nic - Nicolas Gomes 11/23/04 Chapter 18: Backwards...

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1 Nicolas Gomes 11/23/04 Chapter 18: Backwards Subjunctive Conditionals §108. Banning Backward Conditionals Downing Denied: P. B. Downing chose to ban backward conditionals in response to his scare story (§78), rephrased as follows: Generous Jim is mad at timid Tom. Thus, if Tom had asked Jim for a favor, Jim would have refused. However, Tom isn’t so cavalier or oblivious to ask a favor from someone who is mad at him. So if Tom had asked Jim for a favor, Jim wouldn’t have been mad at Tom. Thus if Tom had asked Jim for a favor, Jim would not have refused. The conflicting forwards conditionals ( italicized ) are dealt with by Downing though the rejection of the backwards subjunctive conditional ( bold ) used to derive the latter forward subjunctive conditional. It is unclear, then, what Downing thinks of the latter forward conditional. Given Bennett’s rejection of the scare story and support of backward conditionals’ common and natural usage, he demands proper treatment of them, even if one hopes to ultimately explain them away as Davis does… Davis’ Deficiency: Bennett considers Davis attempt to reduce backwards conditionals (BC) into terms of forward conditionals (FC). The distinction is made between: a) If Kerry had won the election, he would have won Iowa. b) If Kerry had won the election, he would have to have won Iowa. Davis sees (b) as the natural and correct way of what we mean by saying (a). He contends that the consequent of conditional (b) is not a reference to state of affairs before the election, but rather a post-election modalized-past-tense state of affairs. Namely, the closest Kerry-election worlds merely share the post-election historical fact that Kerry won Iowa.
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2 Bennett first argues Davis’ account is deficient in explaining the “modal element in the consequent of a backwards conditional.” Bennett argues that “have to” expresses our inability to understand any Kerry-elected world other than by won-Iowa, and in this way calls it the “best explanation” element. Bennett then argues that to say of the (closest) post-Kerry-elected worlds “Kerry won Iowa is a modal fact” is just to say of the closest Kerry-elected worlds “At an earlier time Kerry did actually win Iowa.” Thus, BCs still say something about the past of (closest) Kerry-elected worlds. This line of reasoning can turn FCs back into BCs, thus corrupting an already confused type of conditional. (I’m not sure if Bennett means this line of reasoning creates even more BCs than would otherwise come about.) This argument is said to rely on “the principle that if A>C and C entails P, then A>P.” More generally, any world at which: It is the case at T 2 that: necessarily that P at T 1 . Is a world which:
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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.

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nic - Nicolas Gomes 11/23/04 Chapter 18: Backwards...

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