The purpose of this paper is to argue that the hybrid formalism fits naturally in the context of David Lewis’s counterfactual logic and that its introduction into this framework is desirable. This hybridization enables us to regard the inference “The pig is Mary; Mary is pregnant; therefore the pig is pregnant” as a process of updating local information (which depends on the given situation) by using global information (independent of the situation). Our hybridization also has the following technical advantages: (...) (i) it preserves the completeness and decidability of Lewis’s logic; (ii) it allows us to characterize the Limit Assumption as a proof-rule with some side-conditions; and (iii) it enables us to establish a general Kripke completeness result by using the proof-rule corresponding to the Limit Assumption. (shrink)
We argue that a semantics for counterfactual conditionals in terms of comparative overall similarity faces a formal limitation due to Arrow’s impossibility theorem from social choice theory. According to Lewis’s account, the truth-conditions for counterfactual conditionals are given in terms of the comparative overall similarity between possible worlds, which is in turn determined by various aspects of similarity between possible worlds. We argue that a function from aspects of similarity to overall similarity should satisfy certain plausible constraints while (...) Arrow’s impossibility theorem rules out that such a function satisfies all the constraints simultaneously. We argue that a way out of this impasse is to represent aspectual similarity in terms of ranking functions instead of representing it in a purely ordinal fashion. Further, we argue against the claim that the determination of overall similarity by aspects of similarity faces a difficulty in addition to the Arrovian limitation, namely the incommensurability of different aspects of similarity. The phenomena that have been cited as evidence for such incommensurability are best explained by ordinary vagueness. (shrink)
A recent group of social scientists have argued that counterfactual questions play an essential role in their disciplines, and that it is possible to have rigorous methods to investigate them. Unfortunately, there has been little (if any) interaction between these social scientists and the philosophers who have long held that rigorous counterfactual reasoning is possible. In this paper, I hope to encourage some fresh thinking on both sides by creating new connections between them. I describe what I term (...) "problem of selecting antecedent scenarios," and show that this is an essential challenge in real-life counterfactual reasoning. Then, I demonstrate that the major extant theories of counterfactuals (especially the Lewis/Stalnaker theory and Igal Kvart's rival account) are unable to solve this problem. I show that there are instances of real-life counterfactual reasoning in the social sciences that are counterexamples to both of these accounts. And finally, I develop a new theory of how to select antecedent scenarios that overcomes these difficulties, and so would be part of a more adequate theory of counterfactuals (and counterfactual reasoning). (shrink)
Recent findings suggest that our capacity to imagine the future depends on our capacity to remember the past. However, the extent to which episodic memory is involved in our capacity to think about what could have happened in our past, yet did not occur (i.e., episodic counterfactual thinking), remains largely unexplored. The current experiments investigate the phenomenological characteristics and the influence of outcome valence on the experience of past, future and counterfactual thoughts. Participants were asked to mentally simulate (...) past, future, and counterfactual events with positive or negative outcomes. Features of their subjective experiences during each type of simulation were measured using questionnaires and autobiographical interviews. The results suggest that clarity and vividness were higher for past than future and counterfactual simulations. Additionally, emotional intensity was lower for counterfactual simulations than past and future simulations. Finally, outcome valence influenced participants’ judgment of probability for future and counterfactual simulations. (shrink)
Counterfactual attitudes like imagining, dreaming, and wishing create a problem for the standard formal semantic theory of de re attitude ascriptions. I show how the problem can be avoided if we represent an agent's attitudinal possibilities using "multi-centered worlds", possible worlds with multiple distinguished individuals, each of which represents an individual with whom the agent is acquainted. I then present a compositional semantics for de re ascriptions according to which singular terms are "assignment-sensitive" expressions and attitude verbs are "assignment (...) shifters". (shrink)
Counterfactual conditionals have been appealed to in various ways to show how the mind can be causally efficacious. However, it has often been overestimated what the truth of certain counterfactuals actually indicates about causation. The paper first identifies four approaches that seem to commit precisely this mistake. The arguments discussed involve erroneous assumptions about the connection of counterfactual dependence and genuine causation, as well as a disregard of the requisite evaluation conditions of counterfactuals. In a second step, the (...) paper uses the insights of the foregoing analyses to formulate a set of counterfactuals-based conditions that are characterized as sufficient to establish singular causal claims. The paper concludes that there are ample reasons to believe that some mental events satisfy all these conditions with respect to certain further events and, hence, that mental events sometimes are causes. (shrink)
In this paper, following an elementary line of thought which somewhat differs from the usual one, we prove once more that any deterministic theory predictively equivalent to quantum mechanics unavoidably exhibits a contextual character. The purpose of adopting this perspective is that of paving the way for a critical analysis of the use of counterfactual arguments when dealing with nonlocal physical processes.
