Is this sentence ambiguous?
(1) Vegemite could have tasted icky.
(I assume ‘icky’ is unambiguous.)
I half think it has readings with each of the following truth-conditions.
(2) There is a world w such that Vegemite in w is disposed to cause icky-tasting reactions in normal observers in the actual world.
(3) There is a world w such that Vegemite in w is disposed to cause icky-tasting reactions in normal observers in w.
I think (2) is the most natural reading, but I half think (3) is a possible reading. Do you agree?
(Two caveats. First, the dispositional analysis of tastes here is really crude, but I don’t care as long as something like it is going to work. Whatever the right story is, we’ll still be able to ask this kind of question about whether there are ambiguities. Second, I’m leaning towards treating ‘normal’ as a MacFarlanesque relative intension predicate, so what’s normal is fixed by the context of evaluation, not the context of utterance. I think that doesn’t matter to the question of whether (1) is ambiguous, but I’m a little less certain of that than I am of the first caveat.)
Posted by Brian Weatherson in Uncategorized