Counterfactuals and the fixity of the past

Philosophical Studies 168 (2):1-19 (2014)
I argue that David Lewis’s attempt, in his ‘Counterfactual Dependence and Time’s Arrow’, to explain the fixity of the past in terms of counterfactual independence is unsuccessful. I point out that there is an ambiguity in the claim that the past is counterfactually independent of the present (or, more generally, that the earlier is counterfactually independent of the later), corresponding to two distinct theses about the relation between time and counterfactuals, both officially endorsed by Lewis. I argue that Lewis’s attempt is flawed for a variety of reasons, including the fact that his own theory about the evaluation of counterfactuals requires too many exceptions to the general rule that the past is counterfactually independent of the present. At the end of the paper, I consider a variant of Lewis’s strategy that attempts to explain the fixity of the past in terms of causal, rather than counterfactual, independence. I conclude that, although this variant avoids some of the objections that afflict Lewis’s account, it nevertheless seems to be incapable of giving a satisfactory explanation of the notion of the fixity of the past
Keywords Counterfactual dependence  Past  Fixity  Open future  Backtracking
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11098-013-0135-5
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
Edit this record
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Mark as duplicate
Request removal from index
Revision history
Download options
Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 31,359
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Philosophical Papers.David K. Lewis - 1983 - Oxford University Press.
Causation.David Lewis - 1973 - Journal of Philosophy 70 (17):556-567.

View all 11 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Sensitivity, Induction, and Miracles.Kevin Wallbridge - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 96 (1):118-126.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
The Fixity of Reasons.Andre Norman Gallois - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 146 (2):233 - 248.
Freedom and the Fixity of the Past.Wesley H. Holliday - 2012 - Philosophical Review 121 (2):179-207.
Presentism and Ontological Symmetry.Joseph Diekemper - 2005 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (2):223 – 240.
Why God's Beliefs Are Not Hard-Type Soft Facts.David Widerker - 2002 - Religious Studies 38 (1):77-88.
Do the Closest Counterfactual Worlds Contain Miracles?Phillip Goggans - 1992 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 73 (2):137 - 149.
The Entropy Theory of Counterfactuals.Douglas N. Kutach - 2002 - Philosophy of Science 69 (1):82-104.
Counterfactuals and Explanation.Boris Kment - 2006 - Mind 115 (458):261-310.
Added to PP index

Total downloads
79 ( #74,182 of 2,225,164 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
4 ( #140,796 of 2,225,164 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads
My notes
Sign in to use this feature