This paper presents a new system of conditional logic B2, which is strictly intermediate in strength between the existing systems B1 and B3 from John Burgess (1981) and David Lewis (1973a). After presenting and motivating the new system, we will show that it is characterized by a natural class of frames. These frames correspond to the idea that conditionals are about which worlds are nearly closest, rather than which worlds are closest. Along the way, we will also give new characterization (...) results for B1 and B3, along with two other new systems B1.1 and B1.2. (shrink)
Counterfactuals are somewhat tolerant. Had Socrates been at least six feet tall, he need not have been exactly six feet tall. He might have been a little taller—he might have been six one or six two. But while he might have been a little taller, there are limits to how tall he would have been. Had he been at least six feet tall, he would not have been more than a hundred feet tall, for example. Counterfactuals are not just tolerant, (...) then, but bounded. This paper presents a surprising paradox: If counterfactuals are tolerant and bounded, then we can prove a flat contradiction using natural rules of inference. Something has to go then. But what? (shrink)
The term 'covert mixed quotation' describes cases in which linguistic material is interpreted in the manner of mixed quotation — that is, used in addition to being mentioned — despite the superficial absence of any commonly recognized conventional devices indicating quotation. After developing a novel theory of mixed quotation, I show that positing covert mixed quotation allows us to give simple and unified treatments of a number of puzzling semantic phenomena, including the projective behavior of conventional implicature items embedded in (...) indirect speech reports and propositional attitude ascriptions, so-called 'c-monsters,' metalinguistic negation, metalinguistic negotiation, and 'in a sense' constructions. (shrink)
Counterfactual reasoning has always played a role in human life. We ask questions like, “Could it have been different?”, “Under which conditions might/would it have been different?”, “What would have happened if…?” If we don’t find an answer, i.e. what we accept as an answer, we may start reasoning. Reasoning means introducing still new information/assumptions, new questions, new answers to new questions etc. From a formal point of view, it may be compared with stepwise moving towards a destination in a (...) path-system, in which you never fully have an overview. In this way, reasoning is an activity, with its own rationale, which will be studied from the agent’s own perspective. Questions include: What are the conditions where asking that specific question, or introducing this information/assumption, etc. will count as a reasonable step or progress towards the answer of the initial question? What makes this step more reasonable than another? (shrink)
The material account proposes that indicative conditionals are material, but it is widely believed that this account cannot be applied to subjunctive conditionals. There are three reasons for this consensus: (1) the concern that most subjunctive conditionals would be vacuously true if they were material, which seems implausible; (2) the inconsistency with Adams pair, which suggests that indicative and subjunctive conditionals have different truth conditions; and (3) the belief that the possible world theories are a superior alternative to the material (...) account. In this paper, I will argue against (1) by showing that the counterintuitive aspects of vacuously true conditionals can be explained away in a consistent manner, regardless of whether they are indicative or subjunctive. I will support this argument by demonstrating that the positive arguments for the material account of indicatives also apply to subjunctives. I will counter (2) by explaining the Adams pair as logically equivalent conditionals that may be appropriate at different times, depending on the speaker’s epistemic situation. Finally, I will challenge (3) by arguing that the possible world account faces insurmountable issues and that a comprehensive material account of both indicatives and subjunctives is ultimately a more elegant solution. (shrink)
Counterfactual skepticism says that most ordinary counterfactuals are false. While few endorse counterfactual skepticism, the precise costs of the view are disputed and not generally well-understood. I have two aims in this paper. My first and primary aim is to establish, on grounds acceptable to all parties, that counterfactual skepticism is not benign. I argue it leads to significant skepticism about the future: if counterfactual skepticism is true, then we can have only very limited knowledge about the future. I give (...) three arguments to this conclusion, taking as premises principles connecting knowledge of indicative conditionals to knowledge of disjunctions; and principles linking knowledge of indicative conditionals to knowledge of counterfactual conditionals. -/- My second aim is to examine the consequences for non-skeptical theories. My arguments indicate that not only are many ordinary counterfactuals true, but that we also know them. How can this be reconciled with the very real tension between counterfactuals and chance? I consider two popular solutions, one purely epistemic and one contextualist. Together they suggest something like contextualism about knowledge is required to fully resolve the skeptical threat. (shrink)
