The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LFRG 4/5 - Paolo Santorio

Please join us at LFRG this week for a talk by a recent MIT PhD in philosophy:

Title: Exhaustified Counterfactuals
Speaker: Paolo Santorio (University of Leeds)
Date/time: Fri April 5, 11:30am
Location: 32D-461

Standard accounts of counterfactuals make use of a notion of closeness or similarity between worlds, whether in the semantics proper, or in the mechanisms of context change associated to utterances of counterfactuals. I present evidence that this is a mistake. The phenomena that Stalnaker and Lewis took to be hallmarks of closeness—-in essence, apparent failures of monotonocity—-are better explained by systematic exhaustification of scalar items in the antecedents. This suggests that counterfactuals are monotonic in the antecedent position, both on a static and a dynamic understanding of logical consequence. I (somewhat tentatively) explore how a monotonic account of this kind can deal with a number of standard issues in the literature, including reverse Sobel sequences and failures of transitivity in the logic of counterfactuals.