Conditionals aren’t Contextual

Over at Certain Doubts, they’re having a discussion of Sly Pete conditionals. Jon Kvanvig says, a propos of the pair of conditionals uttered,

Both assertions are appropriate, but both cant be true (without introducing contextuality into the account).

I think that’s not right unless you’re just going to ignore the relativist. (Or treat the relativist as a kind of contextualist.) I think that both assertions are appropriate because both are true relative to the context in which they are uttered, though only the second assertion is true in both contexts. Some days I think that the Sly Pete cases are the strongest cases for relativism about indicative conditionals, which seems to be a very plausible theory to me.

In fact, it’s one of the four (major) things I want to do this year. I’m writing out that list here as a way of reminding myself to do them, and perhaps providing some needed encouragement. (Unlike Jason if I’d only written a 60 page article by February 10 I wouldn’t appear to regard that as having not done much!) Here they are:

  • Write a paper on the state of play in debates about dogmatism

There should be more on the last point later this weekend, embedded in a long post I’m working on concerning heterodox approaches to probabilistic updating. If that doesn’t excite you about what’s upcoming, I don’t know what will!

6 Replies to “Conditionals aren’t Contextual”

  1. Well, the relativist certainly takes contextuality into account – she takes more than one type of it into account in fact!

  2. Brian, I agree here. I thought about putting “contextuality/relativity” in the post, but thought it too ugly, so just left the simpler expression.

  3. Jason, I didn’t mean to agree that the conditionals are relative. Only that relativity is a kind of contextuality, so if you can get both to come out true being either a contextualist or a relativist. I appreciate the sentiment, though!

  4. Not only that, NOT everyone should want to be a relativist.

    Actually, everyone should want NOT to be a relativist. … Some will not agree with that, but at least it will be clear (at least to those who agree) what they don’t agree with.

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