Must, knowledge, and (in)directness

Abstract

This paper presents corpus and experimental data that problematize the traditional analysis of must as a strong necessity modal, as recently revived and defended by von Fintel and Gillies (in Nat Lang Semant 18(4):351–383, 2010). I provide naturalistic examples showing that must p can be used alongside an explicit denial of knowledge of p or certainty in p, and that it can be conjoined with an expression indicating that p is not certain or that not-p is possible. I also report the results of an experiment involving lotteries, where most participants endorsed a sentence of the form must not-p despite being instructed that p is a possibility. Crucially, endorsement was much higher for must in this context than for matched sentences with knowledge or certainty expressions. These results indicate that the requirements for felicitous use of must are weaker than for know and certain rather than being at least as strong, as the epistemic necessity theory would predict. However, it is possible to account for these data while retaining the key insights of von Fintel and Gillies’ analysis of the evidential component of must. I discuss several existing accounts that could be construed in this way and explain why none is completely satisfactory. I then propose a new model that embeds an existing scalar theory into a probabilistic model of informational dynamics structured around questions and answers.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Adams, Ernest W. 1975. The logic of conditionals: An application of probability to deductive logic. Heidelberg: Springer.

  2. Beaver, David, and Brady Clark. 2008. Sense and sensitivity: How focus determines meaning. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.

  3. Beddor, Robert. 2015. Certainty first. Manuscript, Rutgers University.

  4. Crone, Philip. 2015. Asserting clarity and managing awareness. In Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 20, University of Tübingen (to appear).

  5. Danckert, James, and Yves Rossetti. 2005. Blindsight in action: What can the different sub-types of blindsight tell us about the control of visually guided actions? Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 29(7): 1035–1046.

  6. Danks David. (2014) Unifying the mind: Cognitive representations as graphical models. MIT, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  7. Degen Judith. (2015) Investigating the distribution of some (but not all) implicatures using corpora and web-based methods. Semantics and Pragmatics 8(11): 1–55

    Google Scholar 

  8. Degen Judith. (2015) Availability of alternatives and the processing of scalar implicatures: A visual world eye-tracking study. Cognitive Science 40(1): 172–201

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. de Jager, Tikitu. 2009. “Now that you mention it, I wonder...”’: Awareness, attention, assumption. PhD thesis, University of Amsterdam.

  10. DeRose Keith. (1991) Epistemic possibilities. The Philosophical Review 100(4): 581–605

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Douven Igor. (2006) Assertion, knowledge, and rational credibility. The Philosophical Review 115(4): 449–485

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Edgington, Dorothy. 1995. On conditionals. Mind 104(414): 235. doi:10.1093/mind/104.414.235.

  13. Edgington, Dorothy. 1997. Vagueness by degrees. In Vagueness: A reader, ed. Rosanna Keefe and Peter Smith, 294–316. Cambridge: MIT Press.

  14. Egan, Andy. 2007. Epistemic modals, relativism and assertion. Philosophical Studies 133(1): 1–22.

  15. Franke, Michael, and Tikitu de Jager. 2007. The relevance of awareness. In Proceedings of the 16th Amsterdam Colloquium, ed. Paul Dekker, Maria Aloni and Floris Roelofsen, 97–102. Amsterdam: ILLC/Department of Philosophy, University of Amsterdam.

  16. Franke, Michael, and Tikitu de Jager. 2011. Now that you mention it: Awareness dynamics in discourse and decisions. In Language, games, and evolution, ed. A. Benz, G. Benz, and R. van Rooij, 60–91. Berlin: Springer.

  17. Giannakidou Anastasia. (1999) Affective dependencies. Linguistics and Philosophy 22(4): 367–421

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Ginzburg, Jonathan. 1995a. Resolving questions. I. Linguistics and Philosophy 18(5): 459–527.

  19. Ginzburg, Jonathan. 1995b. Resolving questions. II. Linguistics and Philosophy 18(6): 567–609.

  20. Glymour Clark N. (2001) The mind’s arrows: Bayes nets and graphical causal models in psychology. MIT Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  21. Gopnik, Alison, and Laura Schultz (eds.). 2007. Causal learning: Psychology, philosophy, and computation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  22. Groenendijk, Jeroen, and Martin Stokhof. 1984. Studies in the semantics of questions and the pragmatics of answers. PhD thesis, University of Amsterdam.

  23. Hacking Ian. (1967) Possibility. The Philosophical Review 76(2): 143–168

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Hawthorne John. (2004) Knowledge and lotteries. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  25. Heit, E., and C.M. Rotello. 2010. Relations between inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 36(3): 805

  26. Karttunen, Lauri. 1972.Possible and must. In Syntax and semantics, vol. 1, ed. John Kimball, 1–20. New York: Acacemic Press.

