The thing that makes me despair most – and feel most ashamed – comes with the realization that the country is full of people who cannot cope with conditional sentences. There are more important things to worry about, perhaps, but solving them tends to rely on people getting beyond simple assertoric sentences.
Sometimes I know in advance that I really shouldn’t try. E.g., from about 2 months ago: I didn”t know if Jones did A last week, and I wanted to communicate the following thought to the person answering the phone: if he didn’t do it last week, could he do it this week? Hopeless. I don’t know why I tried. I knew in advance I’d freeze the human system, as it were. I think the thought was that if I asked for him just to do it this week, I might well pay a lot to have the same thing redone. It was about cleaning an apartment I sometimes use, but hadn’t used for a while.
This afternoon I discovered that I had given a store the wrong address for a present. So I used web communication to ask the store to reroute it. Sherry said that they would try, but it wasn’t always possible. So I said, “If it can’t be rerouted, could it just be held at the fedex facility.” Arrgghh. How could I have done it!?!
She typed, “Which do you want?” and it took 20 minutes to repair the damage.
There’s a lovely passage in Descartes Med I which is about how some people think an all powerful, all good God could not be a deceiver. Descartes in effect responds that still if God were all that great, then he wouldn’t… I may try again to get a whole class to try to reason with a conditional.