Hume's Dictum and Natural Modality: Counterfactuals

In Alastair Wilson (ed.), Asymmetries of Time and Chance (forthcoming)
Abstract
Why believe Hume's Dictum, according to which there are, roughly speaking, no necessary connections between wholly distinct entities? Schaffer ('Quiddistic Knowledge', 2009) suggests that HD, at least as applied to causal or nomological connections, is motivated as required by the best account of (the truth) of counterfactuals---namely, a similarity-based possible worlds account, where the operative notion of similarity requires 'miracles'---more specifically, worlds where entities of the same type that actually exist enter into different laws. The main cited motivations for such an account of similarity are first, that some salient contexts presuppose CF asymmetry, and second, that accounts of CFs failing to presuppose CF asymmetry are epistemologically problematic, such that under conditions of determinism, the variations in initial micro-conditions needed to implement a given counterfactual antecedent would result in so many changes to macro-states that evaluation of CFs would be rendered practically impossible. Against the first reason, I argue that no non-artificial contexts presuppose CF asymmetry; against the second, I observe that such micro-variation is compatible, in principle, with significant similarity as regards macroscopic states of affairs---enough, in particular, to allow CFs to be appropriately evaluated.
Keywords necessity  counterfactuals  possible worlds  contingentism  necessitarianism
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    Citations of this work BETA
    Alastair Wilson (2013). Schaffer on Laws of Nature. Philosophical Studies 164 (3):653-667.
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