Research Story

Matt Sayball

Matthew Sayball
Graduated May 2006 | Major: Philosophy and Religion

"My Departmental Honors Project in Philosophy is concerned with conditional statements. In our daily lives, conditionals are commonly used in communication, in decision making, and in drawing inferences. Though even children understand conditionals and use them on a daily basis, philosophers see conditionals as the source of several thorny issues. Over the last fifty years, philosophers of language and logic have produced massive amounts of literature on conditionals, and the issues involved continue to receive much scholarly attention today. My project is focused on the syntax, semantics, and pragmatics of conditional statements in classical logic, modal logic, and ordinary English. The major issues that I take up include the classification, the interpretation of conditionals, and the meaning of conditional connectives like 'if'. I also examine the ways in which conditionals are and can be used to draw valid inferences. A conditional statement like 'had I known yesterday what I know now, today would be different' certainly seems meaningful. What is its meaning? Can it be considered as true? What might the conditions be that make it true? If it cannot be understood in terms of truth, how can it be understood? My project seeks to present, evaluate, and respond to the major views on these issues. This undergraduate research opportunityhas enabled me towork independently on a fertile contemporary subject with a highly-qualified adviser, Dr. Altrichter, andoffers me an authentic taste of what it is like to be a professional academic. Thanks to the Honors Program, the first-rate education in philosophy that I have received at UNCW has been enhanced in ways that I could have never predicted."