Bounded Modality
Matthew Mandelkern
March 2018
 

What does 'might' mean? One hypothesis is that 'It might be raining' is essentially an avowal of ignorance like 'For all I know, it's raining'. But it turns out these two constructions embed in different ways, in particular as parts of larger constructions like Wittgenstein's 'It might be raining and it's not' and Moore's 'It's raining and I don't know it', respectively. A variety of approaches have been developed to account for those differences. All approaches agree that both Moore sentences and Wittgenstein sentences are classically consistent. In this paper I argue against this consensus. I adduce a variety of new data which I argue can best be accounted for if we treat Wittgenstein sentences as being classically inconsistent. This creates a puzzle, since there is decisive reason to think that 'Might p' is classically consistent with 'Not p'. How can it also be that 'Might p and not p' and 'Not p and might p' are classically inconsistent? To make sense of this situation, I propose a new theory of epistemic modals and their interaction with embedding operators. This account makes sense of the subtle embedding behavior of epistemic modals, shedding new light on their meaning and, more broadly, the dynamics of information in natural language.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/003965
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: The Philosophical Review
keywords: epistemic modals, local contexts, semantics
Downloaded:237 times

 

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