This paper is about two controversial inference-patterns involving counterfactual or subjunctive conditionals. Given a plausible assumption about the truth-conditions of counterfactuals, it is shown that one can't go wrong in applying hypothetical syllogism (i.e., transitivity) so long as the set of worlds relevant for the conclusion is a subset of the sets of worlds relevant for the premises. It is also shown that one can't go wrong in applying antecedent strengthening so long as the set of worlds relevant for the (...) conclusion is a subset of that for the premise. These results are then adapted to Lewis's theory of counterfactuals. (shrink)
If the laws are deterministic, then standard theories of counterfactuals are forced to reject at least one of the following conditionals: 1) had you chosen differently, there would not have been a violation of the laws of nature; and 2) had you chosen differently, the initial conditions of the universe would not have been different. On the relevant readings—where we hold fixed factors causally independent of your choice—both of these conditionals appear true. And rejecting either one leads to trouble for (...) philosophical theories which rely upon counterfactual conditionals—like, for instance, causal decision theory. Here, I outline a semantics for counterfactual conditionals which allows us to accept both (1) and (2). And I discuss how this semantics deals with objections to causal decision theory from Arif Ahmed. (shrink)
It is commonly believed that the role of context cannot be ignored in the analysis of conditionals, and counterfactuals in particular. On truth conditional accounts involving possible worlds semantics, conditionals have been analysed as expressions of relative necessity: “If A, then B” is true at some world w if B is true at all the A-worlds deemed relevant to the evaluation of the conditional at w. A drawback of this approach is that for the evaluation of conditionals with the same (...) antecedents at some world, the same worlds are deemed as relevant for all occasions of utterance. But surely this is inadequate, if shifts of contexts between occasions are to be accounted for. Both the linguistic and logical implications of this defect are discussed, and in order to overcome it a modification of David Lewis’ ordering semantics for counterfactuals is developed for a modified language. I follow Lewis by letting contexts determine comparative similarity assignments, and show that the addition of syntactic context parameters (context indices) to the language gives the freedom required to switch between sets of relevant antecedent worlds from occasion to occasion by choosing the corresponding similarity assignment accordingly. Thus an account that extends Lewis’ analysis of a language containing a single counterfactual connective > to a language containing infinitely many counterfactual connectives >_c, each indexed by a different context name c, overcomes the limitations of traditional analyses. Finally it is also shown that these traditional accounts can be recovered from the modified account if certain contextual restrictions are in place. -/- . (shrink)
On an influential line of thinking tracing back to Ramsey, conditionals are closely linked to the attitude of supposition. When applied to counterfactuals, this view suggests a subjunctive version of the so-called Ramsey test: the probability of a counterfactual If A, would B ought to be equivalent to the probability of B, under the subjunctive supposition that A. I present a collapse result for any view that endorses the subjunctive version of the Ramsey test. Starting from plausible assumptions, the result (...) shows that one’s rational credence in a would-counterfactual and in the corresponding might-counterfactual have to be identical. (shrink)
The literature on counterfactuals is dominated by strict accounts and variably strict accounts. Counterexamples to the principle of Antecedent Strengthening were thought to be fatal to SA; but it has been shown that by adding dynamic resources to the view, such examples can be accounted for. We broaden the debate between VSA and SA by focusing on a new strengthening principle, Strengthening with a Possibility. We show dynamic SA classically validates this principle. We give a counterexample to it and show (...) that extra dynamic resources cannot help SA. We then show VSA accounts for the counterexample if it allows for orderings on worlds that are not almost-connected, and that such an ordering naturally falls out of a Kratzerian ordering source semantics. We conclude that the failure of Strengthening with a Possibility tells strongly against Dynamic SA and in favor of an ordering source-based version of VSA. (shrink)