This article reports results from two studies of how people answer counterfactual questions about simple machines. Participants learned about devices that have a specific configuration of components, and they answered questions of the form “If component X had not operated [failed], would component Y have operated?” The data from these studies indicate that participants were sensitive to the way in which the antecedent state is described—whether component X “had not operated” or “had failed.” Answers also depended on whether the (...) device is deterministic or probabilistic—whether X's causal parents “always” or only “usually” cause X to operate. Participants' explanations of their answers often invoked non-operation of causally prior components or unreliability of prior connections. They less often mentioned independence from these causal elements. (shrink)
I propose a counterfactual theory of infinite regress arguments. Most theories of infinite regress arguments present infinite regresses in terms of indicative conditionals. These theories direct us to seek conditions under which an infinite regress generates an infinite inadmissible set. Since in ordinary language infinite regresses are usually expressed by means of infinite sequences of counterfactuals, it is natural to expect that an analysis of infinite regress arguments should be based on a theory of counterfactuals. The Stalnaker–Lewis theory of (...) counterfactuals, augmented with some fundamental notions from metric-spaces, provides a basis for such an analysis of infinite regress arguments. Since the technique involved in the analysis is easily adaptable to various analyses, it facilitates a rigorous comparison among conflicting philosophical analyses of any given infinite regress. (shrink)
Comparative syllogism is a type of scientific reasoning widely used, explicitly or implicitly, for inferences from observations to conclusions about effectiveness, but its philosophical significance has not been fully elaborated or appreciated. In its simplest form, the comparative syllogism derives a conclusion about the effectiveness of a factor (e.g. a treatment or an exposure) on a certain property via an experiment design using a test (experimental) group and a comparison (control) group. Our objective is to show that the comparative syllogism (...) can be understood as encoding a simulation view of counterfactuals, in that counterfactual situations are conceptual constructs that can be correctly simulated by homogeneous comparison groups. In this simulation view, the empirical data from the comparison groups play an evidential role in the evaluation of counterfactuals and in obtaining counterfactual knowledge. We further indicate how successful experimental designs can help us to obtain correct simulations, and thus to bring us to scientifically-empirically based counterfactual knowledge. (shrink)
The authors examined cue competition effects in young children using the blicket detector paradigm, in which objects are placed either singly or in pairs on a novel machine and children must judge which objects have the causal power to make the machine work. Cue competition effects were found in a 5- to 6-year-old group but not in a 4-year-old group. Equivalent levels of forward and backward blocking were found in the former group. Children's counterfactual judgments were subsequently examined by (...) asking whether or not the machine would have gone off in the absence of I of 2 objects that had been placed on it as a pair. Cue competition effects were demonstrated only in 5- to 6-year-olds using this mode of assessing causal reasoning. (shrink)
Conducted 2 experiments with undergraduates which demonstrated that, in a recognition memory task, Ss recognized the negated antecedent and consequent propositions of previously encountered counterfactual conditionals significantly more often than control items, the latter effect being distinctly stronger (Exp I, n = 110). A similar result was obtained for causals related to previously encountered counterfactual conditionals and counterfactual conditionals related to previously encountered causals, the latter being the stronger effect (Exp II, n = 92). Results are discussed (...) in the context of the observation that a counterfactual conditional (a) presupposes the negation of its antecedent proposition, (b) strongly suggests the negation of its consequent proposition, and (c) is intimately related to a causal in which (a) and (b) are conjoined, with (a) taken as the grounds for (b). (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2000 APA, all rights reserved) (unassigned). (shrink)
