In English, a conditional is a sentence of the form, “If p, then q” (or of a synonymous form). The part of the sentence following “if” is the antecedent, while the part following “then” is the consequent. An indicative conditional is a conditional having an antecedent in indicative mood, such as “If Fred is here, then he can help you.” A subjunctive conditional is a conditional having an antecedent in the subjunctive mood, such as “If I were in Paris, then I would be happy.” (In English, the present-tense subjunctive mood, as it occurs in the antecedent of a conditional, is usually indistinguishable from the past tense, and the past-tense subjunctive is indistinguishable from the past perfect.) What are called counterfactual conditionals are usually just subjunctive conditionals, though some authors draw a distinction. An important touchstone in discussions of conditionals is the so-called material conditional, which, by stipulation, is true if and only if either the antecedent is false or the consequent is true. The philosophical problem of conditionals is, in part, the problem of explaining the conditions under which a conditional sentence is true, or true relative to pertinent parameters. It is also the problem of characterizing the class of logically valid arguments containing conditionals. For instance, we would like to know whether the argument “I will meet you tomorrow; therefore, if I die tonight, then I will meet you tomorrow” is logically valid. The philosophical problem of conditionals has proven to be difficult and controversial, and for that reason the problem of conditionals has been used as a primary motivation for several different approaches to semantic theory.
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Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Law ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Religion ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy
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