We construct a causal-modeling semantics for both indicative and counterfactual conditionals. As regards counterfactuals, we adopt the orthodox view that a counterfactual conditional is true in a causal model M just in case its consequent is true in the submodel M∗, generated by intervening in M, in which its antecedent is true. We supplement the orthodox semantics by introducing a new manipulation called extrapolation. We argue that an indicative conditional is true in a causal model M just in case its (...) con- sequent is true in certain submodels M∗, generated by extrapolating M, in which its antecedent is true. We show that the proposed semantics can account for some important minimal pairs nicely and naturally. We also prove a theorem showing under what conditions intervention and extrapolation will yield the same result, and thus explain how counterfactual and indicative conditionals would behave in a causal-modeling semantics. (shrink)
It has been suggested that intuitions supporting the nonvacuity of counterpossibles can be explained by distinguishing an epistemic and a metaphysical reading of counterfactuals. Such an explanation must answer why we tend to neglect the distinction of the two readings. By way of an answer, I offer a generalized pattern for explaining nonvacuity intuitions by a stand-and-fall relationship to certain indicative conditionals. Then, I present reasons for doubting the proposal: nonvacuists can use the epistemic reading to turn the table against (...) vacuists, telling apart significant from spurious intuitions. Moreover, our intuitions tend to survive even if we clear-headedly intend a metaphysical reading. -/- . (shrink)
This essay calls attention to a set of linguistic interactions between counterfactual conditionals, on one hand, and possibility modals like could have and might have, on the other. These data present a challenge to the popular variably strict semantics for counterfactual conditionals. Instead, they support a version of the strict conditional semantics in which counterfactuals and possibility modals share a unified quantificational domain. I’ll argue that pragmatic explanations of this evidence are not available to the variable analysis. And putative counterexamples (...) to the unified strict analysis, on careful inspection, in fact support it. Ultimately, the semantics of conditionals and modals must be linked together more closely than has sometimes been recognized, and a unified strict semantics for conditionals and modals is the only way to fully achieve this. (shrink)
Counterfactual scepticism holds that most ordinary counterfactuals are false. The main argument for this view appeals to a ‘chance undermines would’ principle: if ψ would have some chance of not obtaining had ϕ obtained, then ϕ □→ ψ is false. This principle seems to follow from two fairly weak principles, namely, that ‘chance ensures could’ and that ϕ □→ ψ and ϕ ⋄→ ¬ ψ clash. Despite their initial plausibility, I show that these principles are independently problematic: given some modest (...) closure principles, they entail absurdities. Moreover, on the most promising strategy for saving these principles, they do not, in the relevant sense, entail the chance-undermines-would principle. Instead, they entail a principle that only supports counterfactual indeterminism, the view that most ordinary counterfactuals are chancy, that is, not settled true. I demonstrate this by developing an indeterminist semantics that vindicates the clash and chance-ensures-could principles but not the chance-undermines-would principle. This view, I argue, offers a better account of our credal and linguistic judgements than counterfactual scepticism. (shrink)
Sentences about logic are often used to show that certain embedding expressions are hyperintensional. Yet it is not clear how to regiment “logic talk” in the object language so that it can be compositionally embedded under such expressions. In this paper, I develop a formal system called hyperlogic that is designed to do just that. I provide a hyperintensional semantics for hyperlogic that doesn’t appeal to logically impossible worlds, as traditionally understood, but instead uses a shiftable parameter that determines the (...) interpretation of the logical connectives. I argue this semantics compares favorably to the more common impossible worlds semantics, which faces difficulties interpreting propositionally quantified logic talk. (shrink)