Children approach counterfactual questions about stories with a reasoning strategy that falls short of adults’ Counterfactual Reasoning (CFR). It was dubbed “Basic Conditional Reasoning” (BCR) in Rafetseder et al. (Child Dev 81(1):376–389, 2010). In this paper we provide a characterisation of the differences between BCR and CFR using a distinction between permanent and nonpermanent features of stories and Lewis/Stalnaker counterfactual logic. The critical difference pertains to how consistency between a story and a conditional antecedent incompatible with a (...) nonpermanent feature of the story is achieved. Basic conditional reasoners simply drop all nonpermanent features of the story. Counterfactual reasoners preserve as much of the story as possible while accommodating the antecedent. (shrink)
The paper compares the suitability of two different epistemologies of counterfactuals—(EC) and (W)—to elucidate modal knowledge. I argue that, while both of them explain the data on our knowledge of counterfactuals, only (W)—Williamson’s epistemology—is compatible with all counterpossibles being true. This is something on which Williamson’s counterfactual-based account of modal knowledge relies. A first problem is, therefore, that, in the absence of further, disambiguating data, Williamson’s choice of (W) is objectionably biased. A second, deeper problem is that (W) cannot (...) satisfactorily elucidate modal knowledge. Third, from a naturalistic perspective, the nature of this second problem favours (EC) against (W). (shrink)
Incompetent patients need to have someone else make decisions on their behalf. According to the Substituted Judgment Standard the surrogate decision maker ought to make the decision that the patient would have made, had he or she been competent. Objections have been raised against this traditional construal of the standard on the grounds that it involves flawed counterfactual reasoning, and amendments have been suggested within the framework of possible worlds semantics. The paper shows that while this approach may circumvent (...) the alleged problem, the way it has so far been elaborated reflects insufficient understanding of the moral underpinnings of the idea of substituted judgment. Proper recognition of these moral underpinnings has potentially far-reaching implications for our normative assumptions about accuracy and objectivity in surrogate decision making. (shrink)
This paper does two things. First, it defends, against a potential threat to it, the claim that a capacity for essentialist knowledge should not be placed among the core capacities for counterfactual knowledge. Second, it assesses a consequence of that claim—or better: of the discussion by means of which I defend it—in relation to Kment's and Williamson's views on the relation between modality and counterfactuals.
It is human nature to wonder how things might have turned out differently--either for the better or for the worse. For the past two decades psychologists have been intrigued by this phenomenon, which they call counterfactual thinking. Specifically, researchers have sought to answer the "big" questions: Why do people have such a strong propensity to generate counterfactuals, and what functions does counterfactual thinking serve? What are the determinants of counterfactual thinking, and what are its adaptive and psychological (...) consequences? This important work brings together a collection of thought-provoking papers by social and cognitive psychologists who have made important theoretical and empirical contributions to our understanding of this topic. The essays in this volume contain novel theoretical insights, and, in many cases descriptions of previously unpublished empirical studies. The Psychology of Counterfactual Thinking provides an excellent overview of this fascinating topic for researchers, as well as advanced undergraduates and graduates in psychology--particularly those with an interest in social cognition, social judgment, decision judgment, decision making, thinking and reasoning. (shrink)
Conditional structures lie at the heart of the sciences, humanities, and everyday reasoning. It is hence not surprising that conditional logics – logics specifically designed to account for natural language conditionals – are an active and interdisciplinary area. The present book gives a formal and a philosophical account of indicative and counterfactual conditionals in terms of Chellas-Segerberg semantics. For that purpose a range of topics are discussed such as Bennett’s arguments against truth value based semantics for indicative conditionals.
