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Agential Free Choice (Melissa Fusco)

The Logic and Metaphysics Workshop will meet on November 5th from 4:15-6:15 in room 6494 of the CUNY Graduate Center for a talk by Melissa Fusco (Columbia).

Title: Agential Free Choice

Abstract: The Free Choice effect—whereby ♢(p or q) seems to entail both ♢p and ♢q—has long been described as a phenomenon affecting the deontic modal “may”. This paper presents an extension of the semantic account of deontic free choice defended in Fusco (2015) to the agentive modal “can”, the “can” which, intuitively, describes an agent’s powers. I begin by sketching a model of inexact ability, which grounds a modal approach to agency (Belnap & Perloff, 1998; Belnap et al., 2001) in a Williamson (1992, 2014)-style margin of error. A classical propositional semantics combined with this framework can reflect the intuitions highlighted by Kenny (1976)’s much-discussed dartboard cases, as well as the counterexamples to simple conditional views recently discussed by Mandelkern et al. (2017). In §3, I substitute for classical disjunction an independently motivated generalization of Boolean join—one which makes the two diagonally, but not generally, equivalent—and show how it extends free choice inferences into a simple object language.

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