We develop and defend a new approach to counterlogicals. Non-vacuous counterlogicals, we argue, fall within a broader class of counterfactuals known as counterconventionals. Existing semantics for counterconventionals, 459–482 ) and, 1–27 ) allow counterfactuals to shift the interpretation of predicates and relations. We extend these theories to counterlogicals by allowing counterfactuals to shift the interpretation of logical vocabulary. This yields an elegant semantics for counterlogicals that avoids problems with the usual impossible worlds semantics. We conclude by showing how this approach (...) can be extended to counterpossibles more generally. (shrink)
ABSTRACT The apparent consistency of Sobel sequences famously motivated David Lewis to defend a variably strict conditional semantics for counterfactuals. If Sophie had gone to the parade, she would have seen Pedro. If Sophie had gone to the parade and had been stuck behind someone tall, she would not have seen Pedro. But if the order of the counterfactuals in a Sobel sequence is reversed—in the example, if is asserted prior to —the second counterfactual asserted no longer rings true. This (...) is the Heim sequence problem. That the order of assertion makes this difference is surprising on the variably strict account. Some argue that this is reason to reject the Lewis-Stalnaker semantics outright. Others argue that the problem motivates a contextualist rendering of counterfactuals. Still others maintain that the explanation for the phenomenon is merely pragmatic. I argue that none of these is right, and I defend a novel way to understand the phenomenon. My proposal avoids the problems faced by the alternative analyses and enjoys independent support. There is, however, a difficulty for my view: it entails that many ordinarily accepted counterfactuals are not true. I argue that this cost is acceptable. (shrink)
Just as knowledge contextualism offers a way out of knowledge skepticism in the face of powerful skeptical arguments, counterfactual contextualism purports to answer the many compelling arguments for the skeptical thesis that most ordinary counterfactuals of the form ‘if A had happened, C would have happened’, are false. In this article I review a few of the arguments for counterfactual skepticism, before surveying the various types of contextualist responses. I then discuss some of the recent objections to counterfactual contextualism, with (...) an eye toward weighing contextualism's costs with the costs of accepting skepticism. I conclude by remarking on some of the implications that skepticism and contextualism each has for many disputes in metaphysics. (shrink)
A festschrift for Dorothy Edgington, containing contributions from Cleo Condoravdi, Dorothy Edgington, Kit Fine, Alan Hájek, John Hawthorne, Sabine Iatridou, Nick Jones, Rosanna Keefe, Angelika Kratzer, David Over, Daniel Rothschild, Robert Stalnaker, Scott Sturgeon, and Timothy Williamson.
A type of argument occasionally made in metaethics, epistemology and philosophy of science notes that most ordinary uses of some expression fail to satisfy the strictest interpretation of the expression, and concludes that the ordinary assertions are false. This requires there to be a presumption in favour of a strict interpretation of expressions that admit of interpretations at different levels of strictness. We argue that this presumption is unmotivated, and thus the arguments fail.
Many have accepted that ordinary counterfactuals and might counterfactuals are duals. In this paper, I show that this thesis leads to paradoxical results when combined with a few different unorthodox yet increasingly popular theses, including the thesis that counterfactuals are strict conditionals. Given Duality and several other theses, we can quickly infer the validity of another paradoxical principle, ‘The Counterfactual Direct Argument’, which says that ‘A> ’ entails ‘A> ’. First, I provide a collapse theorem for the ‘counterfactual direct argument’. (...) The counterfactual direct argument entails the logical equivalence of the subjunctive and material conditional, given a variety of assumptions. Second, I provide a semantics that validates the counterfactual direct argument without collapse. This theory further develops extant dynamic accounts of conditionals. I give a new semantics for disjunction, on which A or B is only true in a context when A and B are both unsettled. The resulting framework validates CDA while invalidating other commonly accepted principles concerning the conditional and disjunction. (shrink)
This paper investigates whether 'even if A, B' is pragmatically polysemic, so that a nonconcessive conditional may have 'even if', and whether concessive conditionals, pragmatically defined, can fail to have 'even if' or a non-temporal 'still'. Different paraphrases are used to help elucidate pragmatic meanings. A theory of the pragmatic meanings of concessive and implicative conditionals is presented. The semantic meaning of 'even if' and the question of whether concessive conditionals imply the truth of their consequents are also discussed.
