Against Counterfactual Miracles

Philosophical Review 125 (2):241-286 (2016)
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Abstract

This paper considers how counterfactuals should be evaluated on the assumption that determinism is true. I argue against Lewis's influential view that the actual laws of nature would have been false if something had happened that never actually happened, and in favour of the competing view that history would have been different all the way back. I argue that we can do adequate justice to our ordinary practice of relying on a wide range of historical truths in evaluating counterfactuals by saying that, in typical cases, history would have been only *very slightly* different until shortly before the relevant time. The paper also draws some connections between the puzzle about counterfactuals under determinism and the debate about whether determinism entails that no-one can ever do otherwise than they in fact do.

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Cian Dorr
New York University

Citations of this work

Diamonds are Forever.Cian Dorr & Jeremy Goodman - 2019 - Noûs 54 (3):632-665.
Strong Determinism.Eddy Keming Chen - forthcoming - Philosophers' Imprint.
Modal Objectivity.Clarke-Doane Justin - 2019 - Noûs 53:266-295.
Law-Abiding Causal Decision Theory.Timothy Luke Williamson & Alexander Sandgren - 2023 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 74 (4):899-920.
Mental Causation for Standard Dualists.Bram Vaassen - 2024 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

Counterfactuals.David K. Lewis - 1973 - Malden, Mass.: Blackwell.
The Philosophy of Philosophy.Timothy Williamson - 2007 - Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
The metaphysics within physics.Tim Maudlin - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press.
New work for a theory of universals.David K. Lewis - 1983 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61 (4):343-377.

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