Monday, January 27, 2014

Conditional commitments


  1. Assuming you pass at least one of your classes this spring, we will hire you in May.
  2. We will hire you in May.

To a literalist it sounds like 2 makes the stronger commitment than 1.

But suppose that you get the lowest passing grade in one of your classes, and Fs in all the others. Then if I said 2, I could say: "Well, of course, but I was assuming half-decent performance." But if I said 1, I can't say that!

What's going on? Normally when I say what I will do, there are some unstated conditions. But when I get into the business of stating conditions, I had better list all of them, or at least all the ones that are likely to be as relevant as the ones I list.

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