Conventional wisdom has it that truth is always evaluated using our actual linguistic conventions, even when considering counterfactual scenarios in which different conventions are adopted. This principle has been invoked in a number of philosophical arguments, including Kripke’s defense of the necessity of identity and Lewy’s objection to modal conventionalism. But it is false. It fails in the presence of what Einheuser (2006) calls c-monsters, or convention-shifting expressions (on analogy with Kaplan’s monsters, or context-shifting expressions). We show that c-monsters naturally (...) arise in contexts, such as metalinguistic negotiations, where speakers entertain alternative conventions. We develop an expressivist theory—inspired by Barker (2002) and MacFarlane (2016) on vague predications and Einheuser (2006) on counterconventionals—to model these shifts in convention. Using this framework, we reassess the philosophical arguments that invoked the conventional wisdom. (shrink)
The last several decades of research on counterfactual conditionals in the fields of philosophy and linguistics have yielded a predominant paradigm according to which the notion of similarity plays the starring role. Roughly, a counterfactual of the form A > C is true iff the closest A-worlds are all C-worlds, where the closeness of a world is a function of its similarity, in a certain sense, to the actual world. I argue that this is deeply misguided. In some cases we (...) may only care about the closest A-worlds, but quite often we care about some broader variety of A-worlds varying in closeness. After presenting several problem cases for the similarity-based paradigm, some new and some known, I propose an alternative paradigm for the semantics of counterfactuals, which introduces the notion of A-scenarios, understood roughly as different ways of making A true. According to this view, A > C is true iff all the contextually relevant ways of making A true also make C true. I then more carefully spell out a working view that formalizes this idea with greater precision, and explore the consequences of that version of the view. (shrink)
In this paper, we develop a novel response to counterfactual scepticism, the thesis that most ordinary counterfactual claims are false. In the process we aim to shed light on the relationship between debates in the philosophy of science and debates concerning the semantics and pragmatics of counterfactuals. We argue that science is concerned with many domains of inquiry, each with its own characteristic entities and regularities; moreover, statements of scientific law often include an implicit ceteris paribus clause that restricts the (...) scope of the associated regularity to circumstances that are ‘fitting’ to the domain in question. This observation reveals a way of responding to scepticism while, at the same time, doing justice both to the role of counterfactuals in science and to the complexities inherent in ordinary counterfactual discourse and reasoning. (shrink)
There is long standing agreement both among philosophers and linguists that the term ‘counterfactual conditional’ is misleading if not a misnomer. Speakers of both non-past subjunctive (or ‘would’) conditionals and past subjunctive (or ‘would have’) conditionals need not convey counterfactuality. The relationship between the conditionals in question and the counterfactuality of their antecedents is thus not one of presupposing. It is one of conversationally implicating. This paper provides a thorough examination of the arguments against the presupposition view as applied to (...) past subjunctive conditionals and finds none of them conclusive. All the relevant linguistic data, it is shown, are compatible with the assumption that past subjunctive conditionals presuppose the falsity of their antecedents. This finding is not only interesting on its own. It is of vital importance both to whether we should consider antecedent counterfactuality to be part of the conventional meaning of the conditionals in question and to whether there is a deep difference between indicative and subjective conditionals. (shrink)
Why do utterances of counterfactual conditionals typically, but not universally, convey the message that their antecedents are false? I demonstrate that two common theoretical commitments–commitment to the existence of scalar implicature and of informative presupposition—can be supplemented with an independently motivated theory of the presuppositions of competing conditional alternatives to jointly predict this information when and only when it appears. The view works best if indicative and counterfactual conditionals have a closely related semantics, so I conclude by undermining two familiar (...) arguments for a nonunified semantics of indicative and counterfactual conditionals. (shrink)
I explore the logic of the conditional, using credence judgments to argue against Duality and in favor of Conditional Excluded Middle. I then explore how to give a theory of the conditional which validates the latter and not the former, developing a variant on Kratzer (1981)'s restrictor theory, as well as a proposal which combines Stalnaker (1968)'s theory of the conditional with the theory of epistemic modals I develop in Mandelkern 2019a. I argue that the latter approach fits naturally with (...) a conception of conditionals as referential devices which allow us to talk about particular worlds. (shrink)
