Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Graham Priest

Committee Members

Gary Ostertag

Melvin Fitting

Arnold Koslow

Stephen Neale

Subject Categories

Logic and Foundations of Mathematics | Metaphysics | Philosophy | Philosophy of Language


conditionals, factual conditionals, counterfactuals, conditional logic, ordinary-language conditional


In this dissertation I provide a novel logic of the ordinary-language conditional. First, however, I endeavor to make clearer and more precise just what the objects of the study of the conditional are, as a lack of clarity as to what counts as an instance of a given category of conditional has resulted in deep and significant confusions in subsequent analysis. I motivate for a factual/counterfactual distinction, though not at the level of particular instances of the conditional. Instead, I argue that each individual instance of the conditional may be interpreted either factually or counterfactually, rather than these instances dividing into distinct types. I examine the classic Oswald–Kennedy pair of sentences, typically taken to be the quintessential example of how conditionals must be split into two different categories, to show that they in fact do not demonstrate this. I then present my account of the logic underlying the ordinary-language conditional, the system C3, and a justification of the form it takes. This logic provides distinct interpretations of the conditional as it concerns what is factual or what is counterfactual, respectively. The factual interpretation is true when both antecedent and consequent are true at the actual world, false when the antecedent is true and consequent false, and not truth-apt otherwise. The counterfactual interpretation incorporates a ceteris paribus clause, ensuring that it is not falsified by extraordinary, ivunforeseeable occurrences, and is true when, at all worlds at which the antecedent is ceteris paribus true, the consequent too is true. It is false when, at any of these worlds the consequent is false; and not truth-apt otherwise. I go on to examine alternative theories of the conditional—from the suppositionalist approach to evaluating the putative indicative conditional, to Stalnaker’s combined indicative and counterfactual account, and Lewis’s analysis of the counterfactual; among a number of others—and offer comparison to my own theory. Finally, I look at various challenges to my account of the conditional. Being a strict conditional (albeit variably so), that of C3 is open to the objection that it fails to match ordinary speakers’ intuitions as regards its truth-value assignments to, for instance, conditionals with necessarily true consequents. I address these so- called paradoxes of the strict conditional, and also discussion the question of truth-preservation in the C3 system in the case of such inferences as those relying on transitivity and that of modus ponens. I maintain that these inferences are indeed truth-preserving under certain, specifiable, conditions, and I close by offering possible avenues for further research.