Wednesday, October 24, 2007

In Rutgers

As Brian Weatherson reports here, there's a metaphysics/phil physics conference at Rutgers this weekend (26-28th). I'm in Rutgers for the week, and am responding to one of the papers at the event. I'm looking forward to what looks like a really interesting conference.

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.

Briefly, the idea is to look at what mileage we can get out of paradigmatic instances of the identification of the probability of a conditional "If A, B" with the conditional probability of B on A (CCCP). We know that in general that identification is highly problematic, due to notorious impossibility results due to David Lewis and more recently Ned Hall and Al Hajek. But I think it's interesting to divide the issue into two halves:

First, what would a modal account of indicative conditionals that obeys (a handful of paradigmatic) instances of CCCP have to look like? I think there's a lot we can say about this: of the salient options, it'll look a lot like Weatherson's theory; it'll have to have a particular take on what kind of vagueness can effect the conditional; it'll have to say that any proposition you know should have probability 1.

Second, is this package sustainable in the face of impossibility results? Al Hajek (in his papers in the Eels/Skyrms probability and conditionals volume) does a really nice job of formulating the challenges here. If we're prepared to give up some instances of CCCP in recherche cases (like left-embedded conditionals, things of the form "if (if A, B), C", then many of the general impossibility results won't apply. But nevertheless, there a bunch of puzzles that remain: in particular, concerning how even the paradigmatic instances can survive when we receive new information.

I'll mostly be talking about the first part of the talk this evening.


Kenny said...

I assume you mean "any proposition you know should have probability 1" rather than 0?

Robbie said...

Oops. fixed now. Even I would modus tollens at *that* point.