Synthese 198 (11):10529-10564 (2020)

Cory Nichols
Princeton University
The last several decades of research on counterfactual conditionals in the fields of philosophy and linguistics have yielded a predominant paradigm according to which the notion of similarity plays the starring role. Roughly, a counterfactual of the form A > C is true iff the closest A-worlds are all C-worlds, where the closeness of a world is a function of its similarity, in a certain sense, to the actual world. I argue that this is deeply misguided. In some cases we may only care about the closest A-worlds, but quite often we care about some broader variety of A-worlds varying in closeness. After presenting several problem cases for the similarity-based paradigm, some new and some known, I propose an alternative paradigm for the semantics of counterfactuals, which introduces the notion of A-scenarios, understood roughly as different ways of making A true. According to this view, A > C is true iff all the contextually relevant ways of making A true also make C true. I then more carefully spell out a working view that formalizes this idea with greater precision, and explore the consequences of that version of the view.
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-020-02735-8
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References found in this work BETA

Counterfactuals.David Kellogg Lewis - 1973 - Cambridge, MA, USA: Blackwell.
Finkish Dispositions.David K. Lewis - 1997 - Philosophical Quarterly 47 (187):143-158.

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