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Counterfactual Discourse in Context

Noûs 52 (3):481-507 (2018)

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  1. On the Consistency and Reversibility of Certain Sequences of Counterfactual Assertions.Peter Klecha - forthcoming - Mind:fzab012.
    This paper is about Sobel sequences, which are sequences of counterfactuals that supposedly display two interesting properties: first, they are consistent, as accounted for by the famous Lewis-Stalnaker analysis; but second, they are not consistent in the reverse order, which is not accounted for by Lewis-Stalnaker. I argue that there has been an empirical oversight in the literature on these sequences: there are consistent sequences, and there are irreversible sequences, but no sequence is both. The Lewis-Stalnaker theory neatly captures Sobel (...)
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  • Generalizing the Problem of Humean Undermining.Heather Demarest & Elizabeth Miller - forthcoming - In Christian Loew, Siegfried Jaag & Michael Townsen Hicks (eds.), Humean Laws for Human Agents. Oxford: Oxford UP.
    For Humeans, many facts—even ones intuitively “about” particular, localized macroscopic parts of the world—turn out to depend on surprisingly global fundamental bases. We investigate some counterintuitive consequences of this picture. Many counterfactuals whose antecedents describe intuitively localized, non-actual states of affairs nevertheless end up involving wide-ranging implications for the global, embedding Humean mosaic. The case of self-undermining chances is a familiar example of this. We examine that example in detail and argue that popular existing strategies such as “holding the laws (...)
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  • On the Substitution of Identicals in Counterfactual Reasoning.Alexander W. Kocurek - 2020 - Noûs 54 (3):600-631.
    It is widely held that counterfactuals, unlike attitude ascriptions, preserve the referential transparency of their constituents, i.e., that counterfactuals validate the substitution of identicals when their constituents do. The only putative counterexamples in the literature come from counterpossibles, i.e., counterfactuals with impossible antecedents. Advocates of counterpossibilism, i.e., the view that counterpossibles are not all vacuous, argue that counterpossibles can generate referential opacity. But in order to explain why most substitution inferences into counterfactuals seem valid, counterpossibilists also often maintain that counterfactuals (...)
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  • Should We Be Skeptics or Contextualists About Counterfactual Conditionals?Yael Loewenstein - forthcoming - Wiley: Philosophy Compass.
  • The Non-Maximality-Solution to Counterfactual Scepticism.Daniel Dohrn - 2020 - Synthese 199 (1-2):1499-1520.
    The following semantics for counterfactuals is fairly standard: for a counterfactual to be true, the closest antecedent worlds have to be consequent worlds. Closeness is measured by overall similarity of worlds to an evaluation world. There is a range of interrelated challenges to this account: counterfactual scepticism, ‘Hegel’-, ‘Sobel’-, and ‘Heim’-sequences. So far there is no unified solution to these challenges. I discuss a solution that preserves the standard semantics by writing the shifty parameter into pragmatics. The solution has been (...)
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  • Contra Counterfactism.Alan Hájek - 2020 - Synthese 199 (1-2):181-210.
    ‘If I were to toss a coin 1000 times, then it would land heads exactly n times’. Is there a specific value of n that renders this counterfactual true? According to an increasingly influential view, there is. A precursor of the view goes back to the Molinists; more recently it has been inspired by Stalnaker, and versions of it have been advocated by Hawthorne, Bradley, Moss, Schulz, and Stefánsson. More generally, I attribute to these authors what I call Counterfactual Plenitude:For (...)
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  • Varieties of Sobel sequences.Michela Ippolito - 2020 - Linguistics and Philosophy 43 (6):633-671.
    In this paper I provide a unified analysis of a number of pragmatic anomalies that have been discussed in the literature. The paper’s main goal is to account for Sobel sequences of conditionals and sequences of disjunctive sentences, but I will also propose that this analysis can be extended to sequences of sentences with superlatives. The starting point is the observation that, while all these sequences are felicitous in one order, they are infelicitous when the order is reversed. Previous proposals (...)
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  • Relevance First: Relocating Similarity in Counterfactual Semantics.Cory Nichols - 2020 - Synthese 198 (11):10529-10564.
    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 (...)
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  • Heim Sequences and Why Most Unqualified ‘Would’-Counterfactuals Are Not True.Yael Loewenstein - 2021 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 99 (3):597-610.
    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 (...)
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  • Strict Conditional Accounts of Counterfactuals.Cory Nichols - 2017 - Linguistics and Philosophy 40 (6):621-645.
    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 (...)
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  • Varieties of Sobel sequences.Michela Ippolito - 2020 - Linguistics and Philosophy 43 (6):633-671.
    In this paper I provide a unified analysis of a number of pragmatic anomalies that have been discussed in the literature. The paper’s main goal is to account for Sobel sequences of conditionals and sequences of disjunctive sentences, but I will also propose that this analysis can be extended to sequences of sentences with superlatives. The starting point is the observation that, while all these sequences are felicitous in one order, they are infelicitous when the order is reversed. Previous proposals (...)
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