# Matthew Mandelkern

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
PhD, 2017
New York, New York, United States of America
Areas of Specialization
•  1191
##### Good Guesses with Kevin Dorst Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. forthcoming.
This paper is about guessing: how people respond to a question when they aren’t certain of the answer. Guesses show surprising and systematic patterns that the most obvious theories don’t explain. We argue that these patterns reveal that people aim to optimize a tradeoff between accuracy and informativity when forming their guess. After spelling out our theory, we use it to argue that guessing plays a central role in our cognitive lives. In particular, our account of guessing yields new theories…Read more
•  527
##### Bounded Modality Philosophical Review 128 (1): 1-61. 2019.
What does 'might' mean? One hypothesis is that 'It might be raining' is essentially an avowal of ignorance like 'For all I know, it's raining'. But it turns out these two constructions embed in different ways, in particular as parts of larger constructions like Wittgenstein's 'It might be raining and it's not' and Moore's 'It's raining and I don't know it', respectively. A variety of approaches have been developed to account for those differences. All approaches agree that both Moore sentences a…Read more
•  488
##### If p, then p! Journal of Philosophy. forthcoming.
The Identity principle says that conditionals with the form 'If p, then p' are logical truths. Identity is overwhelmingly plausible, and has rarely been explicitly challenged. But a wide range of conditionals nonetheless invalidate it. I explain the problem, and argue that the culprit is the principle known as Import-Export, which we must thus reject. I then explore how we can reject Import-Export in a way that still makes sense of the intuitions that support it, arguing that the differences bet…Read more
•  433
##### A Counterexample to Modus Ponenses Journal of Philosophy 117 (6): 315-331. 2020.
McGee argued that modus ponens was invalid for the natural language conditional ‘If…then…’. Many subsequent responses have argued that, while McGee’s examples show that modus ponens fails to preserve truth, they do not show that modus ponens fails to preserve rational full acceptance, and thus modus ponens may still be valid in the latter informational sense. I show that when we turn our attention from indicative conditionals to subjunctive conditionals, we find that modus ponens does not preser…Read more
•  395
##### Agentive Modals with Ginger Schultheis and David Boylan Philosophical Review 126 (3): 301-343. 2017.
This essay proposes a new theory of agentive modals: ability modals and their duals, compulsion modals. After criticizing existing approaches—the existential quantificational analysis, the universal quantificational analysis, and the conditional analysis—it presents a new account that builds on both the existential and conditional analyses. On this account, the act conditional analysis, a sentence like ‘John can swim across the river’ says that there is some practically available action that is …Read more
•  345
##### Eavesdropping: What is it good for? with Jonathan Phillips Semantics and Pragmatics. forthcoming.
Eavesdropping judgments (judgments about truth, retraction, and consistency across contexts) about epistemic modals have been used in recent years to argue for a radical thesis: that truth is assessment-relative. We argue that judgments for 'I think that p' pattern in strikingly similar ways to judgments for 'Might p' and 'Probably p'. We argue for this by replicating three major experiments involving the latter and adding a condition with the form 'I think that p', showing that subjects respond…Read more
•  340
##### Practical Moore Sentences Noûs 55 (1): 39-61. 2021.
I discuss what I call practical Moore sentences: sentences like ‘You must close your door, but I don’t know whether you will’, which combine an order together with an avowal of agnosticism about whether the order will be obeyed. I show that practical Moore sentences are generally infelicitous. But this infelicity is surprising: it seems like there should be nothing wrong with giving someone an order while acknowledging that you do not know whether it will obeyed. I suggest that this infelicity p…Read more
•  330
##### Triviality Results and the Relationship between Logical and Natural Languages with Justin Khoo Mind 128 (510): 485-526. 2019.
Inquiry into the meaning of logical terms in natural language (‘and’, ‘or’, ‘not’, ‘if’) has generally proceeded along two dimensions. On the one hand, semantic theories aim to predict native speaker intuitions about the natural language sentences involving those logical terms. On the other hand, logical theories explore the formal properties of the translations of those terms into formal languages. Sometimes, these two lines of inquiry appear to be in tension: for instance, our best logical inv…Read more
•  303
##### Import‐Export and ‘And’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 100 (1): 118-135. 2020.
Import-Export says that a conditional 'If p, if q, r' is always equivalent to the conditional 'If p and q, r'. I argue that Import-Export does not sit well with a classical approach to conjunction: given some plausible and widely accepted principles about conditionals, Import-Export together with classical conjunction leads to absurd consequences. My main goal is to draw out these surprising connections. In concluding I argue that the right response is to reject Import-Export and adopt instead a…Read more
•  293
##### Modality and expressibility Review of Symbolic Logic 12 (4): 768-805. 2019.
When embedding data are used to argue against semantic theory A and in favor of semantic theory B, it is important to ask whether A could make sense of those data. It is possible to ask that question on a case-by-case basis. But suppose we could show that A can make sense of all the embedding data which B can possibly make sense of. This would, on the one hand, undermine arguments in favor of B over A on the basis of embedding data. And, provided that the converse does not hold—that is, that A c…Read more
