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The Journal of Philosophy

Volume 117, Issue 6, June 2020

Matthew Mandelkern
Pages 315-331

A Counterexample to Modus Ponenses

McGee (1985) 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 (the focus of most of the literature to date) to subjunctive conditionals, we find that modus ponens does not preserve either truth or rational full acceptance, and thus is not valid in either sense. In concluding I briefly consider how we can account for these facts.

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