The Meaning of If

ISBN : 9780190096700

Justin Khoo
344 Pages
140 x210 mm
Pub date
Jun 2022
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Despite its small stature, "if" occupies a central place both in everyday language and the philosophical lexicon. In allowing us to talk about hypothetical situations, "if" raises a host of thorny philosophical puzzles about language and logic. Addressing them requires tools from linguistics, logic, probability theory, and metaphysics. Justin Khoo uses these tools to navigate a maze of interconnected issues about conditionals, some of which include: the nature of linguistic communication, the relationship between logical and natural languages, and the relationship between different kinds of modality. According to Khoo's theory, conditionals form a unified class of expressions which share a common semantic core that encodes inferential dispositions. Thus, rather than represent the world, conditionals are devices used to communicate how we are disposed to infer. Khoo shows that this theory can be extended to predict the probabilities of conditionals, as well as how different kinds of conditionals differ both semantically and pragmatically. Khoo's book will make for a significant contribution to the literature on conditionals and should be of interest to philosophers, linguists, and computer scientists.


Part I: Framework
Chapter 1: Bounding Puzzles
Chapter 2: Situating the Puzzles in the Literature
Chapter 3: Domain Inferentialism
Chapter 4: Sequence Semantics
Part II: Probabilities
Chapter 5: Probabilities of Conditionals
Chapter 6: Partition Dependence
Part III: Subjunctive vs. Indicative
Chapter 7: Subjunctive Conditionals: The Role of Tense
Chapter 8: Temporal Past
Chapter 9: Sufficiency Networks
Chapter 10: Subjunctive Probabilities

About the author: 

Justin Khoo is Associate Professor of Philosophy at MIT. He received his BA in philosophy from UC-Davis in 2006 and his PhD in philosophy from Yale in 2013. His research and teaching are focused primarily on philosophy of language, philosophical logic, meta-ethics, and metaphysics. His work has appeared in various journals, including Journal of Semantics, Mind, Nous, and Philosophers' Imprint, among others. He co-edited (with Rachel Katharine Sterken) the Routledge Handbook of Social and Political Philosophy of Language (2021).

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