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Conditionals as Definite Descriptions (A Referential Analysis)

Abstract : Lewis 1973 observed that his logic for counterfactuals could be applied to definite descriptions. His generalization was that the latter display the same non-monotonic patterns as the former, contrary to what Russellian or Strawsonian accounts would predict. We take Lewis's suggestion literally and suggest that ‘if' should be analyzed as the word ‘the' applied to a description of possible worlds. We do not follow Lewis's own implementation, however, for it entails that definite descriptions do not refer. Rather, we use von Heusinger's Choice Function theory of definiteness to analyze both ‘if p' and ‘the P' as referential terms: ‘if p' denotes the closest p-world(s), while ‘the P' denotes the most salient P-individual(s).
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Contributor : Philippe Schlenker <>
Submitted on : Friday, October 18, 2002 - 2:53:37 AM
Last modification on : Monday, June 15, 2015 - 3:07:41 PM
Long-term archiving on: : Saturday, April 3, 2010 - 8:12:39 PM


  • HAL Id : ijn_00000151, version 1



Schlenker Philippe. Conditionals as Definite Descriptions (A Referential Analysis). Journal of Language & Computation, 2002. ⟨ijn_00000151⟩