'Might' Made Right

Kai Von Fintel, Anthony S. Gillies

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

91 Scopus citations


The simplest story about modals is also the canon: modals are contextdependent quantifiers over a domain of possibilities. Epistemic modals quantify over possibilities compatible with what is known. Just whose knowledge, or whose information state, is relevant is something decided by the context. The canon is simple and elegant but not quite right. The problem with the canon is that it is weighed down by the fiction that there is a determinate context in which an utterance of a bare epistemic modal is issued. On the story of this chapter, it is indeterminate just which group, or just which aggregated information state, is quantified over by such bare epistemic modals. This chapter explores how a story that exploits this contextual indeterminacy can explain what needs explaining without departing from what's right about the canon and so without positing anything semantically peculiar about bare occurrences of epistemic modals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEpistemic Modality
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191729027
ISBN (Print)9780199591596
StatePublished - Sep 22 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Contextual indeterminacy
  • Contextualism
  • Epistemic modals
  • Information states

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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