Was Quine right about subjunctive conditionals?

Rieger, A. (2017) Was Quine right about subjunctive conditionals? Monist, 100(2), pp. 180-193. (doi:10.1093/monist/onx003)

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Abstract

Given his hostility to intensional locutions, it is not surprising that Quine was suspicious of the subjunctive conditional. Although he admitted its usefulness as a heuristic device, in order to introduce dispositional terms, he held that it had no place in a finished scientific theory. In this paper I argue in support of something like Quine’s position. Many contemporary philosophers are unreflectively realist about subjunctives, regarding them as having objective truth values. I contest this. “Moderate realist” theorists, such as Lewis and Stalnaker, admit that subjunctives are context-relative and often indeterminate; I argue, using some examples from the contemporary literature on conditionals, that these features are deeper and more widespread than they think. “Ultra-realist” theories, which deny any indeterminacy, are not credible. Hence subjunctives are unsuitable for certain purposes, in particular the description of mind-independent reality.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Rieger, Dr Adam
Authors: Rieger, A.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > Philosophy
Journal Name:Monist
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:0026-9662
ISSN (Online):2153-3601
Published Online:11 April 2017
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2017 The Authors
First Published:First published in Monist 100(2):180-193
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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