Simplifying with Free Choice

My “Simplifying with Free Choice” is now forthcoming in Topoi as a contribution to a selection of papers presented at the 20th Amsterdam Colloquium. I will post the doi as soon as it becomes available. In the meantime, here is the abstract:

This paper offers a unified semantic explanation of two observations that prove to be problematic for classical analyses of modals, conditionals, and disjunctions: (i) the fact that disjunctions scoping under possibility modals give rise to the free choice effect and (ii) the fact that counterfactuals license simplification of disjunctive antecedents. It shows that the data are well explained by a dynamic semantic analysis of modals and conditionals that uses ideas from the inquisitive semantic tradition in its treatment of disjunction. The analysis explains why embedding a disjunctive possibility under negation reverts disjunction to its classical behavior, is general enough to predict less studied simplification patterns, and also makes progress toward a unified perspective on the distinction between informative, inquisitive, and attentive content.

Lessons from Sobel Sequences

My “Lessons from Sobel Sequences” is now forthcoming in Semantics and Pragmatics. I will post the doi as soon as it becomes available. In the meantime, here is the abstract:

Folklore has it that Sobel sequences favor a variably strict analysis of conditionals over its plainly strict alternative. While recent discussions for or against the lore have focussed on Sobel sequences involving counterfactuals, this paper draws attention to the fact that indicative Sobel sequences are just as felicitous as are their counterfactual cousins. The fact, or so I shall argue here, disrupts the folklore: given minimal assumptions about the semantics and pragmatics of indicative conditionals, a textbook variably strict analysis fails to predict that indicative Sobel sequences are felicitous. The correct lesson to draw from Sobel sequences is that their felicity challenges classical implementations of the variably strict and of the plainly strict analysis alike. In response to this challenge I develop a dynamic strict analysis of conditionals that handles indicative Sobel sequences with grace while preserving intuitive constraints on the semantics and pragmatics of their members. A discussion of how such an analysis may handle the challenge from reverse Sobel sequences is provided.

Honoring Josef Stern

The Department of Philosophy at the University of Chicago is organizing a conference in honor of Josef Stern, William H. Colvin Professor Emeritus in the Department of Philosophy and in the College, and Inaugural Director of the Chicago Center for Jewish Studies. The conference will be an occasion to honor Josef Stern’s work and his contributions to the University, where he retired in the Spring quarter 2016 after having taught almost continuously since 1979.

The conference will be held at the Franke Institute for the Humanities on December 4–5, 2016. More info here.

Advice for Noncognitivists

My unsolicited advice to noncognitivsts is forthcoming in Pacific Philosophical Quarterly (available online here). Here is the abstract:

Metaethical noncognitivists have trouble arriving at a respectable semantic theory for moral language. The goal of this paper is to 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 the kind of dynamic story I intend to tell here. A comparison between the advertised dynamic semantic story and current proposals that treat expressivism as a pragmatic rather than semantic theory about moral language is provided.

DEON 2016

Deontic Logic and Normative Systems 2016 is starting a week from today at the University of Bayreuth. It was great working on the program with Olivier Roy and Allard Tamminga, and we have a great lineup, including keynotes from John Broome, Janice Dowell, Gabriella Pigozzi, and Xavier Parent. More info here.


I will be talking about reasoning with epistemic modals at the Summer School in Cognitive Sciences 2016, courtesy of UQAM. This promises to be a lot of fun and the program looks fantastic, so stop by if you are in the neighborhood!

Quantrell Award

I am deeply honored to have received a Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. You can find some news coverage here.

March Events

This March will see me attend three wonderful events as speaker or commentator:

So it will be a busy month but I look forward to spending time with a great bunch of philosophers and linguists.

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.

Subjectivity in Language and Thought

I am pleased to announce that the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society will fund a three-year interdisciplinary research initiative on the nature of subjectivity in language and thought, led by me and Chris Kennedy. Kick-off is the autumn quarter of 2014 and a brief project description is provided here (together with outlines of a bunch of other exciting projects). Needless to say, those who are interested will hear more about this initiative once it gets rolling.