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Brian Weatherson (Cornell University), “Conditionals and Relativism,” with commentary by Gillian Russell (Washington—St. Louis). Both the paper and commentary can be found here.
Posted by tnadelhoffer on May 21, 2006 | Permalink
Very interesting paper and reply! I have been thinking about Gillian's “proves too much” objection to Brian’s second argument. In Brian’s case Pete and his opponent are the only players in a round of poker who haven’t folded. Winifred and Lora leave, and later Winifred sees that Pete does not show any of the usual signs of having lost. She concludes ‘If Pete called, he won’. Lora sees Pete’s opponent with lots of money and concludes: ‘If Pete called, he lost’. In fact, Pete did not call. Given the problems with possible world accounts, an epistemic theory of conditionals seems plausible. Brian suggests that it is the evaluator’s evidence that matters. So both Lora and Winifred said something true. The “proves too much” objection now is that the same argument carries over to non-conditionals. Pete and his opponent are in a rock-climbing competition. A has reason to think Pete is better than his opponent and says: ‘Pete is going to win’. B has reason to think that Pete’s assigned path is harder than his opponent’s and says: ‘Pete is not going to win’. A and B are both justified, but in this case there is little reason to think that A and B are both right. Since Brian’s argument apparently carries over to this case, it proves too much. As I see it, however, the second argument presupposes that an epistemic theory of conditionals is right. If an epistemic theory is called for, relativism becomes plausible. The rock-climbing case does not call for an epistemic theory; hence, relativism is unmotivated (of course, Macfarlane might be right that a relativistic semantics is right for future contingents, but since A and B are both making their claims before Pete or his opponent reaches the top, Macfarlane’s relativism predicts that their claims are neither true nor false).
Brit Brogaard |
May 24, 2006 at 11:44 AM
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