Author: Stefan Kaufmann

Talk of interest on 10/27: Dorr and Mandelkern

Logic Colloquium talk this week

Cian Dorr and Matthew Mandelkern (NYU Philosophy)

“The Logic of Sequences”

Friday, October 27, 2:00pm – 3:30pm

hybrid: ROWE 320 and Zoom (link below)



In the course of proving a tenability result about the probabilities of conditionals, van Fraassen (1976) introduced a semantics for conditionals based on sequences of worlds, representing a particularly simple special case of ordering semantics for conditionals. According to sequence semantics, ‘If p, then q’ is true at a sequence just in case either q is true at the first truncation of the sequence where p is true, or there is no truncation where p is true. This approach has become increasingly popular in recent years. However, its logic has never been explored. We axiomatize the logic of sequence semantics, showing that it is the result of adding two new axioms to Stalnaker’s logic C2: one which is prima facie attractive, and one which is complex and difficult to assess.  We also show that when sequence models are generalized to allow transfinite sequences, the result is the logic that adds only the first (more attractive) axiom to C2.



Talk of interest on 10/25: M. Kaufmann

The Philosophy Brownbag on Wednesday, October 25, at12:15pm will feature our own Magdalena Kaufmann with a talk titled Conjunctions (in)forming Conditionals. The meeting is hybrid, in-person in the basement lounge of Manchester Hall and online via Zoom. Contact Stefan Kaufmann for login information.

Abstract: In many natural languages (including English), sentential conjunctions instantiating the schema `p and q’ can receive conditional interpretations similar to `if p, then q’ (“conditional conjunctions”). Empirical evidence from several languages suggests that this interpretation comes about when the first sentential conjunct is marked or interpreted as a topic. While this allows for a compositional interpretation of the phenomenon, it does not in itself explain puzzling restrictions on the kinds of conditional meanings that can be expressed by conjunctions: conditional conjunctions cannot normally be used to express generalizations and to make predictions about future sequences of events (roughly, generic and causal-like/metaphysical conditionals), but not to express epistemic conditionals (roughly, reasoning under uncertainty about current and past states of affairs). Special discourse settings can, however, overwrite this restriction and make conditional conjunctions felicitous as epistemic conditionals. 


Meeting on 04/27: Bill Lycan

We will meet on Thursday, April 27, 1:45-2:45 in Oak 338. Bill Lycan will present his ongoing work.

Explicature and Cancellability

Relevance theorists, most notably Robyn Carston, defend a notion they call “explicature,” that contrasts with mere conversational implicature in much the way that Grice’s “what is said” and semantic entailment do. But there is a puzzle: (i) As characterized, explicatures should not be cancellable in the way that conversational implicatures are. But (ii) in fact the standard examples of explicature are all cancellable, which you’d think is a serious objection to the Relevance theorists’ claim. Yet (iii) Carston not only grants but insists that explicatures are cancellable.

I try to solve that puzzle by pointing out something not often noticed, that “cancellable” is a relative term: cancellable without… what penalty? (And I believe that point is important independently of the explicature issue.)

Meeting on 04/20: Omar Agha

We will meet on Thursday, April 20, 1:45-2:45 in Oak 371 (note the untypical room). Our own Omar Agha will present his ongoing work.

Focus-driven QUD accommodation in plural definites

Kriz (2015) and other recent work has drawn much attention to non-maximal interpretations of plural definite noun phrases. In Kriz’s model, non-maximality is possible when the QUD makes the exceptions irrelevant.

I present some novel observations that motivate an amendment of this theory. I show that plural definite noun phrases that associate with focus sensitive operators display more extreme non-maximality than plural definites without focus. This is especially apparent in out-of-the-blue contexts, where no particular QUD is assumed.

I sketch the beginning of a pragmatic theory of these facts, in which the presence of focus drives the listener to accommodate a QUD that is focus congruent, which in turn licenses exception tolerance.