Quasi-miracles, typicality, and counterfactuals

Synthese 179 (3):351 - 360 (2011)
Dylan Dodd
University of Alaska, Anchorage
If one flips an unbiased coin a million times, there are 2 1,000,000 series of possible heads/tails sequences, any one of which might be the sequence that obtains, and each of which is equally likely to obtain. So it seems (1) 'If I had tossed a fair coin one million times, it might have landed heads every time' is true. But as several authors have pointed out, (2) 'If I had tossed a fair coin a million times, it wouldn't have come up heads every time' will be counted as true in everyday contexts. And according to David Lewis' influential semantics for counterfactuals, (1) and (2) are contradictories. We have a puzzle. We must either (A) deny that (2) is true, (B) deny that (1) is true, or (C) deny that (1) and (2) are contradictories, thus rejecting Lewis' semantics. In this paper I discuss and criticize the proposals of David Lewis and more recently J. Robert G. Williams which solve the puzzle by taking option (B). I argue that we should opt for either (A) or (C).
Keywords Counterfactuals  Counterfactual scepticism  Quasi-miracles  Atypical events  David Lewis
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-009-9656-z
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References found in this work BETA

Knowledge and its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Oxford University Press.
Counterfactuals.David K. Lewis - 1973 - Blackwell.
Epistemic Luck.Duncan Pritchard - 2005 - Oxford University Press UK.
Philosophical Papers.David K. Lewis - 1983 - Oxford University Press.
Chance and Counterfactuals.John Hawthorne - 2005 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 70 (2):396–405.

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Citations of this work BETA

Elusive Counterfactuals.Karen S. Lewis - 2016 - Noûs 50 (2):286-313.
Counterfactual Triviality: A Lewis-Impossibility Argument for Counterfactuals.J. Robert & G. Williams - 2012 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 85 (3):648-670.
Safety, Skepticism, and Lotteries.Dylan Dodd - 2012 - Erkenntnis 77 (1):95-120.
Chancy Counterfactuals, Redux.J. Robert G. Williams - 2012 - Analytic Philosophy 53 (4):352-361.

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