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Evidence, Experiment and Argument in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language

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Edited By Martin Hinton

This volume is concerned with issues in experimental philosophy and experimental linguistics. Examining experiments in language from a variety of perspectives, it asks what form they should take and what should count as evidence. There is particular focus on the status of linguistic intuitions and the use of language corpora. A number of papers address issues of methodology in experimental work, while other contributions examine the use of thought experiments and what the hypothetical can tell us about the actual. The aim of this collection is to bring together the work of linguists and philosophers in order that they may learn from one another, and to help both groups understand how the use of experimental methods can affect the arguments they employ and the claims they make.
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Martin Vacek - Possible Worlds and Advanced Modalizing Problems

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Martin Vacek

Slovak Academy of Sciences

Possible Worlds and Advanced Modalizing Problems

1. Introduction

Actual truths abound. Propositions such as ‘Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia’, ‘I am writing this paper’, ‘Pluto is not a planet’, and virtually infinitely many propositions are true because the world they describe is as it is. Possibilities abound too, for there is nothing controversial about claiming that ‘Bratislava could be the capital of Australia’, ‘I could be playing football’ or ‘Were the definition of “planet” different, Pluto would be a planet’. It is a simple fact that many situations, although actually false, are possible.

Such a plurality of possibilities calls for explanation. It is unintuitive to say that the actual world, the way things are, satisfies the conditions for infinitely many possibilities. The actual world reveals what there is, but it is far from clear that it also reveals what there might be. Philosophers have, of course, long been aware of this limitation and, in seeking a sufficient analysis of modality, have introduced the notion of a possible world.

The notion of a possible world plays at least two theoretical roles. First, possible worlds are possibility localizers. The proposition ‘Bratislava is the capital of Australia’ is actually false, but were the circumstances different, Bratislava could (at least in a broad logical sense) be the capital of Australia. Put differently, ‘Bratislava is the capital of Australia’ is true in a...

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