Counterfactuals, hyperintensionality and Hurford disjunctions
2023. Linguistics and Philosophy. 46(1):169-195. [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 necessity]
Abstract. Epistemic necessity modal must gives rise to a puzzle about its logical strength. Conflicting data suggest that must is both weaker and stronger than its bare prejacent. Given that only one of these positions can be true in possible worlds framework, the existence of evidence for both alternatives is puzzling. In this paper I demonstrate that there is a way to take all the evidence at face value and explain it, but only if we are ready to reject the possible worlds approach to modality. If we instead adopt a Finean truthmaker framework for modals, there is a sense in which must can be both strong and weak—strong, because it entails its prejacent by being incompatible with the negation of its prejacent, and weak, because it does not contain the propositional content of its prejacent. Truthmaker framework distinguishes the consequence relation entailment from containment and this explains both strength and weakness of must, whereas this distinction is invisible from the perspective of possible worlds framework. Despite its appearance as a niche problem for epistemic modals, this informational puzzle requires a rethinking of consequence relations and modality in general.
[A paper on non-literal lies and misleading utterances]
Abstract. One can lie by asserting non-literal utterances. If I tell you “You are the cream in my coffee” while hating your guts, I can be rightfully accused of lying if my true emotions are unearthed. It turns out that this is not easy to accommodate under many plausible definitions of lying while also preserving the much desired lying-misleading distinction. In this article I aim to emend this by providing a definition of assertion which satisfactorily predict cases of intentional metaphorical falsehoods to be lies without destroying the distinction. This account generalizes Daniel Hoek’s recent work on a pragmatical mechanism of conversational exculpature and provide a definition of lying on that basis. I conclude with some lessons about deceptive communicative practices about being misleading without lying.
[A paper on truthmakers and modality]
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.
[A paper on Abu Bakr al-Razi and prophecy]
Abstract. Abu Bakr Muhammad bin Zakariyya al-Razi (أبو بکر محمد بن زکریاء الرازي) is known as a free thinker who argued against prophecy and revealed religion based on arguments from fairness of God and rationality. Recently some scholars argued that Abu Bakr al-Razi was not as radical as the general interpretation takes him to be. Both the freethinker and conservative interpretations seem well supported by different textual evidence. In this paper I argue there is an interpretation of prophecy that can reconcile these putatively contradictory positions. Under my interpretation Abu Bakr al-Razi takes prophecy to be moral expertise which is not divinely given, but earned based on hard philosophical work and reason. This interpretation reconciles these two positions, because status of prophecy is not eschewed, but predicated on the study of morality and Abu Bakr al-Razi is still a free thinker who values reason above all, which is a necessary condition for prophecy. I suggest Abu Bakr al-Razi's conception of prophecy is a precursor to the Avicennean conception of Philosopher-Prophet.