There is wide support in logic, philosophy, and psychology for the hypothesis that the probability of the indicative conditional of natural language, P(if A then B), is the conditional probability of B given A, P(B|A). We identify a conditional which is such that P(if A then B)=P(B|A) with de Finetti's conditional event, B|A. An objection to making this identification in the past was that it appeared unclear how to form compounds and iterations of conditional events. In this paper, we illustrate (...) how to overcome this objection with a probabilistic analysis, based on coherence, of these compounds and iterations. We interpret the compounds and iterations as conditional random quantities which, given some logical dependencies, may reduce to conditional events. We show how the inference to B|A from A and B can be extended to compounds and iterations of both conditional events and biconditional events. Moreover, we determine the respective uncertainty propagation rules. Finally, we make some comments on extending our analysis to counterfactuals. (shrink)
There seem to be two ways of supposing a proposition: supposing “indicatively” that Shakespeare didn’t write Hamlet, it is likely that someone else did; supposing “subjunctively” that Shakespeare hadn’t written Hamlet, it is likely that nobody would have written the play. Let P be the probability of B on the subjunctive supposition that A. Is P equal to the probability of the corresponding counterfactual, A □→B? I review recent triviality arguments against this hypothesis and argue that they do not succeed. (...) On the other hand, I argue that even if we can equate P with P, we still need an account of how subjunctive conditional probabilities are related to unconditional probabilities. The triviality arguments reveal that the connection is not as straightforward as one might have hoped. (shrink)
It has recently been argued that indeterminacy and indeterminism make most ordinary counterfactuals false. I argue that a plausible way to avoid such counterfactual skepticism is to postulate the existence of primitive modal facts that serve as truth-makers for counterfactual claims. Moreover, I defend a new theory of ‘might’ counterfactuals, and develop assertability and knowledge criteria to suit such unobservable ‘counterfacts’.
Some have argued for a division of epistemic labor in which mathematicians supply truths and philosophers supply their necessity. We argue that this is wrong: mathematics is committed to its own necessity. Counterfactuals play a starring role.
Expressions typically thought to be rigid designators can refer to distinct individuals in the consequents of counterfactuals. This occurs in counteridenticals, such as “If I were you, I would arrest me”, as well as more ordinary counterfactuals with clearly possible antecedents, like “If I were a police officer, I would arrest me”. I argue that in response we should drop rigidity and deal with de re modal predication using something more flexible, such as counterpart theory.
A series of recent arguments purport to show that most counterfactuals of the form if A had happened then C would have happened are not true. These arguments pose a challenge to those of us who think that counterfactual discourse is a useful part of ordinary conversation, of philosophical reasoning, and of scientific inquiry. Either we find a way to revise the semantics for counterfactuals in order to avoid these arguments, or we find a way to ensure that the relevant (...) counterfactuals, while not true, are still assertible. I argue that regardless of which of these two strategies we choose, the natural ways of implementing these strategies all share a surprising consequence: they commit us to a particular metaphysical view about chance. (shrink)
This thesis extends Kit Fine's truthmaker semantics for counterfactuals to indicative conditionals. First, I provide Fine's truthmaker semantics and his extension to counterfactuals. Then I introduce a notion of context state into the semantics and provide the verification-conditions for indicative conditionals by employing this notion of context state. Afterwards, I turn to the logic of indicative conditionals under exact semantics and discuss the principles and inference rules which raise disagreements between variably strict and strict conditionals accounts. The account I provide (...) shows its promise by validating a plausible combination of principles and strikes a balance between variably strict and strict conditional theories. I discuss certain principles in logic of indicative conditionals under exact semantics in detail and show how the present account validates the plausible combination of them. In the end, I draw comparisons between the viable theories for indicatives and the present one, and argue that the present account takes the advantage in several respects. (shrink)
I discuss three observations about backtracking counterfactuals not predicted by existing theories, and then motivate a theory of counterfactuals that does predict them. On my theory, counterfactuals quantify over a suitably restricted set of historical possibilities from some contextually relevant past time. I motivate each feature of the theory relevant to predicting our three observations about backtracking counterfactuals. The paper concludes with replies to three potential objections.
