‘Might’ Made Right

Kai von Fintel and Anthony S. Gillies

in Epistemic Modality

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780199591596
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729027 | DOI:
‘Might’ Made Right

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The simplest story about modals is also the canon: modals are context-dependent quantifiers over a domain of possibilities. Epistemic modals quantify over possibilities compatible with what is known. Just whose knowledge, or whose information state, is relevant is something decided by the context. The canon is simple and elegant but not quite right. The problem with the canon is that it is weighed down by the fiction that there is a determinate context in which an utterance of a bare epistemic modal is issued. On the story of this chapter, it is indeterminate just which group, or just which aggregated information state, is quantified over by such bare epistemic modals. This chapter explores how a story that exploits this contextual indeterminacy can explain what needs explaining without departing from what's right about the canon and so without positing anything semantically peculiar about bare occurrences of epistemic modals.

Keywords: epistemic modals; information states; contextualism; contextual indeterminacy

Chapter.  12465 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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