Goodman's Only World

In Majda Trobok, Nenad Miscevic & Berislav Zarnic (eds.), Between Logic and Reality: Modeling Inference, Action and Understanding. Springer 269 (2012)
An incorrect interpretation of Goodman’s theory of counterfactuals is persistently being offered in the literature. I find that strange. Even more so since the incorrectness is rather obvious. In this paper I try to figure out why is that happening. First I try to explain what Goodman did say, which of his claims are ignored, and what he did not say but is sometimes ascribed to him. I emphasize one of the bad features of the interpretation: it gives counterfactuals some formal properties that neither Goodman nor (usually) the interpreter would accept. The usual interpretation (UI), which I claim should not be ascribed to Goodman, considers a counterfactual A>C true iff A, together with natural laws and all contingent truths cotenable with it, entails C. (UI) makes valid the law of conditional excluded middle, which Goodman clearly rejected. Among possible reasons for which the interpreters might find (UI) adequate is that (UI), as I argue, smuggles in the idea of minimal change, which is otherwise attractive, natural to many, but not to be found anywhere in Goodman’s paper. At the end I stress the significance of Goodman’s theory by arguing that we still need some of his notions to test the adequacy of our modern theories.
Keywords Goodman  Conditionals  Counterfactuals  Conditional Excluded Middle  Cotenability  Background facts  Possible worlds semantics for counterfactauls
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