Questions concerning mediated causal effects are of great interest in psychology, cognitive science, medicine, social science, public health, and many other disciplines. For instance, about 60% of recent papers published in leading journals in social psychology contain at least one mediation test (Rucker, Preacher, Tormala, & Petty, 2011). Standard parametric approaches to mediation analysis employ regression models, and either the “difference method” (Judd & Kenny, 1981), more common in epidemiology, or the “product method” (Baron & Kenny, 1986), more common in (...) the social sciences. In this article, we first discuss a known, but perhaps often unappreciated, fact that these parametric approaches are a special case of a general counterfactual framework for reasoning about causality first described by Neyman (1923) and Rubin (1924) and linked to causal graphical models by Robins (1986) and Pearl (2006). We then show a number of advantages of this framework. First, it makes the strong assumptions underlying mediation analysis explicit. Second, it avoids a number of problems present in the product and difference methods, such as biased estimates of effects in certain cases. Finally, we show the generality of this framework by proving a novel result which allows mediation analysis to be applied to longitudinal settings with unobserved confounders. (shrink)
What do human beings use conditional reasoning for? A psychological consequence of counterfactual conditional reasoning is emotional experience, in particular, regret and relief. Adults’ thoughts about what might have been influence their evaluations of reality. We discuss recent psychological experiments that chart the relationship between children’s ability to engage in conditional reasoning and their experience of counterfactual emotions. Relative to conditional reasoning, counterfactual emotions are late developing. This suggests that children need not only competence in conditional reasoning, (...) but also to engage in this thinking spontaneously. Developments in domain general cognitive processing (the executive functions) allow children to develop from conditional reasoning to reasoning with counterfactual content and, eventually, to experiencing counterfactual emotions. (shrink)
Bayes nets are formal representations of causal systems that many psychologists have claimed as plausible mental representations. One purported advantage of Bayes nets is that they may provide a theory of counterfactual conditionals, such as If Calvin had been at the party, Miriam would have left early. This article compares two proposed Bayes net theories as models of people's understanding of counterfactuals. Experiments 1-3 show that neither theory makes correct predictions about backtracking counterfactuals (in which the event of the (...) if-clause occurs after the event of the then-clause), and Experiment 4 shows the same is true of forward counterfactuals. An amended version of one of the approaches, however, can provide a more accurate account of these data. (shrink)
We formalize Jeffrey's (1983) notion of ratifiability and show that the resulting formal structure can be obtained more directly by means of a theory of counterfactual beliefs. One implication is that, under the appropriate formalizations, together with certain restrictions on beliefs, Bayesian decision theory and causal decision theory coincide.
A striking feature of the traditional armchair method of philosophy is the use of imaginary examples: for instance, of Gettier cases as counterexamples to the justified true belief analysis of knowledge. The use of such examples is often thought to involve some sort of a priori rational intuition, which crude rationalists regard as a virtue and crude empiricists as a vice. It is argued here that, on the contrary, what is involved is simply an application of our general cognitive capacity (...) to handle counterfactual conditionals, which is not exclusively a priori and is not usefully conceived as a form of rational intuition. It is explained how questions of metaphysical possibility and necessity are equivalent to questions about counterfactuals, and the epistemology of the former (in particular, the role of conceiving or imagining) is a special case of the epistemology of the latter. A non-imaginary Gettier case is presented in order to show how little difference it makes. (shrink)
The epistemology of modality is gradually coming to play a central role in general discussions about modality. This paper is a contribution in this direction, in particular I draw a comparison between Lewis’s Modal realism and Timothy Williamson’s recent account of modality in terms of counterfactual thinking. In order to have criteria of evaluation, I also formulate four requirements which are supposed to be met by any theory of modality to be epistemologically adequate.
Kit Fine (1994. “Essence and Modality”, Philosophical Perspectives 8: 1-16) argues that the standard modal account of essence as de re modality is ‘fundamentally misguided’ (p. 3). We agree with his critique and suggest an alternative counterfactual analysis of essence. As a corollary, our counterfactual account lends support to non-vacuism the thesis that counterpossibles (i.e., counterfactual conditionals with impossible antecedents) are not always vacuously true.
