Conditionals: A guided tour
Language and Logic (Advanced)
Second week, from 9:00 to 10:30
Conditionals allow speakers to make claims about hypothetical, even counterfactual situations, adding significantly to the expressive power of language. Not surprisingly, their meaning has exercised philosophers of language and semanticists alike. This series of lectures offers a tour through some of the thinking on conditionals, starting with familiar, central precepts and then reaching step-by-step some current linguistic thinking on the matter. The point of departure is the Frege-Russell material implication. We then revisit C. Lewis’s (1918) ‘strict conditional’ analysis, Stalnaker’s (1968) proposal, and D. Lewis’s (1973) ‘variably strict’ analysis, along with Kratzer’s and von Fintel’s important extensions thereof. As a final stop on the tour we explore Schein’s (2003) ‘conditionally strict’ account and some of its recent applications (Herburger 2015, 2016). Central questions that are addressed include the modal character of conditionals, their curious monotonicity properties, and their compositional interaction with negation and other operators (adverbs, modals, only, nominal quantifiers). The lectures only assume basic familiarity with semantics and propositional logic and are intended to serve as an introductory course.