David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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In N. J. Smelser & P. B. Baltes (eds.), International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Elsevier 2872-2874 (2002)
Counterfactuals are a species of conditionals. They are propositions or sentences, expressed by or equivalent to subjunctive conditionals of the form 'if it were the case that A, then it would be the case that B', or 'if it had been the case that A, then it would have been the case that B'; A is called the antecedent, and B the consequent. Counterfactual reasoning typically involves the entertaining of hypothetical states of affairs: the antecedent is believed or presumed to be false, or contrary-to-the-fact, but its truth is imagined or supposed. Counterfactual reasoning is thus a form of modal reasoning, kindred to reasoning about necessity or possibility, and in contrast to reasoning about the way things actually are. The philosophical study of conditionals goes back at least as far as the Stoics of ancient Greece, although their systems of logic apparently did not accord the counterfactual any emphasis. The rise in interest in counterfactuals has been a rather recent phenomenon, as it started to become clear to philosophers that counterfactuals are implicated in a host of other important concepts—laws of nature, confirmation, causation, scientific explanation, knowledge, perception, dispositions, free action, etc. The significance of counterfactuals has also become increasingly appreciated in the..
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