If we seek to analyse causation in terms of counterfactual conditionals then we must assume that there is a class of counterfactuals whose members (i) are all and only those we need to support our judgements of causation, (ii) have truth-conditions specifiable without any irreducible appeal to causation. I argue that (i) and (ii) are unlikely to be met by any counterfactual analysis of causation. I demonstrate this by isolating a class of counterfactuals called non-projective counterfactuals, or NP-counterfactuals, (...) and indicate how counterfactual analyses of causation must appeal to them to account for the correct causal judgements we make. I show that the truth-conditions of NP-counterfactuals are specifiable only by irreducible appeal to causation. A dilemma then holds: if counterfactual analyses of causation eschew appeal to NP-counterfactuals they are empirically inadequate, but if they appeal to NP-counterfactuals they are circular and thus conceptually inadequate. (shrink)
There is, no doubt, a temptation to treat preventions, such as ‘the father’s grabbing the child prevented the accident’, and cases of ‘causation’ by omission, such as ‘the father’s inattention was the cause of the child’s accident’, as cases of genuine causation. I think they are not, and in this paper I defend a theory of what they are. More specifically, the counterfactual theory defended here is that a claim about prevention or ‘causation’ by omission should be understood not (...) as being directly about actual genuine causation but primarily as a counterfactual claim about genuine causation.1 The relation between actual causation and the mere possibility of causation allows my theory to explain both the difference and the similarity between the two notions (causation and prevention/omission). Further, the difference explains certain intuitions we have and the similarity justifies and explains the fact that for practical purposes we usually treat preventions and omissions as if they were genuine causation. Finally, the fact that this counterfactual theory of prevention and omission takes causation as primitive suggests that it is consistent with any theory of causation. This allows us to construct two arguments against what I will call genuinism, the view that cases of prevention and ‘causation’ by omission really are cases of genuine causation. In section II I show that genuinism does not account for the so-called intuition of difference. In section III I outline a number of problems that various theories of causation have with preventions and ‘causation’ by omission. These problems are ipso facto problems for genuinism, whereas I show in section V how the counterfactual theory solves those problems. Further, I answer a genuinist argument based on another type of intuition—the genuinist intuition—by showing why we have that intuition and how it should be handled (section VI). (shrink)
For the last several decades, dispositional properties have been one of the main topics in metaphysics. Still, however, there is little agreement among contemporary metaphysicians on the nature of dispositional properties. Apparently, though, the majority of them have reached the consensus that dispositional ascriptions cannot be analysed in terms of simple counterfactual conditionals. In this paper it will be brought to light that this consensus is wrong. Specifically, I will argue that the simple conditional analysis of dispositions, which is (...) generally thought to be dead, is in fact an adequate analysis of dispositions. I will go on to discuss Mumford’s view of dispositions from the perspective of the simple conditional analysis of dispositions. (shrink)
The paper provides an explanation of our knowledge of metaphysical modality, or modal knowledge, from our ability to evaluate counterfactual conditionals. The latter ability lends itself to an evolutionary explanation since it enables us to learn from mistakes. Different logical principles linking counterfactuals to metaphysical modality can be employed to extend this explanation to the epistemology of modality. While the epistemological use of some of these principles is either philosophically implausible or empirically inadequate, the equivalence of ‘Necessarily p’ with (...) ‘For all q, if q were the case, p would be the case’ is a suitable starting-point for an explanation of modal knowledge. (shrink)
Berit Brogaard and Joe Salerno (2008) have defended the validity of counterfactual hypothetical syllogism (CHS) within the Stalnaker-Lewis account. Whenever the premisses of an instance of CHS are non-vacuosly true, a shift in context has occurred. Hence the standard counterexamples to CHS suffer from context failure. Charles Cross (2011) rejects this argument as irreconcilable with the Stalnaker-Lewis account. I argue against Cross that the basic Stalnaker-Lewis truth condition may be supplemented in a way that makes (CHS) valid. Yet pace (...) Brogaard and Salerno, there are alternative ways of spelling out the basic truth condition which are standard in most debates; and given these ways, the counterexamples to CHS are successful. (shrink)