Some cases show that counterfactual conditionals (‘counterfactuals’ for short) are inherently ambiguous, equivocating between forward-tracking and backtracking counterfactu- als. Elsewhere, I have proposed a causal modeling semantics, which takes this phenomenon to be generated by two kinds of causal manipulations. (Lee 2015; Lee 2016) In an important paper (Hiddleston 2005), Eric Hiddleston offers a different causal modeling semantics, which he claims to be able to explain away the inherent ambiguity of counterfactuals. In this paper, I discuss these two semantic treatments (...) and argue that my (bifurcated) semantics is theoretically more promising than Hiddleston’s (unified) semantics. (shrink)
A certain type of counterfactual is thought to be intimately related to causation, control, and explanation. The time asymmetry of these phenomena therefore plausibly arises from a time asymmetry of counterfactual dependence. But why is counterfactual dependence time asymmetric? The most influential account of the time asymmetry of counterfactual dependence is David Albert’s account, which posits a new, time-asymmetric fundamental physical law, the so-called “past hypothesis.” Albert argues that the time asymmetry of counterfactual dependence arises from holding fixed the past (...) hypothesis when evaluating counterfactuals. In this paper, I argue that Albert’s account misconstrues the time asymmetry of counterfactual dependence. (shrink)
von Fintel and Gillies : 329–360, 2007) have proposed a dynamic strict conditional account of counterfactuals as an alternative to the standard variably strict account due to Stalnaker and Lewis. Von Fintel’s view is motivated largely by so-called reverse Sobel sequences, about which the standard view seems to make the wrong predictions. More recently Moss :561–586, 2012) has offered a pragmatic/epistemic explanation that purports to explain the data without requiring abandonment of the standard view. So far the small amount of (...) subsequent literature has focused primarily on the original class of cases motivating the strict conditional view. What is needed in the debate is an examination of the predictions of the dynamic strict conditional account for a broader range of data. I undertake this task here, presenting a slew of cases that are problematic for the strict conditional view but not for Moss’s view, and considering some possible responses. Ultimately I take my contribution to constitute a significant blow to the dynamic strict conditional view, though not a decisive verdict against it. (shrink)
Given his hostility to intensional locutions, it is not surprising that Quine was suspicious of the subjunctive conditional. Although he admitted its usefulness as a heuristic device, in order to introduce dispositional terms, he held that it had no place in a finished scientific theory. In this paper I argue in support of something like Quine’s position. Many contemporary philosophers are unreflectively realist about subjunctives, regarding them as having objective truth values. I contest this. “Moderate realist” theorists, such as Lewis (...) and Stalnaker, admit that subjunctives are context-relative and often indeterminate; I argue, using some examples from the contemporary literature on conditionals, that these features are deeper and more widespread than they think. “Ultra-realist” theories, which deny any indeterminacy, are not credible. Hence subjunctives are unsuitable for certain purposes, in particular the description of mind-independent reality. (shrink)
Brogaard and Salerno (2008) argued that counter-examples to contraposition, strengthening the antecedent, and hypothetical syllogism involving subjunctive conditionals only seem to work because they involve a contextual fallacy where the context assumed in the premise(s) is illicitly shifted in the conclusion. To avoid such counter-examples they have proposed that the context must remain fixed when evaluating an argument for validity. That is the Brogaard-Salerno Stricture. Tristan Haze (2016), however, has recently objected that intuitively valid argumentative forms such as conjunction introduction (...) do not satisfy this constraint. This paper has two goals. First, it argues that the Brogaard-Salerno Stricture is not violated in Haze’s putative counter-example. Second, it argues that since this stricture blocks the usual counter-examples to instances of classical argumentative forms that involve indicative or subjunctive conditionals, it is reasonable to infer that indicative and subjunctive conditionals are material. (shrink)
