Mind and Language 27 (1):55-85 (2012)
|Abstract||Recent work on the interpretation of counterfactual conditionals has paid much attention to the role of causal independencies. One influential idea from the theory of Causal Bayesian Networks is that counterfactual assumptions are made by intervention on variables, leaving all of their causal non-descendants unaffected. But intervention is not applicable across the board. For instance, backtracking counterfactuals, which involve reasoning from effects to causes, cannot proceed by intervention in the strict sense, for otherwise they would be equivalent to their consequents. We discuss these and similar cases, focusing on two factors which play a role in determining whether and which causal parents of the manipulated variable are affected: Speakers' need for an explanation of the hypothesized state of affairs, and differences in the ‘resilience’ of beliefs that are independent of degrees of certainty. We describe the relevant theoretical notions in some detail and provide experimental evidence that these factors do indeed affect speakers' interpretation of counterfactuals|
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