In “Counterfactual Dependence and Time’s Arrow,” David Lewis defends an analysis of counterfactuals intended to yield the asymmetry of counterfactual dependence: that later affairs depend counterfactually on earlier ones, and not the other way around. I argue that careful attention to the dynamical properties of thermodynamically irreversible processes shows that in many ordinary cases, Lewis’s analysis fails to yield this asymmetry. Furthermore, the analysis fails in an instructive way: one that teaches us something about the connection between the (...) asymmetry of overdetermination and the asymmetry of entropy. (shrink)
The generalizations found in biology, psychology, sociology, and other high-level sciences are typically physically contingent. You might conclude that they play only a limited role in scientific investigation, on the grounds that physically contingent generalizations offer no or only feeble counterfactual support. But the link between contingency and counterfactual support is more complex than is commonly supposed. A certain class of physically contingent generalizations, comprising many, perhaps the vast majority, of those in the high-level sciences, provides strong (...) class='Hi'>counterfactual support of just the sort that appears to be scientifically important. This paper explains why. (shrink)
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.. (shrink)
The basic idea of counterfactual theories of causation is that the meaning of causal claims can be explained in terms of counterfactual conditionals of the form “If A had not occurred, C would not have occurred”. While counterfactual analyses have been given of type-causal concepts, most counterfactual analyses have focused on singular causal or token-causal claims of the form “event c caused event e”. Analyses of token-causation have become popular in the last thirty years, especially since (...) the development in the 1970's of possible world semantics for counterfactuals. The best known counterfactual analysis of causation is David Lewis's (1973b) theory. However, intense discussion over thirty years has cast doubt on the adequacy of any simple analysis of singular causation in terms of counterfactuals. Recent years have seen a proliferation of different refinements of the basic idea to achieve a closer match with commonsense judgements about causation. (shrink)
Recently Stephen Barker has raised stimulating objections to the thesis that, roughly speaking, if two events stand in a relation of counterfactual dependence, they stand in a causal relation. As Ned Hall says, however, this thesis constitutes the strongest part of the counterfactual analysis of causation. Therefore, if successful, Barker’s objections will undermine the cornerstone of the counterfactual analysis of causation, and hence give us compelling reasons to reject the counterfactual analysis of causation. I will argue, (...) however, that they do not withstand scrutiny. (shrink)
This paper analyzes the logical truths as (very roughly) those truths that would still have been true under a certain range of counterfactual perturbations.What’s nice is that the relevant range is characterized without relying (overtly, at least) upon the notion of logical truth. This approach suggests a conception of necessity that explains what the different varieties of necessity (logical, physical, etc.) have in common, in virtue of which they are all varieties of necessity. However, this approach places the (...) class='Hi'>counterfactual conditionals in an unfamiliar foundational role. (shrink)
Counterfactual theories of causation of the sort presented in Mackie, 1974, and Lewis, 1973 are a familiar part of the philosophical landscape. Such theories are typically advanced primarily as accounts of the metaphysics of causation. But they also raise empirical psychological issues concerning the processes and representations that underlie human causal reasoning. For example, do human subjects internally represent causal claims in terms of counterfactual judgments and when they engage in causal reasoning, does this involves reasoning about (...) class='Hi'>counterfactual claims? This paper explores several such issues from a broadly interventionist perspective. (shrink)
Abstract Timothy Williamson has recently proposed to undermine modal skepticism by appealing to the reducibility of modal to counterfactual logic ( Reducibility ). Central to Williamson’s strategy is the claim that use of the same non-deductive mode of inference ( counterfactual development , or CD ) whereby we typically arrive at knowledge of counterfactuals suffices for arriving at knowledge of metaphysical necessity via Reducibility. Granting Reducibility, I ask whether the use of CD plays any essential role in a (...) Reducibility-based reply to two kinds of modal skepticism. I argue that its use is entirely dispensable, and that Reducibility makes available replies to modal skeptics which show certain propositions to be metaphysically necessary by deductive arguments from premises the modal skeptic accepts can be known. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-19 DOI 10.1007/s11098-011-9784-4 Authors Juhani Yli-Vakkuri, Wolfson College, Oxford University, Oxford, OX2 6UD UK Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116. (shrink)
