Conditionals

Conditionals

Conditionals

Conditionals

Synopsis

Conditionals has at its centre an extended essay on this problematic and much-debated subject in the philosophy of language and logic, which the widely respected Oxford philosopher Michael Woods had been preparing for publication at the time of his death in 1993. Woods discusses the distinction between different kinds of conditionals, and then goes on to cover a range of topics, including assertibility, conditional probability, possible-worlds theories, and conditional commands and questions. He ends up sketching a new theory of counterfactual conditionals. This essay is edited for publication by Wood's friend and colleague David Wiggins, and accompanied by a commentary specially written by a leading expert on the topic, Dorothy Edgington. The masterful and original treatment of conditionals presented in this book will demand the attention of all philosophers working in this area.

Excerpt

This monograph derives from one chapter of Michael Woods projected book Philosophical Logic, a full-length, comprehensive, and self-contained work which the Oxford University Press was to have received in January 1994. Michael Woods fell ill in the Autumn of 1992 and died on 2 April 1993. The material that the author left at his death was transcribed and placed in order by his Brasenose colleague, John Foster. In the end it appeared to publishers and executors that the only continuous section that did not present intractable problems was Chapter 9, the treatment of conditionals. In advance of their arranging for anything else to be attempted, they asked me to edit this for publication. This section was both complete and self-contained. Indeed, Woods had read extracts from it at various meetings.

As the reader will swiftly appreciate, the aspirations of this fragment transcend altogether those of any textbook treatment of the kind that the author was contemplating for the range of questions that he had chosen for his treatise in philosophical grammar. What we have here, albeit without the many revisions, amplifications, finishing touches, and emphases its author would have inserted, is an original essay on one of the oldest, most troublesome questions of logic.

The essay contained a beginning, middle, and end and a continuous development, but it lacked many things the philosophical public now expects. Turning at the outset for help with various bibliographical questions to Dorothy Edgington, my then colleague in the Philosophy Department at Birkbeck College and an authority within English-speaking philosophy on the subject of conditionals, and enlisting her further help in supplying certain extra materials that the author had indicated his settled intention to include, I was drawn to the idea that my colleague might be willing to furnish a commentary on Woods's essay. This would bring the essay to the attention of a wider public and push the argument about certain of Woods's crucial contentions yet further, all in a way that I believe he would greatly have welcomed. The result of her co-operation is a book that advances these . . .

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