Conditional Propositions and Conditional Assertions

Robert Stalnaker

in Epistemic Modality

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780199591596
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729027 | DOI:
Conditional Propositions and Conditional Assertions

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One traditional approach to analysing conditionals begins with the assumption that a conditional sentence has a propositional content, and tries to provide that content. Another approach holds that conditional sentences are used to perform a special kind of speech act, and the theory of conditionals should explain what is distinctive about this act. The controversy between these two approaches interacts with another controversy, namely the relationship between conditionals labeled ‘indicative’ and those labeled ‘subjunctive’. Some theorists have treated the problem of analysing indicative and subjunctive conditionals as separate problems, each to be treated on its own terms. Others have sought some kind of unified analysis. This chapter attempts to clarify what is at stake in the debate between truth-conditional and non-truth-conditional accounts, focusing on the case of indicative conditional assertions. More generally, it seeks to clarify the relation between speech acts and the propositions and propositional attitudes that are expressed in them. The strategy here is to sketch a specific account of each kind within a common framework, and then to consider exactly how they differ. One of the conclusions is that while there are real differences between the accounts, they may be less significant than they have seemed.

Keywords: conditionals; assertion; truth-conditions; propositions

Chapter.  11696 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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