the artist in the archducal picture gallery in Brussels by David Teniers the Younger (1651)