•  291
##### A Note on the Architecture of Presupposition Semantics and Pragmatics 9 (13). 2016.
The Proviso Problem is the discrepancy between the predictions of nearly every major theory of semantic presupposition about what is semantically presupposed by conditionals, disjunctions, and conjunctions, versus observations about what speakers of certain sentences are felt to be presupposing. I argue that the Proviso Problem is a more serious problem than has been widely recognized. After briefly describing the problem and two standard responses to it, I give a number of examples which, I arg…Read more
•  257
##### Sticky situations: 'Force' and quantifier domains with Jonathan Phillips Semantics and Linguistic Theory 28. forthcoming.
When do we judge that someone was forced to do what they did? One relatively well-established finding is that subjects tend to judge that agents were not forced to do actions when those actions violate norms. A surprising discovery of Young & Phillips 2011 is that this effect seems to disappear when we frame the relevant ‘force’-claim in the active rather than passive voice ('X forced Y to φ ' vs. 'Y was forced to φ by X'). Young and Phillips found a similar contrast when the scenario itself shi…Read more
•  256
##### Assertion is Weak with Kevin Dorst Philosophers' Imprint. forthcoming.
Recent work has argued that belief is weak: the level of rational credence required for belief is relatively low. That literature has contrasted belief with assertion, arguing that the latter requires an epistemic state much stronger than (weak) belief—perhaps knowledge or even certainty. We argue that this is wrong: assertion is just as weak as belief. We first present a variety of new arguments for this claim, and then show that the standard arguments for stronger norms are not convincing. Fin…Read more
•  245
##### Asymmetry in presupposition projection: The case of conjunction with Jeremy Zehr, Jacopo Romoli, and Florian Schwarz Semantics and Linguistic Theory 27. forthcoming.
Is the basic mechanism behind presupposition projection fundamentally asymmetric or symmetric? This is a basic question for the theory of presupposition, which also bears on broader issues concerning the source of asymmetries observed in natural language: are these simply rooted in superficial asymmetries of language use— language use unfolds in time, which we experience as fundamentally asymmetric— or can they be, at least in part, directly referenced in linguistic knowledge and representations…Read more
•  240
##### How to do things with modals Mind and Language 35 (1): 115-138. 2020.
Mind &amp;Language, Volume 35, Issue 1, Page 115-138, February 2020.
•  223
##### I Believe I Can φ with Ginger Schultheis and David Boylan In Thomas Brochhagen, Floris Roelofsen & Nadine Theiler (eds.), Proceedings of the 20th Amsterdam Colloquium, . pp. 256-265. 2015.
We propose a new analysis of ability modals. After briefly criticizing extant approaches, we turn our attention to the venerable but vexed conditional analysis of ability ascriptions. We give an account that builds on the conditional analysis, but avoids its weaknesses by incorporating a layer of quantification over a contextually supplied set of actions.
•  218
##### The case of the missing ‘If’: Accessibility relations in Stalnaker’s theory of conditionals Semantics and Pragmatics. forthcoming.
A part of Stalnaker (1968)’s influential theory of conditionals has been neglected, namely the role for an accessibility relation between worlds. I argue that the accessibility relation does not play the role intended for it in the theory as stated, and propose a minimal revision which solves the problem, and brings the theory in line with the formulation in Stalnaker &amp; Thomason 1970.
•  210
##### Talking about worlds Philosophical Perspectives 32 (1): 298-325. 2018.
I explore the logic of the conditional, using credence judgments to argue against Duality and in favor of Conditional Excluded Middle. I then explore how to give a theory of the conditional which validates the latter and not the former, developing a variant on Kratzer (1981)'s restrictor theory, as well as a proposal which combines Stalnaker (1968)'s theory of the conditional with the theory of epistemic modals I develop in Mandelkern 2019a. I argue that the latter approach fits naturally with a…Read more
•  189
##### Witnesses Linguistics and Philosophy. forthcoming.
The meaning of definite descriptions (like ‘the King of France’, ‘the girl’, etc.) has been a central topic in philosophy and linguistics for the past century. Indefinites (‘Something is on the floor’, ‘A child sat down’, etc.) have been relatively neglected in philosophy, under the Russellian assumption that they can be unproblematically treated as existential quantifiers. However, an important tradition, drawing from Stoic logic, has pointed to patterns which suggest that indefinites cannot be…Read more
•  162
##### What ‘must’ adds Linguistics and Philosophy 42 (3): 225-266. 2019.
There is a difference between the conditions in which one can felicitously use a ‘must’-claim like and those in which one can use the corresponding claim without the ‘must’, as in : \begin{aligned}&\hbox {} \,\,\quad \hbox {a. It must be raining out}.\\&\qquad \,\,\, \hbox {b. It is raining out}. \end{aligned}It is difficult to pin down just what this difference amounts to. And it is difficult to account for this difference, since assertions of \Must p\ and assertions of p alone seem to have…Read more
•  161
##### Roads to Necessitarianism with Daniel Rothschild Journal of Philosophical Logic 50 (1): 89-96. 2021.
We show that each of three natural sets of assumptions about the conditional entails necessitarianism: that anything possible is necessary.
