Natural Language Semantics

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 241–293

Detaching if-clauses from should



This paper investigates some aspects of the semantics of deontic should-conditionals. The main objective is to understand which actual world facts make deontic statements true. The starting point for the investigation is a famous puzzle known as Chisholm’s Paradox. It is important because making sense of the data in Chisholm-style examples involves arriving at some conclusion regarding the interaction between what we consider ideal and what is actually true. I give an account of how facts affect the evaluation of should formulated in a way that does not predict that the divergence between ideals and facts leads to contradictions. The proposed semantics for should and should-conditionals allows for factual detachment without giving rise to paradoxes. The proposal has several parts: a situation-based semantics for the modal should, a view of the propositions embedded under should that allows aspect to play a crucial role in anchoring propositions to the context set, and a proposal for if-clauses that distinguishes between epistemic if-clauses and if-clauses in the scope of should, treating the latter as restrictors on the quantificational domain of the modal.


Deontic modality Chisholm’s Paradox Conditionals Aspect 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Linguistics DepartmentUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada

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