Deliberative modality under epistemic uncertainty

Fabrizio Cariani*, Magdalena Kaufmann, Stefan Kaufmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


We discuss the semantic significance of a puzzle concerning 'ought' and conditionals recently discussed by Kolodny and MacFarlane. We argue that the puzzle is problematic for the standard Kratzer-style analysis of modality. In Kratzer's semantics, modals are evaluated relative to a pair of conversational backgrounds. We show that there is no sensible way of assigning values to these conversational backgrounds so as to derive all of the intuitions in Kolodny and MacFarlane's case. We show that the appropriate verdicts can be derived by extending Kratzer's framework to feature a third conversational background and claiming that the relevant reading of 'ought' is sensitive to this parameter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-259
Number of pages35
JournalLinguistics and Philosophy
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Decision theory
  • Deliberative modality
  • Kratzer semantics
  • Modality
  • Premise semantics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language

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