If conditionals are causal, causation is not propositional

Bridget Copley, CNRS
In past work (Copley 2008) I argued for a three-way correlation between eventuality type, temporal orientation, and modal flavor in English non-deontic indicative conditionals. The proposal hinges on a type-theoretic difference between eventive and stative predicates: eventive predicates are treated as event descriptions, i.e. predicates of event arguments, whereas stative predicates are treated as propositions, i.e., predicates of situation arguments. Drawing on this proposal, I further explore here the idea of metaphysical modality using event descriptions, arguing that to retain a unified analysis of conditionals, conditionals must express causal relations between events, with any propositions type-shifted to event descriptions by an embedded discourse operator in the spirit of Krifka 2014. This conclusion fits well with the idea (Copley & Wolff 2014) that causation in language is best served by a “production” theory of causation such as Wolff’s (2007 e.g.), in which causal concepts are defined as configurations of forces or transmissions of energy, as opposed to a “dependency” theory of causation such as Lewis 1973, in which causation is defined in terms of propositions.