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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Modality and Quantifier Domain Restriction

Soames has replied to my alleged counterexample that it still holds that if I utter (1) below assertively, I make a statement that is true when evaluated at any possible circumstance of evaluation w iff (2) below is true at w, and so, even if the variable-content restriction theory also makes the right predictions in this case, my example isn't a counterexample to his theory.

(1) Everyone got an A [answering a question about Amy, Bob, Carl, ...]
(2) Every one of them got an A

He is, of course, right about that. But consider:

A: How did the students in your logic class do on the logic test?
B: Everyone got an A.

Is the content of 'everyone got an A' true at a possible world w in virtue of the fact that the students in my logic class in w (whoever they might be) got As? Or is it true at w in virtue of the fact that the students in my logic class in the actual world @ got As in w? I'd say it is the latter. But then it seems that the range of the quantifier does enter into the semantic content of the sentence.

Here is another example.

A: What did you do yesterday?
B: I met the new graduate students.
A: Do they seem smart?
B: Very much so. They all had offers from Princeton but chose to come to us instead.
(Later)
C: How does B like her new job?
A: I think she likes it a lot. The graduate students could have been at Princeton.

The content of A's remark 'the graduate students could have been at Princeton' is true at the actual world @ iff the content of 'the graduate students are at Princeton' is true at some world w. But isn't it the graduate students in B's department in the actual world @ that must be at Princeton in w? I think it is. Of course, we cannot just set aside the de re/de dicto issues here. But I think my point holds even if the definite NP takes narrow scope with respect to the possibility operator.

Final example (from Knowability, Possibility and Paradox).

Consider the Knowability Principle:
For all p, if p is true, then it is possible for someone to know that p.

And non-omniscience:
There is a truth that is not known by anyone.

When substituting 'p & it is not the case that p is known by someone' for p in the Knowability Principle, it seems that the domain of the quantifier ought to be the actual domain rather than some merely possible domain.

5 comments:

Mike said...

Brit, I wonder about the truth conditions specifying that (1) is true iff. (2).
(1) Everyone got an A [answering a question about Amy, Bob, Carl, ...]
(2) Every one of them got an A

Compare, for instance, the question,"did everyone fit in the van?"
(1') Not everyone fit in the van.
But,
(2') Every one of them did.

That trades on a distributive and non-distributive use of 'everyone' I guess, but that seems to be the difference between (1) and (2). Similarly for "how did everyone do?"

(1'') Everyone did less good than they could have.
But
(2'') Every one of them did the best that she could do.

This is the description, right, of the standard prisoner's dilemma.

Here's a more unsual story. There are situations in which it is obligatory that someone (or other) does X, but not obligatory that any particular person does X. Hintikka nicely describes these in a neglected paper 'Quantifiers in Deontic logic'(AFF). So the question: how did Amy, Bob and Carl do?
(1*) They (everyone) failed to fulfill an obligation to do X.
But it is not true that,
(2*) Every one of them (Amy, Bob and Carl) failed to fulfill an obligation to do X.

Amy had no obligation to do X and Bob had no obligation to do X and Carl had no such obligation. But rather it was obligatory that someone or other do X, and no one did. So all failed even if no one individual did.

Brit Brogaard said...

Hi Mike. I have to think about this one. It seems right that 'everyone' can have a non-distributive interpretation. That ought to affect truth-conditions, or at least it ought to affect the truth-conditions for assertoric content (if you follow Soames in drawing a distinction between assertoric content and semantic content). Interesting.

Brit Brogaard said...

I should add: so it would seem that 'everyone fit in the van' resists the sort of treatment suggested by Soames, because it doesn't mean the same as 'every one of them fit in the van' (asserted during a conversation about Amy, Carl, ...).

Mike said...

Maybe I'm reading (2') the wrong way. There is certainly a distributive and non-distributive sense of 'everyone'.
It is true that everyone can cross the bridge in one sense (one at a time) and false in another (all at once). I was reading (2') in the first way. But I confess I don't have much to go on except an "ear test". The answer,
(2') Every one of them did,
doesn't sound to me like 'every one of them did, together'. But that's not much of an argument.

Brit Brogaard said...

But that may not a problem, I think, for different predicates may trigger different readings. But even 'every one of them fit in the van', it seems, fails to have the collective reading, as you pointed out. However, I am wondering about 'everyone of them fit in the van'. Do you get a collective reading if 'everyone' is stressed?