Tonight (24th) I’m giving a talk to a phil language group at Rutgers. I’m going to be presenting some material on modal accounts of indicative conditionals (a la Stalnaker, Weatherson, Nolan). This piece has evolved quite a bit during the last few weeks as I’ve been working on it. A bit unexpectedly, I’ve ended up with an argument for Weatherson’s views.
I don’t know why this should be surprising. I’m never surprised when I argue for Weatherson’s views.
Two more serious points.
If I’ve understood Robbie right, he isn’t really arguing for my views. What he’s arguing for are the points that I took wholesale from Stalnaker, i.e. Stalnaker’s views. What’s distinctively mine (if anything) are some quirky claims about the details of how indexicals in consequents behave, and some even quirkier claims about how to understand the tacit epistemic modals in (most) indicative conditionals. But I don’t think you need either of those quirks to get what Robbie wants. You just need the basic Stalnakerian foundations, and that’s all to Stalnaker’s credit, not mine.
The other point is that I think Robbie has not only ended up with Stalnaker’s views, he’s really ended up with Stalnaker’s methodology as well. This was all made fairly clear in Stalnaker’s paper at the (very successful) Ryle at Ryerson conference this weekend.
We’d like, for all sorts of reasons, to say that indicative conditionals have truth conditions. We’d also like to explain the two features that make it seem unlikely that they have truth conditions. Those are (a) that a lot of instances of CCCP look to be correct, and (b) assertions of conditionals have many of the same pragmatic features as conditional assertions would have (were there any such things in everyday life). And the real virtue of Stalnaker’s position is that he carves out a position with just these things. The construal of indicative conditionals as epistemic modals, plus a couple of independently motivated assumptions about pragmatics, gets us just the right results. Stalnaker’s paper at the weekend was about a (somewhat charitable) reading of Ryle as stressing the desirability of a theory that threaded the needle between truth-conditional and non-truth-conditional theories of conditionals in just this way, and on this point Ryle (as read by Stalnaker) seems very insightful.
So if I’ve understood Robbie right, he’s joined the party. Excellent news; the forces of truth and light have another excellent soldier on their side! But I fear he might be in the same boat as I was for a long time, certainly including the time I wrote Indicatives and Subjunctives. That is, he’s underestimating a little how much of this stuff Stalnaker already had right back in the early papers, and how much of the job here and now consists of carefully explaining the Stalnakerian position, not amending it.
(I don’t think this is the paper he’s talking about in the post, but this paper features some of what Robbie is saying about conditionals for those who want a little more detail.)