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Indicative and Subjunctive Conditionals

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In any plausible semantics for conditionals, the semantics for indicatives and subjunctives will resemble each other closely. This means that if we are to keep the possible-worlds semantics for subjunctives suggested by Lewis, we need to find a possible-worlds semantics for indicatives. One reason for thinking that this will be impossible is the behaviour of rigid designators in indicatives. An indicative like ‘If the stuff in the rivers, lakes and oceans really is H3O, then water is H3O’ is non-vacuously true, even though its consequent is true in no possible worlds, and hence not in the nearest possible world where the antecedent is true. I solve this difficulty by providing a semantics for conditionals within the framework of two-dimensional modal logic. In doing so, I show that we can have a reasonably unified semantics for indicative and subjunctive conditionals.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Syracuse University

Publication date: April 1, 2001


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