What the future 'might' brings

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This paper concerns a puzzle about the interaction of epistemic modals and future tense. In cases of predictable forgetfulness, speakers cannot describe their future states of mind with epistemic modals under future tense, but promising theories of epistemic modals do not predict this. In §1, I outline the puzzle. In §2, I argue that it undermines a very general approach to epistemic modals that draws a tight connection between epistemic modality and evidence. In §3, I defend the assumption that tense can indeed scope over epistemic modals. In §4, I outline a new way of determining the domain of quantification of epistemic modals: epistemic modals quantify over the worlds compatible with the information accumulated within a certain interval. Information loss can change which interval is relevant for determining the domain. In §5, I defend the view from some objections. In §6, I explore the connections between my view of epistemic modality and circumstantial modality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)809-829
Number of pages21
Issue number515
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


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