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Do Conditionals have Truth Conditions? Dynamic and Pragmatic Aspects of Conditionals


The workshop "Do Conditionals have Truth Conditions? Dynamic and Pragmatic Aspects of Conditionals" will take place as a satellite event of the GAP.9 congress in Osnabrück, Germany on 18-19 September 2015.

Date 18-19 September 2015

Venue University of Osnabrück, Building 15 (Seminarstraße 20), Room 111


Workshop Description

The title question „Do conditionals have truth conditions?” addresses an important and still unsettled foundational topic in the theory of conditionals. If the answer is an unrestricted yes, then various things should work, which do not seem to work: such as unrestricted embeddability of conditionals, unrestricted assignment of probabilities to conditionals, etc. If the answer is an unrestricted no, as expressivists might have it, then we seem to have no embeddability at all (Frege-Geach problem), no assignments of probabilities, etc. The answer might be a restricted yes and no, by distinguishing between different kinds of conditionals. Conditionals about the future that are anchored in time, for example, might require a different treatment than tenseless, law-like conditionals. Yet, it may be doubtful whether such an intermediate account solves the problems of an unrestricted yes and an unrestricted no or whether it accumulates them.
So what does the meaning of conditionals consist in? Do they have truth conditions? Do conditionals correspond to facts in the world or in alternative possible situations? On which parameters do the truth values of conditionals depend? To what extent are truth values that are relativized to a similarity ordering between worlds, a possible future course of events, a possible context of assessment or other pragmatic factors still objective? Which role do pragmatic factors play in determining the meaning of a conditional? Is there a clear division between semantics and pragmatics when it comes to conditionals?  Is the meaning of conditionals to be understood in terms of their contribution to the conversational context rather in terms of their truth conditions?
Lots of questions, and important questions with important consequences, on which the philosophical community is still entirely split. The workshop aims at furthering our understanding of those questions by focusing on the dynamic and pragmatic aspects of conditionals.



Registration is free of charge. In order to register, please send an email to arno[dot]goebel[at]uni-konstanz[dot]de.


Friday, September 18th

10:00-11:00   Frank Veltman (ILLC Amsterdam):  When `then’? — and some other loose ends in conditional semantics and pragmatics
11:15-12:15   Robert Stalnaker (MIT, Columbia New York): Counterfactuals and probability
12:15-13:45   Lunch
13:45-14:45   Wolfgang Spohn (University of Konstanz): What are conditional beliefs, and to which extent may they be true?
15:00-16:00   Daniel Rothschild (UCL London): Are conditionals dynamic?
16:00-16:30   Coffee Break
16:30-17:30   Anthony Gillies (Rutgers New Jersey): Some truth(s) about "if"

Saturday, September 19th

10:15-11:15   Janneke van Wijnbergen-Huitink (Radboud University Nijmegen): Inferentialism and truth conditions
11:30-12:30   Karolina Krzyżanowska (MCMP Munich): A new kind of metalinguistic theory of conditionals


Anthony Gillies: Some truth(s) about "if"
There are various questions about the kind of things "if" might mean, and just about every answer has staunch defenders. Do conditionals have truth-conditions? Express conditional propositions? Something more? Something less? Something else entirely? And is there, really, a difference between answering "yes" versus "no"? Where there are questions in philosophy, there are debates. This paper will explore some of the logical landscape for saying what "if" might mean and ultimately suggest that while these questions are real the debates they encourage aren't so much.

Karolina Krzyżanowska: A new kind of metalinguistic theory of conditionals
One way to find out what conditions need to be satisfied for an indicative conditional to be true, if it can be true at all, is to answer the following question: what do we learn when we learn a conditional? I will argue that this path leads to a new kind of a metalinguistic theory of conditionals that takes the existence of a connection between a conditional’s antecedent and its consequent seriously. On this account, indicative conditionals are analysed as conveying the existence of an inference from their antecedents to the consequent and, consequently, their truth conditions are defined as depending on the validity of corresponding arguments. Importantly, however, since, as I shall argue, indicative conditionals do not constitute a homogeneous class, those arguments do not have to be all of the same, deductive, type.

Daniel Rothschild: Are conditionals dynamic?
I will assess some of the major motivations for a dynamic account of the meaning of conditionals, trying to assess how the dynamic story compares to truthconditional accounts (such as Kratzer's) and other revisionary accounts (such as expressivist and trivalent theories).

Wolfgang Spohn: What are conditional beliefs, and to which extent may they be true?
The first point I would like to make is that since its beginnings the rich discussion about conditionals very often talks about conditional belief, but misses an adequate notion of it. This is a major obstacle of progress. My second point will be that ranking theory provides an adequate notion of conditional belief. Unconditional beliefs can be true or false. Can conditional beliefs be so as well? Only to a limited extent. This will be my third point. It is closely related to the issue whether conditionals can be true or false. My final point will be to explain this relation.

Robert Stalnaker: Counterfactuals and probability
Dorothy Edgington has been a resolute defender of an NTV account of conditionals, according to which a conditional does not express a proposition that makes a categorical claim about the world, but instead make a qualified claim, or express a conditional belief, qualified by or conditional on the proposition expressed by the antecedent. Unlike some philosophers who defend an NTV view for indicative conditionals, but not for subjunctive or counterfactual conditionals, Edgington argues for the more radical thesis that both kinds of conditionals should be given a non-propositional analysis. In a previous paper I have considered the relation between a propositional and a conditional assertion account of indicative conditionals, arguing that the latter is usefully seen as a special case of a version of the former. In this talk, I will consider Edgington’s NTV account of subjunctive conditionals, the role of objective probability in the account, and its relation to the possible-worlds propositional analysis of subjunctive conditionals.

Frank Veltman: When 'then'?  and some other loose ends in conditional semantics and pragmatics
I will discuss some questions concerning the presuppositions and implicatures of various kinds of conditionals. These questions may at first sight seem of marginal importance to the central issues of this workshop, but they will lead to bigger questions and eventually we will find ourselves discussing the very architecture of our semantic theories.

Janneke van Wijnbergen-Huitink: Inferentialism and truth conditions
Inferentialistic approaches to conditionals are prominent in linguistics (e.g. Kratzer) and they have recently been gaining popularity in philosophy as well (e.g. Douven). The main idea is that a conditional is true iff its consequent follows from its antecedent (plus the contextually relevant relevant background knowledge). This talk will compare different explications of this idea with respect to how they restrict the truth conditions of conditionals.

Practical Information

A map of the buildings of the University of Osnabrück can be found here: https://www.uni-osnabrueck.de/en/university/lageplaene.html

For travel information, please visit the GAP.9 website: http://www.gap9.de