, Volume 163, Issue 3, pp 637-648
Date: 30 Nov 2011

Subjunctive biscuit and stand-off conditionals

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Abstract

Conventional wisdom has it that many intriguing features of indicative conditionals aren’t shared by subjunctive conditionals. Subjunctive morphology is common in discussions of wishes and wants, however, and conditionals are commonly used in such discussions as well. As a result such discussions are a good place to look for subjunctive conditionals that exhibit features usually associated with indicatives alone. Here I offer subjunctive versions of J. L. Austin’s ‘biscuit’ conditionals—e.g., “There are biscuits on the sideboard if you want them”—and subjunctive versions of Allan Gibbard’s ‘stand-off’ or ‘Sly Pete’ conditionals, in which speakers with no relevant false beliefs can in the same context felicitously assert conditionals with the same antecedents and contradictory consequents. My cases undercut views according to which the indicative/subjunctive divide marks a great difference in the meaning of conditionals. They also make trouble for treatments of indicative conditionals that cannot readily be generalized to subjunctives.