  27. Klecha, Peter. 2012. Positive and conditional semantics for gradable modals. In Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 16 (MITWPL), ed. Anna Chernilovskaya, Ana Aguilar Guevara, and Rick Nouwen, 363–376. Cambridge: MIT.

  28. Klecha, Peter. 2014. Bridging the divide: Scalarity and modality. PhD thesis, University of Chicago.

  29. Knobe, Joshua, and Seth Yalcin. 2014. Epistemic modals and context: Experimental data. Semantics and Pragmatics 7: 1–21.

  30. Koller, Daphne, and Nir Friedman. 2009. Probabilistic graphical models: Principles and techniques. Cambridge: MIT Press.

  31. Kratzer, Angelika. 1991. Modality. In Semantics: An international handbook of contemporary research, ed. Arnim von Stechow and Dieter Wunderlich, 639–650. Berlin: de Gruyter.

  32. Lackey Jennifer. (2007) Norms of assertion. Noûs 41(4): 594–626

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Lassiter, Daniel. 2010. Gradable epistemic modals, probability, and scale structure. In Semantics & Linguistic Theory (SALT) 20, ed. Nan Li and David Lutz, 197–215. Ithaca: CLC Publications.

  34. Lassiter, Daniel. 2011. Measurement and modality: The scalar basis of modal semantics. PhD thesis, New York University

  35. Lassiter Daniel. (2014) Modality, scale structure, and scalar reasoning. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 95(4): 461–490

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Lassiter Daniel. (2015) Epistemic comparison, models of uncertainty, and the disjunction puzzle. Journal of Semantics 32(4): 649–684

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Lassiter, Daniel. 2016. Graded modality: Qualitative and quantitative perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press (to appear).

  38. Lassiter, Daniel, and Noah D. Goodman. 2013. Context, scale structure, and statistics in the interpretation of positive-form adjectives. In Semantics & Linguistic Theory (SALT) 23, ed. Todd Snider, 587–610. Ithaca: CLC Publications.

  39. Lassiter, Daniel, and Noah D. Goodman. 2015a. Adjectival vagueness in a Bayesian model of interpretation. Synthese. doi:10.1007/s11229-015-0786-1.

  40. Lassiter, Daniel, and Noah D. Goodman. 2015b. How many kinds of reasoning? Inference, probability, and natural language semantics. Cognition 136: 123–134.

  41. Lewis David. (1979) Scorekeeping in a language game. Journal of Philosophical Logic 8(1): 339–359

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Lewis David. (1996) Elusive knowledge. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74(4): 549–567

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Lyons John. (1977) Semantics, Vols. I and II. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  44. MacFarlane, John. 2011. Epistemic modals are assessment-sensitive. In Epistemic modality, ed. A. Egan and B. Weatherton, 144–179. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  45. MacFarlane John. (2014) Sensitivity: Relative truth and its applications. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  46. Mills, Elizabeth S. 1999.Working with historical evidence: Genealogical principles and standards. National Genealogical Society Quarterly 87(3): 165–84.

  47. Moss Sarah. (2013) Epistemology formalized. Philosophical Review 122(1): 1–43

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Moss Sarah. (2015) On the semantics and pragmatics of epistemic vocabulary. Semantics and Pragmatics 8: 1–81

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Nadathur, Prerna, and Daniel Lassiter. 2014. Unless: An experimental approach. In Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 19, ed. E. Csipak and H. Zeijlstra. http://semanticsarchive.net/Archive/TVlN2I2Z/sub19proc.pdf.

  50. Nuyts Jan. (2001) Subjectivity as an evidential dimension in epistemic modal expressions. Journal of Pragmatics 33(3): 383–400

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Oaksford, Mike, and Nick Chater. 2007. Bayesian rationality: The probabilistic approach to human reasoning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  52. Over David E. (2009) New paradigm psychology of reasoning. Thinking and Reasoning 15(4): 431–438

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Palmer, Frank Robert. 1979. Modality and the English modals. London: Longman.

  54. Pearl, Judea. 1988. Probabilistic reasoning in intelligent systems: Networks of plausible inference. San Mateo: Morgan Kaufmann.

  55. Pearl Judea. (2000) Causality: Models, reasoning and inference. Cambridge University Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  56. Portner Paul. (2009) Modality. Oxford University Press, Oxfor

    Google Scholar 

  57. Radford Colin. (1966) Knowledge: By examples. Analysis 27(1): 1–11

    Google Scholar 

  58. Rips, Lance. 2002. Reasoning imperialism. In Common sense, reasoning, and rationality, ed. Renee Elio, 215–235. New York: Oxford University Press.