Stephen Barker argues that a possible worlds semantics for the counterfactual conditional of the sort proposed by Stalnaker and Lewis cannot accommodate certain examples in which determinism is true and a counterfactual Q > R is false, but where, for some P, the compound counterfactual P > (Q > R) is true. I argue that the completeness theorem for Lewis’s system VC of counterfactual logic shows that Stalnaker–Lewis semantics does accommodate Barker’s example, and I argue that its doing so should (...) be understood as showing that the example is an exception to Lewis’s Time’s Arrow requirements. (shrink)
This paper considers how counterfactuals should be evaluated on the assumption that determinism is true. I argue against Lewis's influential view that the actual laws of nature would have been false if something had happened that never actually happened, and in favour of the competing view that history would have been different all the way back. I argue that we can do adequate justice to our ordinary practice of relying on a wide range of historical truths in evaluating counterfactuals by (...) saying that, in typical cases, history would have been only *very slightly* different until shortly before the relevant time. The paper also draws some connections between the puzzle about counterfactuals under determinism and the debate about whether determinism entails that no-one can ever do otherwise than they in fact do. (shrink)
'It is widely agreed that contraposition, strengthening the antecedent and hypothetical syllogism fail for subjunctive conditionals', write Brogaard and Salerno in (2008: Counterfactuals and context, Analysis 68.1, 39–46). In that article they argue that the putative counterexamples to these principles are actually no threat, on the grounds that they involve a certain kind of illicit contextual shift. -/- Here I argue that this particular kind of contextual shift, if it is properly so called, is not generally illicit, and that therefore (...) the counterexamples shouldn't be blocked with the kind of blanket restriction Brogaard and Salerno advocate. The idea that the reasoning patterns in question can be vindicated given restrictions still seems promising; the purpose of this note is to show that the simple restriction proposed by Brogaard and Salerno isn't the right way of going. (shrink)
The standard Lewis–Stalnaker semantics of counterfactuals, given the Strong Centering Thesis, implies that all true–true counterfactuals are trivially true. McGlynn developed a theory, based on Penczek, to rehabilitate the non-triviality of true–true counterfactuals. I show here that counterfactuals with true but irrelevant components are counterexamples to McGlynn’s account. I argue that an extended version of the connection hypothesis is sustainable, and grounds a full theory of counterfactuals explicable in a broadly standard way, if an indispensable asymmetry between semifacuals and other (...) counterfactuals is acknowledged. (shrink)
Previous research on counterfactual thoughts about prevention suggests that people tend to focus on enabling rather than causing events and controllable rather than uncontrollable events. Two experiments explore whether counterfactual thinking about enablers is distinct from counterfactual thinking about controllable events. We presented participants with scenarios in which a cause and an enabler contributed to a negative outcome. We systematically manipulated the controllability of the cause and the enabler and asked participants to generate counterfactuals. The results indicate that when only (...) the cause or the enabler is controllable participants undid the controllable event more often. However, when the cause and enabler are matched in controllability participants undid the enabler slightly more often. The findings are discussed in the context of the mental model, functional and judgement dissociation theories as well as previous research on counterfactual thinking. The importance of controllability and.. (shrink)