•  155
##### Definiteness Projection with Daniel Rothschild Natural Language Semantics 1-33. 2019.
We argue that definite noun phrases give rise to uniqueness inferences characterized by a pattern we call definiteness projection. Definiteness projection says that the uniqueness inference of a definite projects out unless there is an indefinite antecedent in a position that filters presuppositions. We argue that definiteness projection poses a serious puzzle for e-type theories of (in)definites; on such theories, indefinites should filter existence presuppositions but not uniqueness presupposi…Read more
•  152
##### Against Preservation with Justin Khoo Analysis 79 (3): 424-436. 2019.
Bradley offers a quick and convincing argument that no Boolean semantic theory for conditionals can validate a very natural principle concerning the relationship between credences and conditionals. We argue that Bradley’s principle, Preservation, is, in fact, invalid; its appeal arises from the validity of a nearby, but distinct, principle, which we call Local Preservation, and which Boolean semantic theories can non-trivially validate.
•  147
##### Dissatisfaction Theory Semantics and Linguistic Theory 26 391-416. forthcoming.
I propose a new theory of semantic presupposition, which I call dissatisfaction theory. I first briefly review a cluster of problems − known collectively as the proviso problem − for most extant theories of presupposition, arguing that the main pragmatic response to them faces a serious challenge. I avoid these problems by adopting two changes in perspective on presupposition. First, I propose a theory of projection according to which presuppositions project unless they are locally entailed. Sec…Read more
•  125
##### Independence Day? with Daniel Rothschild Journal of Semantics 36 (2): 193-210. 2019.
Two recent and influential papers, van Rooij 2007 and Lassiter 2012, propose solutions to the proviso problem that make central use of related notions of independence—qualitative in the first case, probabilistic in the second. We argue here that, if these solutions are to work, they must incorporate an implicit assumption about presupposition accommodation, namely that accommodation does not interfere with existing qualitative or probabilistic independencies. We show, however, that this assumpti…Read more
•  110
##### Dynamic Non-Classicality Australasian Journal of Philosophy 98 (2): 382-392. 2020.
I show that standard dynamic approaches to the semantics of epistemic modals invalidate the classical laws of excluded middle and non-contradiction, as well as the law of epistemic non-contradiction. I argue that these facts pose a serious challenge.
•  109
##### Parsing and Presupposition in the Calculation of Local Contexts with Jacopo Romoli Semantics and Pragmatics. forthcoming.
In this paper, we use antecedent-final conditionals to formulate two problems for parsing-based theories of presupposition projection and triviality of the kind given in Schlenker 2009. We show that, when it comes to antecedent-final conditionals, parsing-based theories predict filtering of presuppositions where there is in fact projection, and triviality judgments for sentences which are in fact felicitous. More concretely, these theories predict that presuppositions triggered in the antecedent…Read more
•  100
##### A solution to Karttunen's Problem In Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 21, . 2017.
There is a difference between the conditions in which one can felicitously assert a ‘must’-claim versus those in which one can use the corresponding non-modal claim. But it is difficult to pin down just what this difference amounts to. And it is even harder to account for this difference, since assertions of 'Must ϕ' and assertions of ϕ alone seem to have the same basic goal: namely, coming to agreement that [[ϕ]] is true. In this paper I take on this puzzle, known as Karttunen’s Problem. I begi…Read more
•  22
##### We’ve discovered that projection across conjunction is asymmetric with Jérémy Zehr, Jacopo Romoli, and Florian Schwarz Linguistics and Philosophy 43 (5): 473-514. 2020.
Is the mechanism behind presupposition projection and filtering fundamentally asymmetric or symmetric? This is a foundational question for the theory of presupposition which has been at the centre of attention in recent literature. It also bears on broader issues concerning the source of asymmetries observed in natural language: are these simply rooted in superficial asymmetries of language use ; or are they, at least in part, directly encoded in linguistic knowledge and representations? In this…Read more
•  7
##### We’ve discovered that projection across conjunction is asymmetric with Jérémy Zehr, Jacopo Romoli, and Florian Schwarz Linguistics and Philosophy 43 (5): 473-514. 2020.
Is the mechanism behind presupposition projection and filtering fundamentally asymmetric or symmetric? This is a foundational question for the theory of presupposition which has been at the centre of attention in recent literature :287–316, 2008b. https://doi.org/10.1515/THLI.2008.021, Semant Pragmat 2:1–78, 2009. https://doi.org/10.3765/sp.2.3; Rothschild in Semant Pragmat 4:1–43, 2011/2015. https://doi.org/10.3765/sp.4.3 a.o.). It also bears on broader issues concerning the source of asymmetri…Read more