  59. Rips L.J. (2001) Two kinds of reasoning. Psychological Science 12(2): 129

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Roberts Craige. (2012) Information structure in discourse: Towards an integrated formal theory of pragmatics. Semantics & Pragmatics 5: 1–69

    Google Scholar 

  61. Rudin, Deniz. 2016. Deriving a variable-strength might. In Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 20, University of Tübingen (to appear).

  62. Russell, Stuart, and Peter Norvig. 2010. Artificial intelligence: A modern approach, 3rd edn. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.

  63. Sloman Steven A. (2005) Causal models: How we think about the world and its alternatives. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  64. Spirtes, Peter, Clark Glymour, and Richard Scheines. 1993. Causation, prediction, and search. Cambridge: MIT Press.

  65. Stanley Jason. (2005) Fallibilism and concessive knowledge attributions. Analysis 65(286): 126–131

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Stanley Jason. (2008) Knowledge and certainty. Philosophical Issues 18(1): 35–57

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Stone, Matthew. 1994. The reference argument of epistemic must. In Proceedings of the First International Workshop in Computational Semantics (IWCS 1), 181–190.

  68. Swanson, Eric. 2006. Interactions with context. PhD thesis, MIT.

  69. Swanson Eric. (2010) On scope relations between quantifiers and epistemic modals. Journal of Semantics 27(4): 529–540

    Article  Google Scholar 

  70. Swanson, Eric. 2015. The application of constraint semantics to the language of subjective uncertainty. Journal of Philosophical Logic 1–26: doi:10.1007/s10992-015-9367-5.

  71. Teigen Karl. (1988) When are low-probability events judged to be ‘probable’? Effects of outcome-set characteristics on verbal probability estimates. Acta Psychologica 68: 157–174

    Article  Google Scholar 

  72. Tenenbaum, Joshua B., Charles Kemp, Tom L. Griffiths, and Noah D. Goodman. 2011. How to grow a mind: Statistics, structure, and abstraction. Science 331(6022): 1279–1285.

  73. Turri John. (2016) Knowledge and the norm of assertion: An essay in philosophical science. Cambridge, Open Book Publishers

    Google Scholar 

  74. Unger Peter. (1971) A defense of skepticism. The Philosophical Review 80(2): 198–219

    Article  Google Scholar 

  75. Unger Peter. (1975) Ignorance. Clarendon Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  76. Van Kuppevelt Jan. (1995) Discourse structure, topicality and questioning. Journal of Linguistics 31(01): 109–147

    Article  Google Scholar 

  77. van Rooij, Robert. 2003. Questioning to resolve decision problems. Linguistics and Philosophy 26(6):727–763.

  78. von Fintel, Kai. 2001. Counterfactuals in a dynamic context. In Ken Hale: A life in language, ed. Michael Kenstowicz, 123–152. Cambridge: MIT Press.

  79. von Fintel, Kai, and Anthony Gillies. 2008. CIA leaks. The Philosophical Review 117(1): 77.

  80. von Fintel, Kai, and Anthony Gillies. 2010. Must.. stay.. strong! Natural Language Semantics 18(4): 351–383.

  81. Weiner Matthew. (2005) Must we know what we say. The Philosophical Review 114(2): 227–251

    Article  Google Scholar 

  82. Williamson Timothy. (2000) Knowledge and its limits. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  83. Windschitl, Paul D., and Gary L. Wells. 1998. The alternative-outcomes effect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 75(6): 1411–1423.

  84. Yalcin Seth. (2005) A puzzle about epistemic modals. MIT Working Papers in Linguistics 51: 231–272

    Google Scholar 

  85. Yalcin Seth. (2007) Epistemic modals. Mind 116(464): 983–1026

    Article  Google Scholar 

  86. Yalcin Seth. (2010) Probability operators. Philosophy Compass 5(11): 916–937

    Article  Google Scholar 

  87. Yalcin, Seth. 2011. Nonfactualism about epistemic modality. In Epistemic modality, ed. A. Egan and B. Weatherson, 295–332. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  88. Yalcin, Seth. 2012a. Bayesian expressivism. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 112: 123–160.

  89. Yalcin, Seth. 2012b. Context probabilism. In Logic, language and meaning (Lecture Notes in Computer Science 7218), ed. M. Aloni et al., 12–21. Berlin: Springer.

  90. Yalcin, Seth. 2012c. A counterexample to modus tollens. Journal of Philosophical Logic 41(6): 1001–1024.

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Daniel Lassiter.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Lassiter, D. Must, knowledge, and (in)directness. Nat Lang Semantics 24, 117–163 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11050-016-9121-8

Download citation

Keywords

  • Epistemic modality
  • Evidentiality
  • Knowledge
  • Inference
  • Probability