Talk: Matt Mandelkern (Oxford)
If p, then p!
The history of the conditional can be viewed as an attempt to find a theory which (i) does validate intuitive logical principles and (ii) does not make the conditional 'If p, then q' equivalent to the material conditional 'Not p or q'. This turns out to be a tricky task—so tricky, in fact, that it has led some to give up the game, arguing that conditionals are not in the terrain of truth-conditional meanings at all. In the first part of my talk, I will show that this job is even harder than we thought: there turns out to be a tension between the principle that 'If p, then p' is always true and the popular Import-Export principle, which says that we ''remember'' successive conditional antecedents in evaluating the consequent of the conditional. Indeed, I show that we cannot plausibly validate both principles without collapsing the conditional to the material conditional. As a result, many prominent theories of the conditional invalidate 'If p, then p'. I argue that this is a problem; after all, if p, then p! In the latter part of the talk, I will argue that this should not, however, lead us to despair of giving a truth-conditional theory of the conditional. I propose a route out of this impasse which depends on attention to logical differences between indicative conditionals (like 'If it rained, the picnic was cancelled') versus subjunctive conditionals (like 'If it had rained, the picnic would have been cancelled').