Context-indexed Counterfactuals

Studia Semiotyczne 35 (2):89-123 (2022)
  Copy   BIBTEX


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.



External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Counterfactual scorekeeping.Anthony S. Gillies - 2007 - Linguistics and Philosophy 30 (3):329 - 360.
Antecedent-Relative Comparative World Similarity.Charles B. Cross - 2008 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 37 (2):101-120.
Semantical Structures for Indeterministic Theories.John F. Halpin - 1984 - Dissertation, University of Illinois at Chicago
New foundations for counterfactuals.Franz Huber - 2014 - Synthese 191 (10):2167-2193.
On similarity in counterfactuals.Ana Arregui - 2009 - Linguistics and Philosophy 32 (3):245-278.
A graded semantics for counterfactuals.Libor Běhounek & Ondrej Majer - 2021 - Synthese 199 (5-6):11963-11994.
Counterpossibles and Similarity.David Vander Laan - 2004 - In Frank Jackson & Graham Priest (eds.), Lewisian Themes: The Philosophy of David K. Lewis. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press. pp. 258-275.
Interventionist counterfactuals.Rachael Briggs - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 160 (1):139-166.
Expressible semantics for expressible counterfactuals.Emmanuel Chemla - 2011 - Review of Symbolic Logic 4 (1):63-80.


Added to PP

223 (#87,138)

6 months
99 (#40,134)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Mariusz Popieluch
University of Queensland

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Word and Object.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1960 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
On the Plurality of Worlds.David K. Lewis - 1986 - Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell.
Studies in the way of words.Herbert Paul Grice - 1989 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Situations and attitudes.Jon Barwise & John Perry - 1981 - Journal of Philosophy 78 (11):668-691.
Aboutness.Stephen Yablo - 2014 - Oxford: Princeton University Press.

View all 144 references / Add more references