Modals with a taste of the deontic

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Joshua Knobe
Zoltán Gendler Szabó


The aim of this paper is to present an explanation for the impact of normative considerations on people's assessment of certain seemingly purely descriptive matters concerning freedom, causation, and intentionality. The explanation is based on two main claims. First, the relevant judgments are modal: the sentences evaluated are contextually equivalent to modal proxies. Second, the interpretation of predominantly circumstantial or teleological modals is subject to normative constraints which make certain possibilities salient at the expense of others.

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Joshua Knobe, Yale University

Associate Professor Program in Cognitive Science and Department of Philosophy

Zoltán Gendler Szabó, Yale University

Professor Department of Philosophy