Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bare Conditionals

It seems to me that the relationship between (1) and (2) might be analogous to the relationship between (3) and (4). Does this sound right to anyone?

1. Whenever I go to the store, I get milk.

2. I go to the store, I get milk.

3. All Cats are furry.

4. Cats are furry.

Of course, I don't know much about any of these kinds of sentences. But, if there is an analogous relationship, then we might be able to learn more about sentences like (2) by thinking about sentences like (4).

I guess I am slightly worried that (2) has no truth value. Since all the other sentences definitely have truth values, that would be a significant difference between the relationship between (1) and (2) and (3) and (4). But, my worry is not very strong since I do think that (2) has a truth value.

My own naive idea is that (3) and (4) are necessarily co-extensive in truth value. That makes me think that (1) and (2) are as well. But, like I said, I don't know much about this stuff.


Blogger Chris Tillman said...

What one should think about generics makes a big difference here, I suspect. 'Cats are furry' naturally sounds like all cats are furry but 'Lions are in my house' does not have the same effect. One suspects the difference is (throw up in my mouth a little) contextual. This may well be (gag) a similarity it shares with (2). Dunno.

1:34 AM  
Blogger Neal Tognazzini said...

It doesn't seem to me that (3) and (4) stand or fall together. Without the universal quantifier, the statement that cats are furry sounds to me a lot like the statement that humans have eyes. Not every human has eyes, but to point that out to someone teaching an anatomy class would just be pedantic. Of course not every human has eyes, but that doesn't change the fact that humans have eyes. So (3) sounds to me like a statement about the typical characteristics of cats.

9:26 AM  
Blogger Joshua said...

I agree with both of you that it is not at all obvious that (3) and (4) are necessarily co-extensive in truth value. I like Chris's example "Lions are in my house". That has the same grammatical structure as "Cats are furry", yet it does not seem at all to have the same truth value as "All Lions are in my house". This does suggest to me that the naive view might be false.

I guess my main idea was that if we can figure out what (4) is necessarily co-extensive with, then we can figure out what (2) is co-extensive with as well. Consider Neal's suggestion that "Cats are furry" has the same truth value as "Cats are typically furry". If this were correct, then I would be inclined to say that "I go to the store, I get milk" has the same truth value as "I go to the store, I typically get milk" (or something like that).

3:40 PM  
Blogger Neal Tognazzini said...

Hey Joshua -- I don't think (2) has a truth value. In fact, it's not even a grammatical sentence, is it? If you are trying to do something similar to what you did in the move from (3) to (4) -- namely eliminate some sort of universal quantification -- then I would think (2) should read as follows: "I get milk when I go to the store." Then it sounds more analogous to the cats case. Just as we can ask, "Sure cats are furry, but are ALL cats furry?", so we can ask, "Sure you get milk when you go to the store, but do you do that EVERY TIME?" In other words, I think the word 'whenever' captures more than just universal quantification, so you have to keep part of it in there when you eliminate the quantification.

4:47 PM  

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