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Quantifiers and ‘If’-Clauses

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Stephen Barker (The Philosophical Quarterly, 47 (1997), pp. 195–211) has presented a new argument for a pure material implication analysis of indicative conditionals. His argument relies crucially on the assumption that general indicatives such as ‘Every girl, if she gets a chance, bungee-jumps’ are correctly analysed as having the formal structure (for all x)(if x gets a chance, x bungee-jumps). This paper argues that an approach first proposed by David Lewis must be pursued: the ‘if’-clause in these sentences restricts the quantifier. Only the Lewis-style analysis can deal with sentences involving non-universal quantifiers such as ‘Most letters are answered if they are shorter than 5 pages’. I show that Barker's reasons for rejecting the restrictor analysis are not cogent and that the restrictor analysis connects widely with recent work in natural language semantics.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Publication date: 1998-04-01

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