Modality and Subjectivity Workshop

There'll be a one-day workshop on modality and subjectivity, free and open to the public, here at the University of Chicago on April 22nd. We managed to get a great crowd together, so it should be a lot of fun. More info here.

Central APA

Those who are interested and happen to be in the area can see me present my paper "Advice for Noncognitivists" at this year's Central APA (Thursday February 19, 12:10–2:10). Ezra Cook will chair the session and Thony Gillies kindly agreed to comment, so it promises to be a blast. Here is the abstract of the talk:


Metaethical noncognitivists have trouble arriving at a respectable semantic theory for moral language. The goal of this paper is make substantial progress toward demonstrating that these problems may be overcome. Replacing the predominant expressivist semantic agenda in metaethics with a dynamic perspective on meaning and communication allows noncognitivists to provide a satisfying analysis of negation and other constructions that have been argued to be problematic for metaethical noncognitivism, including disjunctions. The resulting proposal preserves some of the key insights from recent work on the semantics of expressivism while highlighting the widely neglected early noncognitivists' sympathies to a dynamic perspective on meaning and communication that stresses the role of moral language as a means for coordinating—rather than simply expressing—moral attitudes.

Talk, Talk, Talk Again

This busy fall season I will be delivering talks on dynamic conditionals and on metaethical noncognitivism at the following events:

  • PhLiP 2014 in Tarrytown, September 25–28 (more info here)
  • Semantic Content Workshop in Barcelona, November 6–8 (more info here)
  • Workshop on Modality and Probabilistic Semantics in Leeds, November 22–23

The material on dynamic conditionals elaborates upon my earlier work on indicative scorekeeping. The other material is brand new and tries to show that dynamic semantics has something useful to offer for those who are sympathetic to the noncognitivist agenda in metaethics.

Central APA

Those who are interested and happen to be in Chi-town at the end of February can see me present my paper "A Problem with Thinning" at this year's Central APA (Thursday February 27, 4:20–5:20, during a joyful session on Conditionals and Epistemic Modality). Here is the abstract of the talk:


I discuss a problem for the classical variably strict analysis of indicative conditionals. The problem is based on the observation, highlighted by Sobel sequences, that indicative conditionals resist thinning: a contingent indicative conditional does not retain its truth-value if one strengthens its antecedent with an arbitrary bit of information. I argue that, given minimal assumptions about the semantics and pragmatics of indicative conditionals, a variably strict analysis of indicative conditionals is empirically inadequate: it fails to account for the observation that indicative Sobel sequences are not only consistent but also assertible. The paper thus exploits data about thinning to argue against a prominent analysis of conditionals, but unlike previous discussions does not appeal to considerations about order-sensitivity to derive the problem.

Amsterdam Colloquium

This year's Amsterdam Colloquium will see me present my paper "Indicative Scorekeeping." A draft of the piece that is forthcoming in the conference proceedings is available in the Research section and the abstract is below.


Folklore has it that counterfactual Sobel sequences favor a variably strict analysis of conditionals over its plainly strict alternative. Recent discussions of the lore have focussed on the question whether data about reverse counterfactual Sobel sequences actually speak in favor of a dynamic revival of the strict analysis. This paper takes the discussion into a new direction by looking at straight indicative Sobel sequences. The observation is that a variably strict analysis fails to predict the felicity of these sequences given minimal semantic and pragmatic assumptions. A properly elaborated dynamic analysis of indicatives, in contrast, handles the data with grace.

Talk, Talk, Talk

Those who are interested can hear me talk about conditionals and deontic modals (and in some cases even deontic conditionals) at the following joyful events:

  • Workshop on Deontic Modals at Northwestern, April 19 (more info here)
  • USC Deontic Modality Workshop, May 20–22 (program here)
  • Conditionals Workshop at the MCMP, June 29–30

A bit of the material presented elaborates on my previous work on ifs and oughts, but there will also be plenty of new material for those who have listened to my stories before.

Update: the world is moving fast these days—the posting was outdated after merely 3 hours—and only two of the three events are actually going to happen.

SALT 22

The schedule for this year’s Semantics and Linguistic Theory is now online here, together with some other useful information. Needless to say, it is great to have such a distinguished event happening here at UChicago!

Home Games

Lots of exciting things are going on in the Windy City! First of, our regular Semantics and Philosophy of Language Workshop is getting in good shape and there are, or so we hope, even more goodies to come, so check out this term’s lineup here.

This academic year’s Central APA takes place in Chicago during its finest time of the year and I will gladly fight the ice to enjoy a few talks at the Palmer House. Friday afternoon will also see me give comments on Theodore Korzukhin’s “Dominance Conditionals and Adams’s Thesis”.

UChicago will also host SALT 22 in May 2012, which, to say the least, is a pretty big deal, and I am happy to be involved in organizing this fine event.

I will also have an out of town game in Seattle, presenting “Nonmonotonic Thoughts on Conditional Oughts” at the Pacific APA (April 2012). The paper behind this talk will be available in drafty form some time in the future. In the meantime, I’ve uploaded a revised draft of my good ol’ paper on epistemic modals.

Eastern APA Symposium

There will be a (refereed) Symposium on my paper "New Dynamics for Epistemic Modality" at this year's Eastern APA meeting. Lisa Warenski will chair the session and Giacomo Sillari will deliver the comments. Giacomo has done some great research on issues that are immediately relevant for my work on epistemic modals, so I am sure I will learn a lot from his comments. Kickoff for the two-hour event is 11:15 on Wednesday December 30th. Here is the abstract of the talk:

A dynamic semantics for epistemically modalised sentences is an attractive alternative to the orthodox view that our best theory of meaning ascribes to such sentences truth-conditions relative to what is known. I will demonstrate that a dynamic story about might and must offers elegant explanations of a range of puzzling observations about epistemic modals. It provides a unifying treatment of disputes about epistemic modality and disputes about matters of fact while at the same time avoiding relativism or an overly weak pragmatics. It also explains why agents are sometimes agnostic about certain epistemic possibilities and why they sometimes accept must-statements even though they do not know the prejacent.

The material presented is taken from my paper "Dynamics of Epistemic Modality", which gives you the full version of my story about epistemic modals. A draft of the full story is available in the Research section.

UT Austin Conference

The schedule for this year's UT grad conference has just gone online here. We will bring a bunch of great people into town, including David Barnett, Fred Dretske, Peter Railton, and Mark Schroeder as the keynote speakers (I know, I know: that is fantastic). Everybody is invited to join us. Kickoff for this three day event is April 17.