For a Dynamic Semantics of Necessity Deontic Modals

  • Alessandra Marra
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 8554)


Traditional approaches in deontic logic have focused on the so-called reportative reading of obligation sentences, by providing truth-functional semantics based on a primitive ideality order between possible worlds. Those approaches, however, do not take into account that, in natural language, obligation sentences primarily carry a prescriptive effect. The paper focuses precisely on that prescriptive character, and shows that the reportative reading can be derived from the prescriptive one. A dynamic, non truth-functional semantics for necessity deontic modals is developed, in which the ideality relations among possible worlds can be updated. Finally, it is proven that the semantics solves several of the classic deontic paradoxes.


deontic logic update semantics prescriptive reading reportative reading deontic paradoxes 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Alchourrón, C.: Philosophical Foundations of Deontic Logic and the Logic of Defeasible Conditionals. In: Meyer, J.-J., Wieringa, R. (eds.) Deontic Logic in Computer Science: Normative System Specification, pp. 43–84. John Wiley & Sons (1993)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Aucher, G., Boella, G., van der Torre, L.: Prescriptive and Descriptive Obligations in Dynamic Epistemic Deontic Logic. In: Casanovas, P., Pagallo, U., Sartor, G., Ajani, G. (eds.) AICOL-II/JURIX 2009. LNCS, vol. 6237, pp. 150–161. Springer, Heidelberg (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Austin, J.L.: How to do things with words. The William James Lectures delivered at Harvard University in 1955. Oxford University Press, Oxford (1962)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Condoravdi, C.: Temporal interpretation of modals: Modals for the present and for the past. In: Beaver, D., Kaufmann, S., Casillas, L. (eds.) The construction of meaning, pp. 59–88. CSLI Publications, Stanford (2002)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Condoravdi, C., Lauren, S.: Speaking of Preferences: Imperative and Desiderative Assertions in Context. In: Speaking of Possibility and Time: The 7th Workshop on Inferential Mechanisms and their Linguistic Manifestation,
  6. 6.
    Hansson, B.: An Analysis of some Deontic Logics. Deontic Logic: Introductory and Systematic Readings, Synthese Library 33, 121–147 (1971)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Kaufmann, S., Schwager, M.: A uniform analysis of conditional imperatives. Proceedings of SALT 19 (2009)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Kolodny, N., MacFarlane, J.: Ifs and Oughts. Journal of Philosophy 107(3), 115–143 (2010)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Kratzer, A.: The notional category of modality. In: Eikmeyer, H.J., Reiser, A. (eds.) Words, Worlds and Contexts. New Approaches in Word Semantics, pp. 38–74. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin (1981)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Lewis, D.: Counterfactuals. Oxford, Blackwell (1973)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Makinson, D.: On a Fundamental Problem of Deontic Logic. In: McNamara, P., Prakken, H. (eds.) Norms, Logics and Information Systems: New Studies in Deontic Logic and Computer Science. Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence and Application, vol. 49, pp. 29–53. IOS Press (1999)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Meyer, J.-J.C.: A Different Approach to Deontic Logic: Deontic Logic Viewed as a Variant of Dynamic Logic. Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 29(1), 109–136 (1988)CrossRefzbMATHMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Prakken, H., Sergot, M.: Dyadic Deontic Logic and Contrary-to-duty Obligations. In: Nute, D.N. (ed.) Defeasible Deontic Logic, pp. 223–262. Synthese Library, Kluwer (1997)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Schwager, M.: Interpreting Imperatives. PhD thesis, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universtät, Frankfurt am Main (2006)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Spohn, W.: An analysis of Hansson’s dyadic deontic logic. Journal of Philosophical Logic 4, 237–252 (1975)CrossRefzbMATHMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Stalnaker, R.C.: Assertion. In: Cole, P. (ed.) Syntax and Semantics, vol. 9, pp. 315–332 (1978)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Yamada, T.: Logical dynamics of some speech acts that affect obligations and preferences. Synthese 165, 295–315 (2008)CrossRefzbMATHMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    van der Torre, L.W.N., Tan, Y.: The many faces of defeasibility in defeasible deontic logic. In: Nute, D.N. (ed.) Defeasible Deontic Logic, pp. 79–121. Synthese Library, Kluwer (1997)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    van der Torre, L.W.N., Tan, Y.: An Update Semantics for Deontic Reasoning. In: McNamara, P., Prakken, H. (eds.) Norms, Logics and Information Systems: New Studies on Deontic Logic and Computer Science, pp. 73–90. IOS Press (1999)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    van Rooij, R.: Permission to change. Journal of Semantics 17(2), 119–143 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Veltman, F.: Defaults in Update Semantics. Journal of Philosophical Logic 25, 221–261 (1996)CrossRefzbMATHMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Veltman, F.: Or else, what? Imperatives on the borderline of semantics and pragmatics. Lego Seminar presentation, Institute for Logic, Language and Computation, Amsterdam (2012)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Willer, M.: A Remark on Iffy Oughts. Journal of Philosophy 109(7), 449–461 (2012)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alessandra Marra
    • 1
  1. 1.Tilburg Center for Logic, General Ethics and Philosophy of ScienceTilburg UniversityTilburgThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations