Deontic Modals Without Decision Theory

  • Jennifer Carr


The classic account of modals faces counterexamples. It makes the wrong predictions for a wide range of cases involving information-sensitive deontic modals. Some conservative amendments to the classic account have been proposed in order to avoid these problems. These accounts also face counterexamples. I argue that these counterexamples are manifestations of a deeper problem for the classic account and its recent variants: they all inadvertently build controversial normative assumptions into the semantics of modals. These normative assumptions come in the form of decision rules: they tell us how to go from some objective body of values to a verdict about what subjectively we ought to do, given our limited information. The fact that these decision rules are unattractive explains why many of the resulting predictions are judged false. I propose a generalization of the classic account. The view I defend introduces an additional parameter that is sensitive to norms of rational action under uncertainty. Instead of building these norms into the semantics, we should let them be determined by context.
How to Cite
Carr, J. (1). Deontic Modals Without Decision Theory. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 17, 167-182. Retrieved from