Lewis on accommodation and representation de re (Gary Ostertag)

The Logic and Metaphysics Workshop will meet on March 6th from 4:15-6:15 (NY time) in-person at the Graduate Center (Room 9206) for a talk by Gary Ostertag (CUNY/Mount Sinai).

Title: Lewis on accommodation and representation de re

Abstract: Recall Lumpl, the lump of clay out of which the statue Goliath is fashioned. While (1) ‘Lumpl could have survived a squashing’ is true, (2) ‘Goliath could have survived a squashing’ is false, it being after all essential to Goliath, but not to Lumpl, that it be a statue. We have here an example of what David Lewis (1986) called “the inconstancy of representation de re”. For Lewis, the inconstancy does not amount to inconsistency, but rather points to the context-sensitivity of de re modal predication: (1) and (2) make implicit, context-sensitive reference to different counterpart relations. Once we recognize this, Lewisians argue, it becomes clear how our intuitive truth-conditional judgments are fully consistent. As I show, however, the conversational rule that triggers the implicit reference not only fails to license the reference shift, it effectively prohibits it. The upshot is that counterpart theory is deprived of a central motivation.

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