Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Graham Priest

Committee Members

Melvin Fitting

Edwin Mares

Gary Ostertag

Subject Categories

Logic and Foundations of Mathematics


Conditional Logic, Counterfactuals, Conditional Obligation, Counterpossibles, Modal Logic


Conditional logics were originally developed for the purpose of modeling intuitively correct modes of reasoning involving conditional—especially counterfactual—expressions in natural language. While the debate over the logic of conditionals is as old as propositional logic, it was the development of worlds semantics for modal logic in the past century that catalyzed the rapid maturation of the field. Moreover, like modal logic, conditional logic has subsequently found a wide array of uses, from the traditional (e.g. counterfactuals) to the exotic (e.g. conditional obligation). Despite the close connections between conditional and modal logic, both the technical development and philosophical exploitation of the latter has outstripped that of the former, with the result that noticeable lacunae exist in the literature on conditional logic. My dissertation addresses a number of these underdeveloped frontiers, producing new technical insights and philosophical applications.

I contribute to the solution of a problem posed by Priest of finding sound and complete labeled tableaux for systems of conditional logic from Lewis' V-family. To develop these tableaux, I draw on previous work on labeled tableaux for modal and conditional logic; errors and shortcomings in recent work on this problem are identified and corrected. While modal logic has by now been thoroughly studied in non-classical contexts, e.g. intuitionistic and relevant logic, the literature on conditional logic is still overwhelmingly classical. Another contribution of my dissertation is a thorough analysis of intuitionistic conditional logic, in which I utilize both algebraic and worlds semantics, and investigate how several novel embedding results might shed light on the philosophical interpretation of both intuitionistic logic and conditional logic extensions thereof.

My dissertation examines deontic and connexive conditional logic as well as the underappreciated history of connexive notions in the analysis of conditional obligation. The possibility of interpreting deontic modal logics in such systems (via embedding results) serves as an important theoretical guide. A philosophically motivated proscription on impossible obligations is shown to correspond to, and justify, certain (weak) connexive theses. Finally, I contribute to the intensifying debate over counterpossibles, counterfactuals with impossible antecedents, and take—in contrast to Lewis and Williamson—a non-vacuous line. Thus, in my view, a counterpossible like "If there had been a counterexample to the law of the excluded middle, Brouwer would not have been vindicated" is false, not (vacuously) true, although it has an impossible antecedent. I exploit impossible (non-normal) worlds—originally developed to model non-normal modal logics—to provide non-vacuous semantics for counterpossibles. I buttress the case for non-vacuous semantics by making recourse to both novel technical results and theoretical considerations.