I formulate a counterfactual version of the notorious 'Ramsey Test'. Whereas the Ramsey Test for indicative conditionals links credence in indicatives to conditional credences, the counterfactual version links credence in counterfactuals to expected conditional chance. I outline two forms: a Ramsey Identity on which the probability of the conditional should be identical to the corresponding conditional probabihty/expectation of chance; and a Ramsey Bound on which credence in the conditional should never exceed the latter.Even in the weaker, bound, form, (...) the counterfactual Ramsey Test makes counterfactuals subject to the very argument that Lewis used to argue against the indicative version of the Ramsey Test. I compare the assumptions needed to run each, pointing to assumptions about the time-evolution of chances that can replace the appeal to Bayesian assumptions about credence update in motivating the assumptions of the argument.I finish by outlining two reactions to the discussion: to indicativize the debate on counterfactuals; or to counterfactualize the debate on indicatives. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: Appealing to the failure of counterfactual support is a standard device in refuting a Humean view on laws of nature: some true generalisations do not support relevant counterfactuals; therefore not every true general fact is a law of nature—so goes the refutation. I will argue that this strategy does not work, for our understanding of the truth-value of any counterfactual is grounded in our understanding of the lawhood of some statements related to it.
This book uses the formal semantics of counterfactual conditionals to analyze the problem of non-locality in quantum mechanics. Counterfactual conditionals enter the analysis of quantum entangled systems in that they enable us to precisely formulate the locality condition that purports to exclude the existence of causal interactions between spatially separated parts of a system. They also make it possible to speak consistently about alternative measuring settings, and to explicate what is meant by quantum property attributions. The book develops (...) the possible-world semantics of quantum counterfactuals using David Lewis's famous approach as a starting point but modifying it significantly in order to achieve compatibility with the demands of the special theory of relativity as well as quantum mechanics. There have been several attempts to use counterfactuals semantics to strengthen Bell's theorem and its cognates such as the GHZ and Hardy theorems. These are critically evaluated in the book. Finally, a counterfactual reconstruction of the EPR argument and Bell's theorem is proposed that sheds a new light on their philosophical consequences regarding the relations between realism and local causation. (shrink)
Counterfactuals are typically thought--given the force of Sobel sequences--to be variably strict conditionals. I go the other way. Sobel sequences and (what I call) Hegel sequences push us to a strict conditional analysis of counterfactuals: counterfactuals amount to some necessity modal scoped over a plain material conditional, just which modal being a function of context. To make this worth saying I need to say just how counterfactuals and context interact. No easy feat, but I have something to say on the (...) matter. (shrink)
The thesis that a temporal asymmetry of counterfactual dependence characterizes our world plays a central role in Lewis’s philosophy, as. among other things, it underpins one of Lewis most renowned theses—that causation can be analyzed in terms of counterfactual dependence. To maintain that a temporal asymmetry of counterfactual dependence characterizes our world, Lewis committed himself to two other theses. The first is that the closest possible worlds at which the antecedent of a counterfactual conditional is true (...) is one in which a small miracle occurs—i.e. one whose laws differ from the actual laws in a small spatiotemporal region. The second is that our world is characterized by a temporal asymmetry of miracles. In this paper, I will argue, first, that the latter thesis is either false or incompatible with the picture of the relations among temporal asymmetries endorsed by Lewis and, second, that former thesis conflicts with some of the intuitions which seem to guide us when engaging in counterfactual reasoning. If there is any fact of the matter as to which possible worlds in which the antecedent of a counterfactual conditional is true are closest to the actual world, these are not worlds at which a small miracle occurs. (shrink)
