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Unformatted text preview: 1 Bennett’s Ch. 17: ‘Even If…’ Maile Holck, 11/16/04 Bennett begins this chapter by dismissing theories that hold ‘even if’ to be an idiom. He goes on to say that if he is right, and ‘even’ modifies conditionals just as it modifies words and phrases, “a treatise on conditionals need not discuss ‘even’ at all.” This seems like a dismal way to start a chapter called ‘Even If…’ in a treatise on conditionals, but the material is fun and (possibly) more relevant to conditionals than Bennett wants to believe. §102. ‘Even’: Preliminaries Bennett starts with Pollock’s 1976 account of “even if” wherein: ‘even if’ is an idiom, and a subjunctive statement ‘Even if A, C’ is true only if C is true. This analysis fits the following example (Bennett’s): (1) “She’s going to fire him. If he carries on as in the past she’ll fire him; if he becomes more punctual, polite and accurate, she’ll fire him; Even if he were to perform perfectly, she would fire him .” Lewis offers counterexamples to Pollock’s thesis such as the one below. (2) “If she has any reason to think he is not a teetotaler, she’ll fire him. Even if he were to drink just a little, she would fire him. Pollock dismisses these as not fitting the standard use, but Bennett holds that Lewis’s example is perfectly standard, and he can, therefore, have a unified account for both. Namely, he treats both as regular cases of ‘even,’ giving the conditional structure no special value. We will return to this discussion in §105. §103. Lycan’s Account LYCAN ’ S ACCOUNT Lycan offers a semantic (as opposed to pragmatic or, as Lycan says, conventional) analysis of ‘even’ so for Lycan, (1) differs in truth value from simply “If he were to perform perfectly, she would fire him.” For Bennett the sentences have the same truth value but may differ in assertibility. Lycan derives his semantic theory from similarities between ‘only’ and ‘even’ Consider the following sentences first with ‘only’ and then with ‘even’: (a) [ ] the goats graze on the hillside in the afternoons. (b) The goats [ ] graze on the hillside in the afternoons. (c) The goats graze [ ] on the hillside in the afternoons. (d) The goats graze on the hillside [ ] in the afternoons. 2 Plugging in ‘only’ in each sentence, we see the meaning changes. In (a) the focus is the goats (as opposed to sheep), in (b) the focus is grazing (not sleeping), (c) the hillside (not the valley), and (d) the afternoons (not the mornings). ‘Even’ seems to act in a similar manner, changing the meaning of the sentence by shifting its focus. Since ‘only’ and ‘even’ have such similar behavior, and since ‘only’ is a quantifier, Lycan reasons that ‘even’ is a quantifier (or, at least, reflects a one in logical form)....
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This note was uploaded on 08/01/2008 for the course PHIL 290 taught by Professor Fitelson during the Fall '06 term at University of California, Berkeley.
- Fall '06