Free choice permission as resource-sensitive reasoning

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Chris Barker


Free choice permission is a long-standing puzzle in deontic logic and in natural language semantics. It involves what appears to be a conjunctive use of "or": from "You may eat an apple or a pear", we can infer that "You may eat an apple" and that "You may eat a pear" -- though not that "You may eat an apple and a pear". Following Lokhorst (1997), I argue that because permission is a limited resource, a resource-sensitive logic such as Girard's Linear Logic is better suited to modeling permission talk than, say, classical logic. A resource-sensitive approach enables the semantics to track not only that permission has been granted and what sort of permission it is (i.e., permission to eat apples versus permission to eat pears), but also how much permission has been granted, i.e., whether there is enough permission to eat two pieces of fruit or only one. The account here is primarily semantic (as opposed to pragmatic), with no special modes of composition or special pragmatic rules. The paper includes an introduction to Linear Logic.


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Chris Barker, NYU

Professor, Linguistics