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Conditional sentences are among the most intriguing and puzzling features of language: analysis of their meaning and function has important implications for, and uses in, many areas of philosophy. Jonathan Bennett, one of the world's leading experts, distils many years' work and teaching into this Philosophical Guide to Conditionals, the fullest and most authoritative treatment of the subject. The literature on conditionals is difficult - needlessly so. Bennett's treatment is meticulously careful and luminously clear. He presents and evaluates in detail various approaches to the understanding of 'indicative' conditionals (like 'If Shakespeare didn't write Hamlet, some aristocrat did') and 'subjunctive' conditionals (like 'If rabbits had not been deliberately introduced into New Zealand, there would be none there today'); and he offers his own view, which will be recognized as a major original contribution to the subject.
Journeying through this intellectual territory brings one into contact with the metaphysics of possible worlds, probability and belief-change, probability and logic, the pragmatics of conversation, determinism, ambiguity, vagueness, the law of excluded middle, facts versus events, and more. One might perhaps learn more philosophy from a thorough study of conditionals than from any other kind of work. Bennett's Guide is an ideal introduction for undergraduates with a philosophical grounding, and will also be a rich source of illumination and stimulation for graduate students and professional philosophers.
Jonathan Bennett, who now lives on an island near Vancouver, British Columbia, was formerly Lecturer in Moral Science at the University of Cambridge, and Professor of Philosophy at the University of British Columbia and then at Syracuse University. He has held visiting positions at Cornell, Michigan, Pittsburgh, and Princeton, and has been a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and a visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. He is Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the British Academy.
1. Introduction ; 2. The Material Condition: Grice ; 3. The Material Condition: Jackson ; 4. The Equation ; 5. The Equation Attacked ; 6. The Subjectivity of Indicative Conditionals ; 7. Indicative Conditionals Lack Truth Values ; 8. Uses of Indicative Conditionals ; 9. The Logic of Indicative Conditionals ; 10. Subjunctive Conditionals - First Steps ; 11. The Competition for 'Closest' ; 12. Unrolling from the Antecedent Time ; 13. Forks ; 14. Reflections on Legality ; 15. Truth at the Actual World ; 16. Subjunctive Conditionals and Probability ; 17. 'Even If...' ; 18. Backward Subjunctive Conditionals ; 19. Subjunctive Conditionals and Time's Arrow ; 20. Support Theories ; 21. The Need for Worlds ; 22. Relating the Two Kinds of Conditional ; 23. Unifying the Two Kinds of Conditional ; References ; Index of Persons ; Index of Topics
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