A person of average height would assert a truth by the conditional ‘if I were seven feet tall, I would be taller than I am,’ in which an indicative clause ‘I am’ is embedded in a subjunctive conditional. By contrast, no one would assert a truth by ‘if I were seven feet tall, I would be taller than I would be’ or ‘if I am seven feet tall, I am taller than I am’. These examples exemplify the fact that whether a sentence's evaluation remains at the actual world in the scope of a modal or conditional depends on the combination of mood in the embedded and matrix clauses rather than, as is commonly thought, just on the presence of an operator ‘actually’. This essay argues that this phenomenon provides evidence that mood admits of bound and free readings along the lines of tenses and pronouns. It therefore favors the hypothesis that natural language contains variables and quantifiers for possible worlds in the object language. This, in turn, requires that the truth of a semantic value of a sentence (or whatever structure is embedded in a modal) be relativized to a sequence of worlds rather than to an individual world, and thus be distinguished from a proposition in the traditional sense. The essay also compares the framework defended with an alternative account of similar phenomena by Kai Wehmeier.
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Research Article| October 01 2013
John Mackay; Quantifying Over Possibilities. The Philosophical Review 1 October 2013; 122 (4): 577–617. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00318108-2315297
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