- The purpose of this note is to dispute Michael Ayers' claim that "there is no special problem of subjunctive conditionals".
- Ayers argues for the following theses:
- there is no special problem of counterfactual conditionals,
- the subjunctive conditional should not be confused with the counterfactual,
- the subjunctive conditional does not, as many authors have argued, differ from its indicative counterpart in that the former logically entails either that its antecedent is false, or that the speaker believes it to be false, whereas the latter does not, and
- there appear to be no special problems in attempting to characterize the conditions of verification and falsification of subjunctive conditionals which are not shared equally by indicative conditionals.
- Now, I agree with theses (1)-(3), but I feel that thesis (4) is misleadingly put, and when it is less misleadingly formulated, it is false.
- What I wish to argue is that subjunctive and indicative conditionals differ not so much as to their conditions of verification and falsification, as in the degrees to which they are justified or supported by evidence. There are occasions on which subjunctive conditionals are very well justified by evidence, but the corresponding indicatives are quite unjustified. Furthermore, the kind of justification here spoken of is fundamental to a characterization of 'the logic' of these sorts of statements.
- First I will exhibit three closely related examples of situations in which a subjunctive is justified, but its corresponding indicative is not. Then I will speculate briefly on the significance of these examples. The upshot will be to conclude that subjunctive and indicative conditionals are indeed logically distinct species, and there remains a special problem of analyzing subjunctives even after the indicatives are analyzed.
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