A Refutation of the Lewis-Stalnaker Analysis of Counterfactuals

Metaphysica 17 (1):109-129 (2016)
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The standard philosophical analysis of counterfactual conditionals—the Lewis-Stalnaker analysis—analyzes the truth-conditions of counterfactuals in terms of nearby possible worlds. This paper demonstrates that this analysis is false. §1 shows that it is a serious epistemic and metaphysical possibility that our “world” is a massive computer simulation, and that if the Lewis-Stalnaker analysis of counterfactuals is correct, then it should extend seamlessly to the case that our world is a computer simulation, in the form of a possible-simulation semantics. §2 then shows, however, that a Lewis-Stalnaker-style possible-simulation semantics clearly fails as an analysis of the truth-conditions of counterfactuals in two types of simulated worlds: Humean Simulations and Necessitarian simulations. §3 then considers and answers several objections to the argument. Finally, §4 draws several skeptical, but compelling lessons about counterfactuals from the argument.

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Marcus Arvan
University of Tampa

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References found in this work

Counterfactuals.David K. Lewis - 1973 - Malden, Mass.: Blackwell.
Naming and Necessity.Saul Kripke - 1980 - Critica 17 (49):69-71.
On the Plurality of Worlds.David Lewis - 1986 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 178 (3):388-390.
A Theory of Conditionals.Robert Stalnaker - 1968 - In Nicholas Rescher (ed.), Studies in Logical Theory. Oxford,: Blackwell. pp. 98-112.

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