Date of Award

Spring 3-20-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Philosophy

First Advisor

David Barnett

Second Advisor

Graeme Forbes

Third Advisor

Graham Oddie

Abstract

Conditionals—sentences of the form ‘If A, B’—are ubiquitous in human discourse and reasoning, and yet giving a rigorous account of their meaning, or what it takes for true conditionals to be true, has proven difficult. There are three major accounts of conditionals in philosophy of language, representing widespread disagreement. In this dissertation, I explore answers to the following questions with respect to a class of conditionals called indicative conditionals: What do conditionals mean? Are conditionals the sorts of things that are true or false? If so, what does it take for a true conditional to be true? I present challenges for the major accounts and propose a new account called the Consequence Account. In Chapter One, I draw on linguistics to argue that a popular way of defending the Material Implication Account should be put to rest. In Chapter Two, I present a test for a good account of meaning, called the Relevance Test, and argue that the Material Implication Account fails this test. In Chapter Three, I present a challenge for any account according to which all conditionals with a true antecedent and a true consequent are true, which challenges versions of all three of the major accounts. In Chapter Four, I turn from arguing against the major accounts to arguing for a new kind of account. In this chapter, I defend the claim that conditionals have truth values against popular arguments to the contrary, and I present independent reasons for ascribing truth values to indicative conditionals. Finally, in Chapter Five, I present the Consequence Account, my own truth-valued account according to which an indicative conditional ‘If A, B’ is true just in case there is some relation by virtue of which B is a consequence of A. This account draws on the perception that a conditional expresses a certain kind of strong connection between the antecedent and consequent. In all of this, I hope to establish that the Consequence Account succeeds in areas in which the major accounts face challenges, and that it deserves consideration alongside them as a compelling, intuitive account of indicative conditionals.

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Philosophy Commons

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