The counterfactual analysis of causation has focused on one particular counterfactual conditional, taking as its starting-point the suggestion that C causes E iff (C E). In this paper, some consequences are explored of reversing this counterfactual, and developing an account starting with the idea that C causes E iff (E C). This suggestion is discussed in relation to the problem of pre-emption. It is found that the 'reversed' counterfactual analysis can handle even the most difficult cases (...) of pre-emption with only minimal complications. The paper closes with a discussion of the wider philosophical implications of developing a reversed counterfactual analysis, especially concerning the differentiation of causes from causal conditions, causation by absences, and the extent to which causes suffice for their effects. (shrink)
This paper investigates the conception of causation required in order to make sense of natural selection as a causal explanation of changes in traits or allele frequencies. It claims that under a counterfactual account of causation, natural selection is constituted by the causal relevance of traits and alleles to the variation in traits and alleles frequencies. The “statisticalist” view of selection (Walsh, Matthen, Ariew, Lewens) has shown that natural selection is not a cause superadded to the causal interactions between (...) individual organisms. It also claimed that the only causation at work is those aggregated individual interactions, natural selection being only predictive and explanatory, but it is implicitly committed to a process-view of causation. I formulate a counterfactual construal of the causal statements underlying selectionist explanations, and show that they hold because of the reference they make to ecological reliable factors. Considering case studies, I argue that this counterfactual view of causal relevance proper to natural selection captures more salient features of evolutionary explanations than the statisticalist view, and especially makes sense of the difference between selection and drift. I eventually establish equivalence between causal relevance of traits and natural selection itself as a cause. (shrink)
In the artificial intelligence literature a promising approach to counterfactual reasoning is to interpret counterfactual conditionals based on causal models. Different logics of such causal counterfactuals have been developed with respect to different classes of causal models. In this paper I characterize the class of causal models that are Lewisian in the sense that they validate the principles in Lewis’s well-known logic of counterfactuals. I then develop a system sound and complete with respect to this class. The resulting (...) logic is the weakest logic of causal counterfactuals that respects Lewis’s principles, sits in between the logic developed by Galles and Pearl and the logic developed by Halpern, and stands to Galles and Pearl’s logic in the same fashion as Lewis’s stands to Stalnaker’s. (shrink)
Counterfactual Entailment is the view that a counterfactual conditional is true just in case its antecedent entails its consequent. I present an argument for Counterfactual Entailment, and I develop a strategy for explaining away apparent counterexamples to the view. The strategy appeals to the suppositional view of counterfactuals, on which a counterfactual is essentially a statement, made relative to the supposition of its antecedent, of its consequent.
David Lewis’s counterfactual analysis of cause consisted of the counterfactual conditional closed under transitivity.2 Namely, a sufﬁcient condition for A’s being a cause of C is that ∼A > ∼C be true; and a necessary as well as sufﬁcient condition is that there be a series of true counterfactuals ∼A > ∼E1, ∼E1 > ∼E2, . . . , ∼En >∼C (n > 0).
In rejecting the Principle of AlternatePossibilities (PAP), Harry Frankfurt makes useof a special sort of counterfactual of thefollowing form: ``he wouldn''t have doneotherwise even if he could have''''. Recently,other philosophers (e.g., Susan Hurley (1999,2003) and Michael Zimmerman (2002)) haveappealed to a special class of counterfactualsof this same general form in defending thecompatibility of determinism andresponsibility. In particular, they claim thatit can be true of agents that even if they aredetermined, and so cannot do otherwise, theywouldn''t have done otherwise even (...) if they couldhave. Using as a central case an argument ofSusan Hurley''s, I point out that thecounterfactuals in question are both``interlegal'''' and ``indeterministic'''', and I raisedoubts about whether this special class ofcounterfactuals have clear truth conditions. Finally I suggest that acknowledging thesepoints leads to an appreciation of the realstrength of Frankfurt-style examples. (shrink)